The Christmas season is once again upon us and with it overwhelming encouragement from Madison Avenue to spend what we have not earned to buy what we cannot afford. The thrust of this consumerist message is that the holiday is best enjoyed or most fully realized through the acquisition of “things.”
As we, once again, approach this national day of “thanksgiving” I thought it necessary to reflect upon our nation’s long history of acknowledging and giving thanks to the Almighty God.
This is the question, of sorts, I recently posed to a local businessman. As I indicated in my last commentary, I have embarked on an enterprise that I believe offers a modern example of what Jesus meant when he told his disciples to “seek first the kingdom” (Matt. 6:33).
A recent study found that 20 percent of non-Christians in North America really do not "personally know" any Christians. Christianity Today points out, "that number includes atheists and agnostics, many of whom are former Christians themselves and more likely to have close Christian contacts. Without that group, 60 percent of the non-Christian population has no relationships with Christians."
Our first response to the California decision might be anger or even disgust, but when filtered through the lens of Paul's letter to the church in Rome, I submit that we may want to respond differently.
Russian president Vladimir Putin ignited outrage among the pro-homosexual community by signing into law a ban on homosexual adoption. The new law also prohibits adoption by single parent households. While these latter measures are no doubt draconian, they nonetheless represent a growing realization within Russian society, namely: sexual anarchy has proven devastating to the future of their civilization.
It is the present form of Christianity—uniquely influenced by American culture—that is failing precisely because it has been enculturated with ideas foreign to the kingdom of God and the good news of the kingdom. In essence, the American church has succumbed to the lure of personal peace and affluence—elements of the American dream.
If Jesus commands us to “seek first the kingdom” then it is imperative that we know more precisely what this means. If the kingdom is as the Bible describes, the rule and reign of God come to earth through Jesus the King over all other kings then this reality carries enormous implications for how we are to live and act as faithful followers of Christ.
This is the question with which all serious Christians must wrestle. To think that Christianity is thriving in America simply ignores the obvious and overwhelming facts of our times.
It’s easy to talk about “unity within the church” as long as we’re talking in the abstract. However, what do you do when a Christian brother or sister offends you or sins against you? Do you “write them off” and go your separate ways? I submit this is often the easier choice, but Jesus and the standards of his kingdom rule do not permit us to do so.
Anyone who has been a Christian for almost any length of time understands God as “our Father.” Having received salvation at the age of twenty-one, I, too, understood the concept of God as Father but it wasn’t until last year—at the age of fifty-two—that I truly began to understand the fatherhood of God beyond the abstract.
Christians have throughout the centuries—and most especially following the Protestant Reformation—arrived at very different understandings about a multitude of issues related to the teaching and practice of the Christian faith. Unfortunately, we tend to form enclaves around these doctrinal understandings, which are eventually institutionalized.
By reducing our conceptions of the church to an institution or organization to be managed, there often follows a decreased expectation of the supernatural in the affairs and activities of the church and, by extension, the individual Christian.
Prior to Constantine, the church, although organized, was less institutional and more communal or organic. In other words, the outside world didn’t think of “the church” as that building on the corner. Instead they thought of a community of people who were distinct in both their conduct and character, the overarching characteristics being their love for others, compassion toward the needy, and joy-filled lives.
The brutal and senseless murder of twenty-seven people—including twenty children—at Sandy Hook Elementary has left the nation once again stunned and looking for answers. Beyond the obvious element of evil, we are all wondering, “What can possibly motivate someone to commit these heinous acts of violence?” “Why are such scenes becoming more and more frequent?” And, “What is the cause?”
This Christmas do not be swept away by the illusory claims of consumerism; instead, revel in God’s gracious gifts, drink deeply the joy of relationships and life and the wonder of this wonderful season—these will leave you truly satisfied and debt free!
One of the ways we can determine whether or not we are listening to the voice of God versus that other voice is to examine the four foundational relationships in our lives that the gospel is redeeming: our relationship with God, ourselves, others, and creation.
What we often perceive as the biblical way is often nothing more than the worldly way dressed up in piety and justified by familiarity and personal experience.
This is clearly the implication of the media reports following the latest Pew Research, “Nones on the Rise,” which shows a “steep decline” in the number of Protestants. Trying to spin this in such a way that the Christian faith appears culturally vital is a little like putting lipstick on a pig; but concluding that Christianity is losing and secularism is winning isn’t quite accurate either.
A rather obscure but important study conducted by the Swiss government in 1994 revealed some astonishing facts with regard to the generational transmission of faith and religious values.