Archive for the ‘Conviction’ Category

MINISTRY IN THE CHURCH TO FAMILIES

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

A. FAMILY MINISTRIES
Walter Brueggemann, in his book The Land, suggests that there is a pervasive “lostness” in American life. In fact this alienation from one another, threatens all aspects of American culture. The reestablishment of the two-parent home would go a long way to bring back stability into our culture.

In that sense, then, church programs must take into account the broken relationships, the loss of relationships, that an Ellen or Elizabeth are experiencing. For instance, in our church we have a Youth Club, intergenerational experience every Wednesday night. A sort of “family” night, everyone is invited. Everyone is part of a “family” at least once a week. The Church should never lower its standards. On the contrary the Church should unabashedly promote a Christian perspective of family–fidelity to Christian morality.

Likewise, the church must recognize that the actual number of Murphy Browns in America (single mothers by choice with incomes over $50,000 a year) is not even .1% of unwed mothers. The fact is, they need our financial support. They need free childcare provided or all events. And so forth.

But it is true, though, that nontraditional family numbers are growing. Single parents should not be discouraged. We all know inspiring stories of how single parent families have prospered.

Another group that needs our attention is blended families. Now that 46% of all American marriages involve at least one partner who has at least one partner who has been married before, we need to recognize that blended families need special programming and attention.

B. DON’T FORGET TO BE RELIGIOUS
Next, the church must be unequivocable in its ethical stand that the Word of God must not be compromised. While we celebrate pluralism, without being moralistic or harsh, we need to recognize that not all family forms are right nor equal for the task of raising children.

Churches must accept openly and without prejudice the full range of single families, stepfamilies, and cohabiting families (while making clear such a life style is sinful!).

The church should challenge its families and young people to have higher standards than the world.

Our youth programs should emphasize preparation for life in the egalitarian postmodern family. Since one of the major trends of family life in America is the absence of fathers, boys and young men should be spoken to seriously about commitment and parenting.

Lost Americans

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

It seems at times that Americans are lost. I am a pastor, and in spite of our hedonistic bravado, I generally find some of my congregation members—who generally are nott living a life centered on Jesus Christ—are in fact desperately unhappy. No wonder. This world does not provide what we need. I once thought it did. I can remember being seduced by the august institution, Harvard University. In 1976, I really believed my university chaplain who told the incoming Harvard class, “You are the next history makers of America.” I wanted to believe it. I needed to believe it. My acquaintance and colleague from Harvard Divinity School, Dr. Forrest Church, now pastor in a Unitarian Church in New York City, was fond of saying, “In our faith God is not a given; God is a question . . . God is defined by us. Our views are shaped and changed by our experiences. We create a faith in which we can live and struggle to live up to it . . . compared to love, a distant God had no allure.” Indeed. This thinking has gotten us into quite a mess.

What kind of mess? While I attended seminary, I remember hurrying to the opening ceremony of the academic year held every September at Harvard Memorial Chapel in the Yard. Spying an impressive group of Harvard Professors, decked out in all their academic robes, capes, and histrionic sententiousness, I decided to follow them to Memorial Chapel, a landmark in Harvard Yard. Although I knew one way to go there, they were not going my way, so, I trusted these sagacious gentlemen to show me a better way. Well, we got lost! And I was late! In spite of their august credentials, they did not know the way after all.

One of the most disturbing essays I have ever read is an essay by Thomas Merton entitled “A Devout Meditation in Memory of Adolf Eichmann.” “One of the most disturbing facts,” Merton begins, “that came out in the Eichmann trial was that a psychiatrist examined him and pronounced him perfectly sane.” The fact is, given our world, we can no longer assume that because a person is “sane” or “adjusted” that he/she is ok. Merton reminds us that such people can be well adjusted even in hell itself! “The whole concept of sanity in a society where spiritual values have lost their meaning is itself meaningless.”

The central symbol for every twenty-first century Christian must be the cross. At least from the second century onwards, Christians used the cross as their central symbol. I yearn, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer did at the end of his life, for the crucified Lord to return again—as the rediscovered center”to the center of the Church and American society. America does not need a new religion; it needs Jesus Christ—crucified and resurrected.< With John Stott, in The Cross of Christ, my prayer is that this new generation, haunted by so many bad memories, so bewitched by technology and social science theories, would again come to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. And, at the same time, I want us to reclaim the joy of this adventure—so persuasively presented by John Piper in Desiring God. Steering right into the storm, armed with God’s divine presence and teachings, can affect the end results of this spiritual storm we Americans are experiencing.

Evoking the Spirit of Isaiah

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

The task ahead of us is to live and evoke the spirit of Isaiah in our community. As the theologian Walter Brueggemann, and others like him, argue, our task is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a conscious­ness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us. And increasingly that culture is become inimical to the Gospel. Either way, a community rooted in the Lordship of Jesus Christ is a curiosity and a threat in such a culture. No wonder Isaiah’s argument that one should rely on a faithful, historical God was such a threatening message to His generation. And to ours. Our world does not understand, much less believe in our history. God is not to be trusted because He cannot be quantified. He is not to be controlled. This God makes self-proclaimed kings of the earth uncomfortable. And this God of ours, therefore, has been making kings like Herod, Ahab, and Nero uncomfortable for ages. I remember a simple, powerful Gospel Song that all of us in our 1966 Southern church sang. This was the song of the redeemed. But we scarcely knew it. “Jesus loves the little children. . . red and yellow black and white, they are precious in His sight.” Since I was still too young to doubt the veracity of my parents and teachers, I actually believed that song. And, when I started living that song it changed my world. And when enough people live that message we will change our world. Our cause will become holy, our witness worthy of the Gospel. There will be opposition. But our song brings hope, life, and salvation. So it is worth it. Be bold and courageous, young people, and sing a new song. Do your best on the SAT to bring glory to Him. And become a light to this new generation!

4 MILLION AND GROWING!

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Finally, what does it mean to the future of America to have 4 million of its best, brightest, and spirit filled students graduating from the most prestigious universities in the world? What will it mean to have four million new business persons, artists, authors, military officers, business leaders, and government leaders who are spirit-filled evangelical Christians? I can feel the ground shaking!!!!

PRACTICALLY SPEAKING

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Practically speaking:

  • Find a local church before you go to college. Go to the first service you can.
  • Parents should meet the local pastor and introduce themselves.
  • Participate in a local Christian group—Navigators, Inter-varsity, et al. But that does not substitute for a local church.
  • Purpose to live a Godly life before you face temptation.
  • Set up a study schedule that is a priority only behind your devotional life.
  • Practice courtship.
  • Expect persecution. The main persecution you will receive will be about your profession that Christ is the only way, the only truth, the only life.
  • Summer school can be a spiritual and financial opportunity for you. You can participate in mission trips that may count for academic credit and may also help you grow spiritually. Also, summer school may be a cost-effective way to accelerate your college experience and thereby save money for you and your parents.
  • Avoid all appearance of evil.
  • Write from a Christian perspective but do not allow your confessional stand to be an excuse for shoddy work.
  • You will probably not be able to choose your roommate before you first arrive. But you can choose your roommate for your sophomore year. Choose wisely.
  • Pray for your unsaved friends.
  • Know the Truth.
  • Live the Truth.
  • Work hard and be the best follower of Christ that you can be!

WHAT TO DO IN COLLEGE

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Next, once we understand the world to which you are called there are several things I want to see happen to you.

Make sure that you know who you are and who your God is. “By faith, Moses, when he had grown up refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” (Hebs. 11:24)

Refuse to be absorbed into the world but choose to be a part of God’s kingdom. You are special and peculiar generation. Much loved. But you live among a people who do not know who they are. A people without hope. You need to know who you are—children of the Living God—and then you musmust live a hopeful life.

Take responsibility for your life. Moses accepted responsibility for his life. “He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” (Hebs. 11: 25) If you don’t make decisions for your life, someone else will.

Get a cause worth dying for. Moses accepted necessary suffering even unto death. You need a cause worth dying for (as well as living for). “He [Moses] regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (Hebs. 11: 26). Evangelicals know that we are crucified with Christ, yet it is not we who live but Christ who lives in us (Gals 2:20).

Never ever take your eyes off the goal. “By faith, he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.” (Hebs. 11:27). How long can you wait? How long can you persevere? What is your threshold of obedience?

The following are ten moral issues that must be clear in your mind before you go to college:

  • Punishment and blame: What is fair punishment? Do you accept your authority’s right to enforce laws?
  • Property: What is property and who owns it?
  • Affiliation roles: What is a family? What are the motivations and obligations of a good family/ community member?
  • Laws and statues: When if ever should laws be disobeyed?
  • Life: What makes life valuable? Is life inviolable?
  • Truth & Contracts: What is the truth? Why is truth telling valuable? Are there inviolable covenants that human beings must make?
  • Government: What is a good citizen?
  • Social justice: What are basic political, economic, and social rights?
  • Sexuality: Is sex merely a biological response or is it related to religious or social guidelines?

TOLERATION

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

If we are confused about what is right and wrong, about individual responsibilities, we are even more confused about toleration. S.D. Gaede, When Tolerance is No Virtue, says . . . “In our culture, there is considerable confusion about how we ought to live with our differences and a cacophony of contradictory justifications for one approach as opposed to another. All appeal to the need of tolerance, but there is nothing like common argument on what that means. The question our culture raises by nature and development is what is truth and what can we believe? Our culture doesn’t know the answers. In fact, we have lost confidence in truth and have come to the conclusion that truth is unattainable. Thus, tolerance moves to the forefront.”

Finally, in the years ahead, there will be real confusion about sexual roles. Sir Arnold Toynbee says . . . In the nineteen forties Toynbee studied civilizations and came to the following conclusions: Based on his study of twenty-one civilizations Toynbee found that societies in disintegration suffer a kind of “schism of the soul.” They are seldom simply overrun by some other civilization. Rather, they commit a sort of cultural suicide. Disintegrating societies have several characteristics, Toynbee argues. They fall into a sense of abandon People begin to yield to their impulses-especially in the sexual area. They also succumb to truancy that is escapism seeking to avoid their problems by retreating into their own worlds of distraction and entertainment. There is a sense of drift as they realize that they have no control over their lives. Consciousness is adrift, unable to anchor itself to any universal ground of justice, truth on which the ideals of modernity have been founded in the past.

Evangelicals, therefore, must not merely talk the talk. They must walk the walk. They are seeking to create an alternative community of hope. We/they are sabotaging the conspiracy of hopelessness and self-centeredness that is so pervasive in our nation. Bring on the revolution!

GOING TO COLLEGE

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

As you make final preparations for college, consider this information. American society is manifesting:

  • Increasingly dysfunctional culture.
  • A pervasive and abiding concern about the future
  • A serious breakdown of community.
  • Confusion about individual responsibility.
  • Confusion about what toleration is.
  • Confusion about sexuality.

As we begin the new millennium, Robert Bork in his prophetic book Slouching Toward Gomorrah warns us that the out of control individualism and egalitarianism of the 1960s are very much with us. One merely has to recall the impeachment hearings several years ago to see evidence of this sort of morality where “if what he is doing harms no one (individualism) then it is ok to do it (egalitarianism). We are part of a therapeutic culture, where wholeness is replaced by holiness, sanctification is replaced by therapy. And even the heartiest pagan is getting really tired of this mess! And, as he does, he may very well choose home schooling as an alternative to public education.

Os Guinness warns us that at some point Americans will become fed up with the excesses and dysfunctional aspects of our culture. He says that as American mainline culture fails to sustain Americans in their hedonistic pursuit of self interest, they will want something more. It is now questionable whether America’s cultural order is capable of nourishing the freedom, responsibility, and civility that Americans require to sustain democracy. Modernity (a word to describe modern American culture) creates problems far deeper than drugs. It creates a crisis of cultural authority in which America’s beliefs, ideals, and traditions are losing their compelling power in society. William Bennett is right to warn us that there is a “death of outrage” in our country but he might add that there is a numbness spreading across the land that offers much opportunity for Christians in general and for home schoolers in particular.

WHAT IS AN EVANGELICAL TO DO

Monday, November 16th, 2009

What is an evangelical to do? An evangelical makes 1550 on the SAT and is invited to apply to Princeton or Rice or Stanford or Duke. Should he? And, if he is accepted, how does he survive—even thrive—in a secular prestigious/competitive college. Should you attend competitive secular colleges? Or do you attend Christian schools alone? I give an overview of how a Christian can prosper in an environment that is ipso facto hostile.

Under what circumstances would you perhaps decide to attend a secular college?

If you are a Daniel, or can exist and thrive in Babylon without being an Babylonian, you might choose to attend a secular college. Daniel was part of the elite culture in this hostile land. He was honored and respected, but he remained a worshiper of Yahweh (Almighty God). Even though he lived in a hostile, risky, dangerous land, Daniel was able to maintain his identity in the Lord. Remember: you can make bad choices in a Christian university as easily as in a secular University. The fact is, a better choice is merely to make Godly choices regardless of where you are!

When I entered Vanderbilt University as an evangelical freshman, before I began, I had decided to be obedient to Scripture. I decided that before I began my studies! And I am glad I did!

Over the next four years of undergraduate school, and then two years of graduate school, I was sorely tested. For example, I had decided to remain morally pure and chaste. That was no easy thing since I lived in co-ed dorms both at Vanderbilt and then at Harvard! But I persevered. Success was rooted, however, at the moment I committed myself to a discipline, before the actual temptation began. It wasn’t that the temptation was mitigated; it was simply that the desire to be Christ-like was greater than the temptation. Again, though, it began before I went to college.

If you are a Daniel, you may be called to an academic discipline no Christian college offers. In that case you might choose a secular university.

THINGS ARE CHANGING

Friday, November 13th, 2009

That is all changing—and partly due to the popularity of the American home schooling movement. In massive numbers the American home school movement—initially and presently primarily an evangelical Christian movement—is depositing some of the brightest, capable students in our country into the old, august institutions like Harvard. And, what is more exciting, the flash-point of cultural change is changing from Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Stanford to Wheaton, Grove City, Calvin, and Liberty (all evangelical universities). Before long the new wave of elite culture creators will be graduating from American secular universities and Christian universities and they shall be a great deal different from the elite of which I was a part in the middle 1970s. I am not saying the secular university will change quickly—intellectual naturalistic reductionism makes that extremely difficult. However, I do see the whole complexion of university graduates to change significantly in the next twenty years. Never in the history of the world has such a thing happened.

Something similar occurred at the end of Augustine’s life in the middle of the first millennium. Augustine lived in a time when the Roman Empire was collapsing. However, while the barbarians conquered Rome, the Church of Jesus Christ conquered the barbarians. Augustine and his elite Christian generation was used by the Lord to assure the future of the European church and European civilization.

Again, in the 1600s a new generation of evangelicals arose—the Puritans. Likewise this new generation of elites settled the New World and established the United States of America.

Young people, if you are part of this new evangelical elite, you have immense opportunities ahead of you. A new Godly generation is arising. Are they called for such a time as this to guide this nation into another unprecedented revival? We shall see.

Now, though, it is important that we look at more practical considerations. For instance, how is one accepted and able to thrive in the most competitive universities—secular or Christian? What does it mean to be a “Christian” university?

As this author argues, however one may feel about it, most of the culture creators of America graduate from 10 or 12 prestigious, competitive, mostly secular schools. That will change slowly as Christian universities become more competitive in attracting the best students (this author observed recently that the Christian evangelical university Grove City had the same acceptance rate as Princeton University!). In fact, many of the world’s decision makers are graduates of these schools. And, praise God, evangelicals have more opportunities than ever to attend these schools. We have already discussed what the liberal 21st century university looks like.