Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The Perilous Perspective of Gen Z

The current crop of teen-agers and young adults born between 1997 and 2012 has been dubbed Gen Z.  Raised on the Internet and social media, what the majority of these individuals actually believe should cause great alarm in the Christian church.  In 2018 Barna research characterized Gen Z as the “first truly post-Christian generation,” with only 4% holding to a biblical worldview.  Since then, the trends have only worsened.

A new study conducted last year collected data from 1,503 young adults ages 13 to 21 between June 15 and July 17, 2020.  From that study, Barna researchers determined that two-thirds (65%) believe that “many religions can lead to eternal life.”  This figure was up from 58% in 2018.

The moral relativism dominating this generation of young people was further seen in the fact that 31% “strongly agree” that what is “morally right and wrong changes over time, based on society”.  This number increased from 25% in 2018.  Another 43% agree “somewhat” with this perspective.

To look at the situation from a different standpoint, only 10% of those individuals surveyed “strongly disagree” that what is “morally right and wrong changes over time, based on society. 

Malachi 2:15 states that God ordained marriage because “He seeks godly offspring.”  I.e., God expects parents to have children and to raise them to know and honor Him, fully committed to a biblical worldview.  It is apparent that many professing Christians today are failing in this most critical mission.  

One of the primary tasks of the church is to encourage, support, and come alongside Christian parents to accomplish this God-given responsibility toward their children.  Obviously, the parents themselves must be absolutely committed to the unchanging authority of Scripture before they can instill this perspective in their sons and daughters.

In one of his final addresses to the nation of Israel that he had led for 40 years, Moses expressed the urgency of imparting this outlook to their children in this way: “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:6-7).  Hence, the constant, consuming passion of parents must be to ensure their children embrace the unchanging truth of God’s revelation as the foundation for their lives.  The importance of this priority has not changed in 3500 years.


Monday, March 23, 2020

Christ & Covid-19

Daily, it seems, we are inundated with messages from every imaginable type of business, from banks to insurance companies to tour guides to vitamin distributors to automobile dealerships– all expressing their response to the current crisis creating havoc across our land.  Throughout the world, churches and other Christian ministries have curtailed their public activities out of a concern to cooperate with efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 and to mitigate its potential impact upon us all.

Looking through the lens of a biblical worldview, how should Christians view this present crisis? It is easy to be driven by a fear that belies our professed faith in the Lord.  Or, on the other extreme, it is possible to ignore the present realties and act as if Christians are impervious to the potential impact of the coronavirus threat.  Neither response reflects a truly biblical perspective.  So what should we do and think?  The essence of a Christian response will include the following dimensions.

First, rest in the sovereignty of God.  The God who spoke the universe into existence continues to providentially direct the course of history.  The inception of this pandemic is no more of a disruption of God’s plan than were the Ten Plagues that rained down upon the Egyptians as a means of freeing Israel from slavery.  The Lord gave Job a strong lesson in the realities of life, reminding him that God’s infinite power, dominion, and wisdom providentially direct all that happens, from arranging the constellations of the stars to the movement of mammoth sea creatures to when mountain goats give birth.  Nothing happens in this universe apart from the sovereign will of God, including the spread of Covid-19.  Humanly speaking, the actions of Chinese government officials may have initially facilitated the spread of the virus, but ultimately God was accomplishing His purposes.

Second, recognize the fragility of life in this world.  Millions who a month ago may have been living a care-free life, without regard for the possibility of imminent sickness and death, are now overwhelmed with concern for themselves and their loved ones.  Nothing like a pandemic to bring a solid dose of a reality which has been the message of Scripture for generations!  Over 2500 years ago Isaiah declared, “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.  The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely people are grass” (40:6-7).  In light of this tenuous hold on life, we should pray Moses’ words in Ps. 90, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Third, realize that Covid-19 is not a sign that the end is near.  There are enterprising, self-styled prophecy experts who seek to capitalize on every major upheaval in society as a sign that the “end times” have come upon us.   Newspaper editors and internet news sites have long known the axiom that “If It Bleeds, It Leads.”  I.e., sensational news stories about big trouble are a surefire way to attract readers.  And so such stories invariably make the headlines.  Given this reality, we must resist efforts to claim that this current pandemic is a sign of the end any more than were the 14th-century plague of Black Death, the 18th-century  Yellow Fever outbreak, the 19th-century Cholera Pandemic, and the early 20th-century Spanish Flu.  These periods of intense disease killed many millions.  It is estimated that the Spanish Flu alone killed at least 50 million worldwide, a number that dwarfs even worse-case scenarios for Covid-19.

And fourth, redeem the opportunities this crisis affords.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”  The curse of sin is manifesting itself in unusual ways these days. But we who know Christ are charged with living carefully and wisely, taking advantage of the open doors for ministry that God provides.  While we are not able to maintain “business as usual” public gatherings right now, God is still at work and using His people.  Let us be praying for His guidance in these regards and for His purposes to be accomplished.  He will be glorified through Covid-19 in ways we could not have anticipated.  Let us, therefore, remember to pray what Jesus taught us: “Hallowed be Your name. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  And remember that God works through the hearts of kings and those with civil authority (Prov. 21:1), so let us be praying for them to be filled with wise guidance as we navigate these uncharted waters.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thankful for the Pilgrims

Recently I watched a series of student interviews at a “Christian” college in the Midwest.  They were asked whether it is appropriate to celebrate Thanksgiving.  The vast majority answered negatively, citing concerns about oppression and colonization.  The few that affirmed the holiday did so only as it pertains to the joys of feasting and family gatherings, apart from any historical significance.  Clearly, these students were ignorant of the real history of Thanksgiving and demonstrate the impact of indoctrination by “enlightened” high school teachers and college professors.  If such a perspective dominates the next generation we are not only in danger of losing our true history but also of squandering the freedoms upon which our nation was founded.

As I write, it is Thanksgiving Day 2019, a year before the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrims in the New World.  On this day I am most thankful for the blessings of salvation through the finished work of Christ.  I am thankful for the joys of family and the fellowship with other like-minded Christian believers.  And I am thankful for the steadfast faith, love, and courage that motivated the 102 Pilgrims to sail across the Atlantic and establish a beachhead of Christian civilization in North America.

Nearly half died in the terrible rigors of that first year in the New World.  Still, they struggled on, driven by a love for God and desire to establish a civilization where their descendants could freely serve the Lord.  H.U. Westermayer has observed, “The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than homes.  No Americans have been more impoverished than these, who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.”

Yes, they planned a time to publicly declare their gratitude to the Lord for His blessings upon them in that first year.  Despite the hardships, they were filled with praise to the God they served.   The 53 survivors were joined by 90 Indians from a nearby village.  Together they feasted and celebrated.  God used the natives to provide instruction and assistance on how to survive in the wilderness.  The thought of colonial oppression did not cross their minds.  Attributing such motivation to the Pilgrims reflects the distortion of warped minds devoted to rewriting history by attributing to the Pilgrims the sins of their descendants

Gov. William Bradford described their mentality before sailing from Europe: “They knew they were pilgrims, and lifted up their eyes to the heavens, their dearest country, and quieted their spirits”.  The future was uncertain, but their trust was in the God who would guide their voyage and the initial settlement at Plymouth.  Such an example inspires us to persevere in the face of life’s challenges four centuries later.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Disengaging from the Bible

Research released recently by Barna indicates that approximately one-half of American adults (48%) are “Bible disengaged.”  I.e. such people interact with the Bible infrequently, if at all.  It has minimal impact upon their lives.   Furthermore, more than one-third (35%) never use the Bible in 2019.  On the other end of the spectrum, only 5% (down from 9% last year) are “Bible centered,” meaning they frequently interact with the Bible so that its truth concretely shapes their relationships and choices.

These numbers are more than merely academic.  The lifestyles of many reflect the real consequences of ignoring the revelation of their Creator.  The breakdown of families, the scourge of drug addition, the proliferation of pornography, the plague of gender-dysphoria, and the unending violence are all the fruit of a society that has turned its back upon God. 

It is easy to complain about the nature of the politicians that represent us locally and nationally.   The lack of character and the absence of wisdom and integrity are endemic among the political class.  Many espouse certain perspectives on the campaign trail that seem to evaporate when established in office.  But the reality is that the paucity of honor and moral strength among our politicians is ultimately merely a reflection of the populace that elected them.

Consider from where we have fallen.  American statesman Daniel Webster (1850-1852) captured the essence of the Pilgrims’ worldview: “Finally, let us not forget the religious character of our origin. Our fathers were brought hither by their high veneration for the Christian religion. They journeyed by its light, and labored in its hope. They sought to incorporate its principles with the elements of their society, and to diffuse its influence through all their institutions, civil, political, or literary. Let us cherish these sentiments, and extend this influence still more widely; in the full conviction, that that is the happiest society which partakes in the highest degree of the mild and peaceful spirit of Christianity.”

If there is hope for America it will be found in emulating the spirit of our Pilgrim forefathers.  In our homes, our schools, our governments, and our churches, we must recapture a love for the Word of God and make it the supreme arbiter of moral and spiritual truth.   

Unless the core values of our nation change, we will continue on the fast track to societal and national disintegration.  As Christians, we must pursue the truth of God’s Word as our greatest passion in life.  And that truth will govern how we spend our time, how we vote, how we train our children, how we worship, and what our expectations are of the future.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Evangelism: The Urgency and Necessity

Among the core Christian beliefs is the existence of a place called heaven and the horrific reality of hell.  When time has expired, every person will find himself in one place or the other.  The fact that many choose to ignore this truth in no way lessens the gravity of the prospect.

Scripture unambiguously charges those who know the truth to share that life-changing message with those still in unbelief.  The message of the gospel sets men free, and we are to shine as lights in this dark world (Phil. 2:15).  We are to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19).  We are to be witnesses for Christ to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).  And we are to follow the example of Paul and pray with burdened hearts that the lost may be saved (Rom. 10:1).  Those who fill this vital role as bearers of the truth are lauded in Isaiah 52:7: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation …”  There is no function in life of greater importance than being a bearer of the message of salvation through Christ alone.

Yet, in the changing cultural landscape of the Christian church, evangelism is becoming increasingly ignored, even opposed.  Barna research recently released the results of a study which found that almost half (47%) of Millennials agreed at least somewhat that it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith.  These same Millennials indicated that they are confident in how to respond when their faith is questioned.  But they are quite reticent to do so.

Among older Christians – Boomers and Elders – only about 20% hold to a negative view of sharing their faith for the purpose of evangelism.  So the perspective is definitely tied to one’s generational standing.  But given the waning influence of senior believers and the growing impact of the youthful outlook, this development is of serious concern for the future of the Christian church. 

The Old Testament illustrates what happens when a generation drifts from the core beliefs of their parents (Judges 2:10).  The sorry events recorded in the subsequent chapters of that book serve as stark reminders of the importance of both holding to the faith and passing it on to others.

The Christian’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.  One cannot carry out that mandate and keep the faith buttoned up inside.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Who Really Is Jesus Christ?

One would think that of all people in the United States, evangelical Christians would get this question right.  But one would be wrong to make that assumption.

Ligonier’s 2018 State of Theology survey reveals evangelicals’ reaction to the statement: “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.”  73% strongly agreed; just 14% strongly disagreed.

These results reveal the abysmal state of Christological understanding among the great majority of professing evangelicals.  If the full spectrum of professing Christians were surveyed, doubtless the results would be even worse.  The assumption typically is that the theological acumen of evangelicals is markedly better than nominal Christianity as a whole.  But in this case there is no good news.

The nature of the person of Christ was the subject of intense debate in the early centuries of the Christian church, leading to the development of the Nicene Creed in 325 and further refined and expanded at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.  Part of the Nicene Creed declares that Jesus Christ is “very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.”

The statement proposed in the State of Theology survey reflects the ancient heresy taught by Arius in the 4th century, who viewed the Son of God as being created by the Father and therefore less than fully God.  It is the same deviation from the truth promulgated today by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

If Jesus was not, as the Council of Chalcedon declared, “perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood, truly God and also truly man,” then He was not capable of paying the infinite price necessary to redeem us from our sin.

Clearly the 21st century church has much work to do in refuting the ancient heresies which have begun to reemerge among our ranks.  So much of Christian preaching and teaching is currently focused on practical matters of how to deal with life’s day-to-day crises that we are losing the critical center of our faith.  If the Son of God is not co-equal with the Father and with the Holy Spirit then we have lost the essence of the Christian faith.  Without the Trinity, lesser issues fade into insignificance.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Forty-Five Years and Counting

To the GCF Family:

Sunday, September 16, 2018 marks the 45th anniversary of the formation of the new church body which would eventually become Grace Christian Fellowship, a member congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.  Some of you have been involved since the beginning.  Most of you have joined the church family in the years since.

The vision driving the founding of this church was a desire to remain true to the orthodox teachings of the Christian faith in the face of theological liberalism infiltrating the mainline Presbyterian Church.  Today, the inroads of compromise and lack of theological integrity continue to plague organized Christianity across our land.  Pressures from secular society are taking a toll on numerous denominations.  Rather than standing for biblical orthodoxy, many choose the path of capitulation and compromise, leading to churches that gradually are losing their Christian distinctives.

Semper Reformanda, Reformed and always reforming, has been the battle cry of churches in the heritage of the Protestant Reformation.  This phrase doesn’t mean that we are always to be adapting to the latest trends and demands of secular society.  Rather, the focus of these two Latin words is that churches must be continually striving to re-orient our beliefs to the absolute authority of Scripture.  

The human tendency is to compromise.  The burden of such Reformed churches is that our beliefs and practices must continually be brought back into line with the Word of God.  And that is our goal at Grace Christian Fellowship.  Our loyalty is not ultimately to the traditions of the past but to the abiding relevance of God’s eternal truth in the Bible.

As we look to the future, let us pray and work and serve together so that in the years to come we will remain true to our founding vision.  There is much work to be done to honor the name of Jesus Christ and to address the evident needs of the tri-state area in which we live.  Thousands of people in our neighborhoods lack a fundamental understanding of the gospel of salvation by grace alone, through Christ alone.  Let us pray for increased zeal that we may more effectively be “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom [we] shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).

God has gifted each of you to contribute to the ministry of this congregation.  Let us encourage each other as we serve the Lord together.  May God’s hand of blessing rest upon our labors so that much fruit is produced for His glory.