Answer the Question!

Maybe it’s the journalist in me. Maybe it’s a holdover from my four years in the ultimate oxymoron – military intelligence.

Whatever…my blood pressure rises when I ask someone a question and they answer with a non-answer. Just answer the question, please!

Jesus endured such stuff.

Here’s an example from John 5:

When Jesus saw him lying there and realized he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the disabled man answered, “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, someone goes down ahead of me.”

It’s comes across as an excuse. “Ain’t my fault, gots no one to take me down to the pool.” Yet the disabled man addresses Jesus as “Sir,” so he perceives this is not just some random dude.

But why does he not shout, “YES! I want to get well!”

I don’t know.

I just wish he’d answer the question.

Why Are Young People Exiting Church?

I just discovered a new writer, Jack Lee. He blogs at THE CHORUS IN THE CHAOS.

It’s long; so there goes a large audience. But it is critical, and I urge anyone concerned with the church overall, and its youth and young people in particular, to make the time to read it…here it is:

A  recent article on the Wall Street Journal titled, “Young People Say Disconnect Keeps Them From Church,” pointed out that roughly half of the people surveyed (ages 13 and 25) say they feel out of sync with churches on issues like race, gender, and immigration. Adding that the “biggest disconnect” emerges around LBGT rights, and that only 44% of churches care about such issues. It is for these reasons that churches have seen memberships fall over the past several years. The survey was conducted by the Springtide Research Institute and touched about 10,000 youths.These statistics and takeaways are hardly earth-shattering. Such trends and observations have been made repeatedly made over the past couple of decades. Across America, church attendance is generally falling, and it is getting harder for churches to retain young people. So why bring up an article stating the obvious? Well, what struck me was the commentary from some of the individuals they interviewed on why they feel disconnected from church. It evidences the need for churches to speak boldly, clearly, and directly to youth about the power of the gospel, the relationship between the church and the world, and the holiness of God.

It is now clear that broad evangelicalism has largely miscalculated how to engage the youth with our evolving, sexualized culture. 30 years of emphasizing purity over faith and repentance, entertainment over meditation, and games over catechisms have left scars. The Exvangelical movement, for all its faults, has highlighted this truth. Those who grew up in such theologically derelict conditions are walking away from the faith in droves, and it should be no surprise to anyone that their kids are following.

Here are a few of the comments in the article from those surveyed:

Jesse Brodka, 22, said that “I hear what priests and pastors say at the pulpit and I say to myself, ‘No, that is not what I believe in my heart.’” He goes on, “The fact that Christian faith has become a symbol of judgment speaks to the gap between religious organizations and the non-judgment that we value as young people.”

Amethyst Rose, a self-identified non-binary person, said she has stopped attending their Baptist Church when homosexuality was declared a sin. She clarified, “that sets you up for eternal damnation. I was afraid to live my life.”

Christian Camacho, 22, said, “I don’t accept the teachings when it comes to discrimination” and that when it comes to going to church he and friends “have no reason to go”.

There is much that can be said about this commentary. However, if anything stands out is that there is no fear of God before their eyes. Whereas the debate for decades centered around whether or not God even existed, today it seems to be swirling around a personal freedom for licentious behaviors and ideals. What changed? How did we get here?

In the ’90s, many evangelical churches operated on the practical assumption that if we want young people to stay in church then we need to make church fun. This often meant fun youth trips, games, pizza parties, etc. The thesis, if not stated directly, seemed to be that if we entertain them, and keep them coming, genuine faith will come along eventually. This entirely man-centered approach to evangelism drove churches to became less about worship, faith, and repentance, and more about Christian-themed activities and programs. Parents would choose churches not on the quality of their doctrine, preaching, polity, and sacraments, but instead, on the vibrancy of their youth groups and program.

Largely, the first half of the plan worked; kids did show up. This effort was fueled and aided by Christian marketing agencies who caught on and flooded the space with new music, books, bracelets, t-shirts, and so on. It was big business. Furthermore, parents were generally supportive of programs that focused on abstinence, purity, and piety. As long as outward sin was avoided and piety was maintained things seemed to be on the right track. Yet, as we are seeing, it was largely posturing. Perhaps that’s too harsh. If it wasn’t outright posturing, it was at best empty instruction that lacked theological substance. Because of this it should be no surprise that so many that grew up in such conditions have left the faith. We had the process backwards. Instead of hoping the outward would change the inward, churches should have focused on the inward (justification) changing the outward (sanctification).

Let me quickly clear up that there is nothing wrong inherently wrong with building community, having fun in youth groups, and church programs. Gospel-centered community is a wonderful aid for Christians of all ages. The problem is that while some churches created a nice environment for kids to hang out, they failed to also teach an entire generation about worldview, repentance, faith, and at the risk of overstating things, the glory and holiness of Christ. We made idols out of various aspects of the Christian life, while ignoring more weightier matters of the faith. Instead of worrying so much about attendance, we should have been teaching them concepts like inevitable persecution and what it means to suffer for Christ. After all, scripture is clear that “all who desire to live a godly life will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

An entire generation has now graduated to adulthood without substantive guidance on how to live and exist faithfully to God’s word in a world that hates the gospel. While I don’t like it, I understand it. Cultural evangelicalism offered little in their training up. So when they went out and were challenged with hard, cultural, social, and moral issues, they’re unequipped to think critically and biblically.

As I continue to muse on the commentary of the young people mentioned above, I am saddened because these individuals, who appear to have spent some time in church, still have no idea what it means to be a Christian. They’ve flip-flopped the value system. Rather than looking to Christianity to understand the world, they look to the world to understand Christianity. They fundamentally view the church as the flawed entity in need of more modern moral interpretation. Therefore, the church must change to accommodate the culture. This false hermeneutical approach undermines every word and doctrine of the Bible. The moment we determine that scripture is unreliable on any moral issue, we will abandon its credibility on all of them. This is, as the overused expression goes, a very slippery slope.

The truth is, scripture is wholly sufficient on issues like sex, race, gender, and immigration. Whereas some act like the church has never thought about such things, in reality, these issues are not new to our world. We have thousands of years of insight woven into God’s word for guidance. Yet, so many are afraid of what the Bible says because it is unpopular.  News flash: it has always been unpopular in the world. Jesus wasn’t crucified because He said things people liked. Since day 1, the church has been fighting a battle to redeem the culture for Christ and His kingdom. It will remain this way until Jesus returns. Moreover, Jesus’ beauty and the kingdom of God is worth every sacrifice that one might for Christ. It is as the Jesus once said that “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44). Are we teaching the youth today what this treasure is and why its of infinite value? We must contend for the culture with the gospel and proclaim the the glory of Christ.

A very good friend of mine recently commented to me that he thinks the focus of the church right now ought to be to “love people” and not “fight a culture war.” I respectfully, yet firmly, disagree. In our current social climate, I would consider it unloving if the church were not to speak clearly on the issues that face our culture. Love doesn’t coddle and it always speaks the truth. If the church isn’t willing to stand her ground and offer something different than the world, then what’s the point? The quotes above are proof that lost souls are searching for meaning, identity, and life. The church, by the grace of God and the love of Jesus, can speak truth on these issues. Christianity offers more life, peace, hope, joy, and love than any other ideology in the universe. In Christ, we have answers for all of these hard questions.

If any good thing can be said about the recent surge of exvangelicals and flood of social issues in our society, it is that serious issues are now at the forefront of the minds of our youth. Young people are now being forced to address issues like sexuality, race, gender, etc. at younger ages. Because of this, they are more prepared than you might think to discuss hard topics. They have questions and want more than to be entertained. If we are unwilling to speak hard, biblical truths to young people, they will continue to view the church as little more than a small group of judgmental conservatives with antiquated worldviews. However, if are willing to train up this new generation on the weightier matters of the law and faith, they will see the substance of a church that has withstood every fiery arrow hell has ever thrown. Moreover, they will see the beauty and power of Christ Himself.

Let us prepare the minds and hearts of the generation tomorrow by equipping them with the Word of God today.

I Hate The Prosperity ‘gospel’

The prime reason I despise the “prosperity ‘gospel'” is because it is not gospel.

Jesus did not die to make me healthy and wealthy. Unlike some, Jesus did not run a con job. “Marvel not that the world hates you…,” He says. “In this world you will (not might) suffer persecution.” We are to “exult in our tribulation,” “consider it all joy when (not if) we encounter various trials,” and “all who desire to live Godly in Christ Jesus will (not might) suffer persecution.”

I hate it because I’ve seen too many sucked up in it and when their grey matter returns they toss it…and too often toss Jesus with the lie.

Here are good words from Jared Wilson on the subject:

“To be clear, the prosperity gospel—a theology of a Protestant subculture largely occupied by (but not limited to) Pentecostal and charismatic believers that posits financial blessings and physical health are God’s will for the faithful—is an especially pernicious plague in the world, now fully exported and a global affront to true Christianity. And its problems aren’t merely theological. The prosperity gospel movement exploits the poor and many others in ways implicit and explicit that often cross fully into the category of spiritual abuse.

When we couple this very real religious epidemic with wider (but also very real) concerns about social justice, income disparities, economic disadvantage, and the like, evangelicalism’s money problem makes total sense. Prosperity theology—“health and wealth,” “name it and claim it,” and so on—turns God’s commands into formulas and faithful obedience into a kind of magic. The prosperity gospel twists biblical concepts into a counterintuitive mix of superstition and pragmatism. This heterodoxy ought to be rejected wholesale.”

This comes from a longer and worth-reading article you can read here: https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2021/fall/rejection-prosperity-gospel-missing-gods-provision.html?

Amazingly, to me, the “pg” is proclaimed and accepted by all too many inmates. Perhaps that is the main reason I hate it. Prisoners never exposed to genuine Christianity are subjected to this garbage and fall victim, yes, victim to its proclaimers.

I am NOT saying all proponents of “pg” are conmen and women. I believe some are, and would go to the wall saying Benny Hinn is based on his son’s book.

Sadly I believe some of the “pg” proponents genuinely believe what they are selling.

So I try to often pray that the Lord would open their eyes and hearts to truth.

Angels Rejoice? Not What Word Says

It is (too) often said that the angels in heaven rejoice when a sinner is converted.

Maybe they do…though it is hard for me to think so since the Word says they don’t/can’t understand the gospel fully.

What Luke records is this:

Lu 15.7 “I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who don’t need repentance.”

Luke 15.10 “I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.”

And in the following verses the dad of the prodigal runs to meet him (because he was watching for him) and initiates the party that follows.

Look again at 15.10 – “…there is joy in the presence of God’s angels…

It is GOD who rejoices!

Zeph 3.17 “The LORD your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will be quiet in his love. He will delight in you with singing.”

Yeah, maybe the angels join in; but it is our heavenly Father who rejoices. (I’ll let die hard calvinists and armenians debate about why would He rejoice over something He causes and knows will happen 🙂

context Context CONTEXT

“But seek his kingdom, and these things will be provided for you.” Luke 12.31

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” Matthew 6.33

I’ve heard people of all ages “claim” these verses (especially 6.33) pertaining to health, boyfriends, job, car, etc etc etc.

Of course God can (and often does) provide each of those things and so much more.

But to “claim” them in view of these two passages is snipping the verse out of its context, and therefore stripping the verse of any true meaning.

Here’s the context of the Luke verse: “29 Don’t strive for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don’t be anxious. 30 For the Gentile world eagerly seeks all these things, and your Father knows that you need them.”

And now the context of the Matthew verse: “31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”

Luke says “these things” while Matthew said “all these things.”

And what are “these things”?

Food…water…clothing.

Every good gift comes from God. You may ask God/beg God for anything.

But don’t use these two verses to “claim” anything but food, water, and clothing.

And even then recognize that this is a principle; there are exceptions as history shows. Christians suffer from (genuine) hunger, lack of water, and can be clothesless.

Oh…and…by the way…and I’d love to have you comment your answer, what does it mean to “seek first the kingdom of God.”?

Because that is the condition that evolves into the promise.

I Sin Because I Want To – So Do You

“How dare you say that, Jack!”

I dare say it because that is what the Word of God declares.

We are all tempted. Not the same way, but we all battle temptation.

“Well, I don’t, Jack.” Cool. That means you are (1) dead; or (2) not a genuine Christ-follower.

But for those who follow Christ, we don’t sin because of weakness, or because we ‘run with the wrong crowd,’ or any other excuse.

We sin because we don’t RUN!

 “No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corin 10.13

“No temptation” probably means “no temptation.”

My struggle, your struggle, is not unique. It is “common to humanity.”

Regardless of our faithfulness, “God is faithful.”

And He will…always…”provide the way out” or, as another translation puts it, “provide an avenue of escape.”

Let the Word say what it says.

When tempted, don’t whine; look for the “way out” and take it.

Flee! Don’t try to duke it out.

Run! Don’t try to figure out how close you can get without falling.

And when you do sin, run to First John One Nine and agree with God that you have sinned. (that’s what ‘confess’ means). No excuses. No “but everybody does it.” No ‘justification.’ Own it, confess it, repent of it, and move on.

When Is A Baby Not A Baby?

Here is a quote from the Associated Press today:

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A Springfield man who killed his pregnant girlfriend and her unborn child has been sentenced to life in prison. Derik Osborn was sentenced Friday in the March 2017 deaths of Valerie Williams and the unborn child. (emphasis added)

862,000…862,000 unborn children were legally aborted in 2017.

Eight hundred sixty two thousand.

Our laws decree that the only thing that makes murder legal is how it is conducted.

And we dare sing or pray, “God bless America”?

Who Cares Who “Wins”?

My oldest son and I are going to the Kansas City/Buffalo football game this Sunday evening.

The Chiefs are slightly favored to win. But the Chiefs defense has been weak.

It should be a great game. Maybe even a “classic.”

And, yeah, since I live here I’d like the Chiefs to win in a close one.

But if the Bills win, I’ll also be happy.

We lived a couple hours south of Buffalo for 21 years; to include the four consecutive years the Bills went to (and lost in) the Super Bowl.

So I’m kinda a Bills fan also. I was contemplating wearing my vintage Bills jacket with a Chiefs cap, but I decided against that.

So I’m hoping for a good game, regardless of what team wins.

The Body of Christ sort of has teams also:

Baptists (in 3,242 varieties, or so it seems); Nazarenes; Assembly of God; Bible Believing Methodists; charismatics (and, alas, charismaniacs); Presbyterians and so many more.

In these increasingly difficult days; we Christians need to stand and work together, regardless of differences on secondary issues. (like tongues, security of believer, eschatology, mode of baptism, etc.etc.etc.)

We are brothers and sisters in Christ; but not identical twins.

And we need to march and work hand-in-hand, even if we don’t see eye-to-eye on secondary issues.

To clarify…I’m not talking “why can’t we all be friends” ecumenacalism.

There are professing “Christians” who I wouldn’t call on for silent prayer.

Those who deny the exclusivity of the gospel; those who deny the virgin birth; those who deny the resurrection; those who deny repentance/faith; etc etc etc are excluded.

But of those who agree on the essentials – who cares who “wins”?

Who cares who has the largest in number denomination?

Who cares who has the coolest music?

Who cares who baptizes another way than “we” do?

Who cares whether someone is pre-trib; post-trib; mid-trib; or don’t-give-a-trib?

We really do, we really do, we really do, need each other.

And the Victor is not us.

Dazzling Denzel

He is my favorite actor.

I have heard segments of his speeches in which he refers to faith.

I anticipate meeting him one glad morning…

I just discovered this half-hour interview.

The first several minutes deal with race, past, and current affairs.

Then it segues into Denzel’s faith journey.

You may not every “t” and dot every “i” theologically.

But whether you like him as an actor of not, I urge you to give this a watch and listen.

Wanted: Spiritual Mothers

Good stuff here:

Great and Noble Tasks

Whose voice do you hear when a much older Christian woman speaks into your life?

When I was eight years old, I became a grown-up. Changing life circumstances and a mom who needed my help in many areas of her life caused me to say good-bye to most of the rest of my childhood and learn how to be an adult quickly.

One recent Sunday, almost 50 years later, I sat in church and listened to a prayer written and spoken by a woman a little older than my mother would have been if she were still alive. Her prayer was just a minute or two long, and by the end of it I was in tears. Now, I cry easily for many reasons, so the tears themselves didn’t surprise me. The surprise was that I was crying for something I longed for without knowing, like a memory that had…

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