I recently read a story about a group of about eleven women who were asked if they were faithful to their husbands. Only one answered in the affirmative. Another one of them was also faithful, but was too ashamed to raise her hand to acknowledge that.
This is the kind of culture in which we live, a culture in which people are ashamed of fidelity. Al Mohler, the president of Southern Seminary is correct when he says that “we are an adulterous generation.” And this is confirmed by a spokesman of Generation X: “We are the first generation in which adultery is now not an issue. We have so little expectation of monogamy or of faithfulness, adultery is just no big deal.” Gladly, that is not true of his entire generation, but it does seem increasingly true of the culture at large.
However, in this context of unfaithfulness, when society considers adultery the modern/sophisticated (even mature) way to live, the Bible is again countercultural by insisting that the mature is the one who lives in obedience to God. And God’s word on this issue is very clear and direct: You shall not commit adultery! In an “adulterous generation” we are called to faithfulness in marriage.
This prayer for awakening (from http://www.desiringgod.org) has relevance for every Christian Church.
Send LORD a remarkable awakening that results in…
- hundreds of people coming to Christ,
- old animosities being removed,
- marriages being reconciled and renewed,
- wayward children coming home,
- long-standing slavery to sin being conquered,
- spiritual dullness being replaced by vibrant joy,
- weak faith being replaced by bold witness,
- disinterest in prayer being replaced by fervent intercession,
- boring Bible reading being replaced by passion for the Word,
- disinterest in global missions being replaced by energy for Christ’s name among the nations, and
- lukewarm worship being replaced by zeal for the greatness of God’s glory.
As a co-pastor at an English Ministry – I try to read a few books on preaching per year, in the hope that my preaching will slowly improve.
I recently picked up a funny and instructive good by T. David Gordon (I am pretty sure he taught me Intermediate Greek at GCTS – even though I remember falling asleep in some of his classes from my early shifts at UPS :)): Why Johnny Can’t Preach.
[This is an useful book for any pastor – I just don’t see how you could pass this one to your pastor without more or less sending the message that he can’t preach :)].
There are many insights in this book – I will limit this post to his section on “The Annual Review” (pp. 33-34):
“My final argument to prove that preaching is in bad shape today is the annual review – or, to be more exact, its absence. Almost no churches conduct an annual review of the pastoral staff [this is certainly true in Romanian Baptist churches…]…I believe it is absolutely essential for any professional to have an annual review of his labor. Those of us who teach are reviewed; those who work in business are reviewed. Every other realm of labor recognizes the importance of an annual review, in which strengths and weaknesses can be assessed as a means to a more fruitful service in the future…
So why don’t churches routinely conduct annual reviews of their ministers? Because ministers don’t want to be told that their preaching is disorganized , hard to follow, irrelevant, and poorly reasoned; [TRUE – I certainly don’t want/like to be told that…] and because churches do not want to insult their ministers or hurt their feelings.
Therefore, I suggest that the very absence of annual reviews stands as glaring proof that preaching is so bad today that no one – neither the preacher nor the hearer – can tolerate the thought of how painful it would be to provide an honest assessment.”
Hard to argue with T. David Gordon on this one. I am convinced that an annual review of my preaching would hurt…but I believe that it would be for my good and that of the congregation!
Anyone who has had any contact with Christians living in Muslim countries knows that the Christians who dare to stand for what they believe have a very hard time. This ‘hard time’ depends on the Muslim country, as some are more open (e.g. Jordan, Indonesia etc.) than others (Saudi Arabia etc.).
Here is the case of a Christian brother from Egypt. His name is Hani Nazeer. Unfortunately, (and this is also typical, especially for Evangelical Christians) he is hated by both Islamists and “Christians”, as the article states:
“Hani is in between the hate of the Islamists and the hate of the Christians,” he said. “The Islamists of course are against him, and the church [leadership] is against him, so he’s being badly squeezed between the two.”
Let’s pray for Hani that he remains strong in his faith, and that many will come to faith through his witness!
So everywhere we are determined and defined by Him who breathed into us his breath and called us by our name. And when all grows silent and empty about us, when we are restless and lost in a gloomy maze, when we cry out in the dark and none seems to answer, let us remember the saying of Pascal:
I would not seek thee, O God, if thou hadst not already found me. Even my restlessness and my longing show me that thou art at work upon me.
Or we can pray: If in the madness of my passion and the wild commotion of my life I forget thee, do not thou forget me.
God is always greater than our faith, because the breath of His Spirit is stronger than the dust of the earth. And with this certitude one can live.
Truly this is something you can live by.
If I know this, then I know the theme, the point of my life; then my life can succeed.
[From How the World Began – by Helmut Thielicke, pp. 85-86]
I just listened to a very useful podcast from Michael Duduit.
It is an interview with George Barna about one of his latest books: The Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are, What They Believe, and Why They Matter.
The tribe of most concern to me (as a teacher and pastor) is the Christian one (the rest are of secondary interest). Unfortunately, the Christian tribe is split in two: the casual Christians (67%) and the “captive Christians” (only 16%). The former group consists of Christians “who would not cross the street” to share the gospel with an unbeliever. It is a group which “is not excited about sharing their religious belief…” They do not create their lifestyle around their faith, rather let their faith “sip into their lifestyle.”
Wow. What a challenge (weighty errand – to use Spurgeon’s expression) for pastors who stand up in their churches every week and preach to a large percentage of “casual Christians.” The goal must be to get the casual Christians become “captive Christians” (these are Christians who are really serious and knowledgable about their faith). These are the ones “caricatured in the media, for whom their faith is everything.”
But who is adequate for this task? No one. Apart from the grace of God and the power of the Spirit we have no chance of success! How great is the need for prayer before preaching and reaching out! Please pray for your pastor, he needs a lot of help from above!
Which tribe are you from? Listen to this podcast (if you don’t buy the book). It may be eye opening!
I am excited about a new book I just bought: Ancient Christian Devotional (Lectionary Cycle C).
This book is from the InterVarsity Press FORMATIO series (Tradition – Experience – Transformation).
FORMATIO books from InterVarsity Press are about “being transformed by Christ and conformed to his image,” and they intend to integrate God’s Word with spiritual practice by prompting its readers “to move from inward change to outward witness.”
“We believe that each of us is made with a deep desire to be in God’s presence. Formatio books are intended to help “fulfill our deepest desires and to become our true selves in light of God’s grace.”
I must say that the goals of the FORMATION series are most worthy, and I am looking forward to ‘swimming’ in this book. After all, St. Chrysostom gives very good advice (quoted on the first page of this book):
Listen carefully to me. Procure books [of the Bible] that will be medicines for the soul….Don’t simply dive into them. Swim in them. Keep them constantly in your mind. (Homilies on Colossians 9)
This is a book for Christians who lack the grounding in the riches of church history…who are rootless and are drifting in a barren secular and ecclesiastical landscape.
If you are one of those – consider this book to get rooted in the WORD!
One of the best commentaries (and a true classic) on the book of Proverbs is the one by Charles Bridges.
You can download it for free here .
Here are his excellent comments on Proverbs 18:12 – Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.
We have had both of these proverbs separately (16:18; 15:33). Surely this repetition was intended to deepen our sense of their importance. It is hard to persuade a man that he is proud. Everyone protests against this sin.
Yet who does not cherish the viper in his own heart?
This morning I was reading 2 Kings 4-7 and something unusual caught my eyes. In chapter 5 the text speaks of a certain Naaman, a commander of the army of the king of Syria. The pagan king of Syria “was leaning” on Naaman’s arm.
Chapter 7, on the other hand, speaks about another commander, the captain on whose hand the king of Israel leaned.
Both of these military figures are faced with difficult situations, and they are also confronted by the Word of God. One is a leper (Naaman), and the other is facing famine and a siege. For both the only hope is Elisha, the man of God who speaks the Word of God.
What makes this juxtaposition of characters somewhat shocking (and really a rebuke to Israel and its people) is that the foreigner, the one on whom the pagan king of Syria leaned, believed the Word, obeyed it, and lived, while the Israelite captain did not believe the Word of God spoken through Elisha and died in unbelief.
A fairly long passage is dedicated in the Bible to the foreigner Naaman who believed and was healed. By contrast, the unbelieving Israelite captain (serving an unbelieving king – Joram son of Ahab) has a sad end, repeated twice in chapter 7 (vv. 17 and 20): … and the people trampled him in the gate, so he died, as the man of God had said…
There are many trials and exceptional situations in a man’s life. Help us LORD to believe you and your Word in a world and culture of unbelief.
Healing and life is only in a life of FAITH!
There is a great panel discussion about what it means to be a pastor with Tim Keller, John Piper, Crawford Loritts, Ligon Duncan and Stephen Um (chair). This took place at the 2009 National Conference of The Gospel Coalition.
Here it is: 2009 Panel Discussion . Enjoy and learn!