Category Archives: Cultural

A stark example for us from Daniel.

While preaching from Daniel 9, I was struck by this fact: Daniel’s prayer in this passage was answered as he was “praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people, Israel”.  Verse 5 tells us “we have sinned and have committed iniquity”.  Daniel was confessing and seeking forgiveness for the nation of Israel.

Let’s recap the history here:  Israel rejected following God and ignored the pleas of the prophets that preached repentance.  Due to Israel’s sin and rejection of God, God allowed both the Northern and Southern kingdoms to be taken into captivity.  Daniel was a young man who was taken back to Babylon due to his intelligence and potential.  There, in captivity in a foreign land, Daniel remained faithful to God.  We see from the beginning as he and his three Hebrew friends set themselves apart with their standards on what food they would or would not eat.  Daniel showed his faith in the Almighty by interpreting the dream for Nebuchadnezzar.

Now, in chapter 9 we find Daniel working under King Darius which is an entirely different empire.  Daniel has remained, throughout his life, a faithful ambassador of God.  He has little to no support group:  no church, no synagogue, no Bible study.  We find him praying by himself each day in his home (where his enemies find him praying leading to his being thrown in the Lion’s den).  Daniel has lived a faithful life and is living and working in Babylon under various kings and rulers all while suffering the wages of his country’s debt of sin.

In spite of all of this, we find Daniel taking the responsibility upon himself to pray for the sins of his people.  Daniel is not a political leader or spiritual leader of his country, yet he takes it upon himself to confess and beg forgiveness for the sins of Israel.  Why?  He did not commit these sins.  In fact, many of these sins happened long before he was even alive.

Why?  Because Daniel was the one that had a relationship with God.  Daniel was one of just a handful that knew God, prayed to God, walked with God and understood what God was doing.  Daniel took that great burden upon himself.  What an example to us.  We so often want to see our country repent of their sin and turn to God.  Daniel knew the people of Israel weren’t going to turn to God, they didn’t even realize they were away from Him.  Likewise, we, who know Him, must take it upon ourselves to pray on behalf of our country.  We must be confessing the sin of our country.  We are the only ones that know and understand how essential this is.  We cannot expect the lost to do the right thing.

Let me emphasize the point here once again:  It is one thing to pray that those in sin and committing sin will turn from their sin and repent, calling out to God.  In this example of Daniel, he is taking the sin upon himself and is confessing FOR them.  That is spiritual leadership!!

..”that which was right in their own eyes”.

I was watching the Today show this morning and Caroline Kennedy was being interviewed about the JFK Profile in Courage Award that was being presented to President Obama.  In the midst of the interview she was asked how President Obama had displayed courage.  She responded that politically he showed courage by “doing what he thought was right”.

Doing what he thought was right.  Is that how one displays courage? Isn’t this a clear indication of a clear change in our culture?  One can be courageous in many ways and certainly one of those would be that you can be courageous when you do the right thing regardless of the consequences.  It is an entirely new angle to be considered courageous for doing what YOU think is right.

The Bible specifically mentions this as a problem in past generations. A time when every man did that which was right according to himself (Judges 17, 21 and Proverbs 21).  We are living in a day when this is accepted as good.  We should be doing that which is right according to God and that which is morally right – instead every one determines for himself what he feels is good.  Then we reward this as courageous.

Truth is fallen in the streets

A couple years ago I preached a message about the relative nature of truth in a Post-modern culture.  The fact that truth has become whatever one thinks it to be and it is wrong to tell them that they are wrong.  If an individual thinks that 2 + 2 = 5, then that is truth to them.  That sounds ludicrous and folks snickered when I gave these type of illustrations.

This week in the NBA (National Basketball Association) a star athlete (Kyrie Irving) stated multiple times that he believed that the earth is actually flat.  Kyrie Irving comments   He was quite adamant about it.  This became a leading story throughout the sport.  The commissioner of the NBA made a public comment on it. Adam Silver comments  Several other NBA stars throughout the week defended not only his right to his opinion, but also that he may be right.  NBA comments.  Perhaps all of the images of earth from space are just trick photography one said.

Isaiah 59:14 …truth is fallen in the street…  

Topics like these are easy to defend.  We can observe and experiment on things like this.  This is true science – not speculation.

Reaching Millennials for Christ.

The struggle for churches in the beginning of the twenty-first century is how to reach the younger generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  As we move into a Post-modern world we are faced with new challenges.  How do we reach our culture without being influenced by our culture?

The Millennials are defined as those born between 1981 and 1997.  They are the younger generation and they are the largest generation since the Baby Boomers.  They think different than Generation X, Baby Boomers or Builders.  They have a post-modern philosophy (more about that in the next post).  After much research and many surveys it appears that Millennials value: Sense of Community, Value of Opinion, Need to Participate and Finding something Genuine.  In the case of religion we find that they like for church to feel like church.  They are not turned off by stained glass, older hymns or sacred traditions.

So how can we relate to these Millennials today?

1) They value community and participation over a sense of individualism.   We need to make them part of the group.  We need to get them involved in our small groups, Bible studies or classes where they form relationships.  We need to have specific outings or activities just for them.  We need to give them a cause.  They want to be part of a group with a name and job to do.

2) They want their opinion to be heard and to matter.  We need to get Millennials onto committees or boards where they can influence the church with the knowledge they possess.  Audio and Visual committees, Outreach committees, Marketing programs, Building committees, etc.  We understand the value of wisdom on Deacon boards – but there are many other ways for MIllennials to participate.

3) They are attracted to something genuine and quickly see through something fabricated. We must stick to the Gospel and the importance of a changed life.  We must teach and value the attributes of God.  We must value the Word of God.   If the Millennials are going to be part of a church, that church MUST stand for something or else they will find something else worth putting their time and support behind.

* I am convinced that the ‘feel good’ methods of church growth over the last thirty years will have no impact upon Millennials, in fact, it may just turn them off.

 

 

My prayer for my children is that they are more than just happy.

I have heard so many parents tell me lately “I just want my kids to be happy”. Unfortunately, this has now crossed thresholds in our Christian homes that places a value on happiness over all else – even sin.  There have been a number of instances where an adult, married child has decided to leave their spouse and they end up committing adultery and beginning a new relationship with someone new.  Too often, Christian parents respond today by proclaiming: “I just want my child to be happy”.

I want and pray for more than just happiness for my Children.  My boys are both young adults now and I desire that they have a close relationship with Christ.  I pray that they are always in the midst of God’s Will.  I expect them to always place integrity and character at a high level.  I pray that they put others needs and comforts above themselves.

When Jesus had finished washing the Disciples feet He proclaimed to His hearers that if they would follow His example “happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17).  So, ironically, in God’s system – when you don’t seek happiness but serve others – you end up with happiness.  Searching after our own happiness shows our selfishness and pride of life.

So I am not looking for my boys to “just be happy”.  I am looking for them to be the men that God wants them to be – and in doing that they will indeed find happiness.

 

Underestimating False Information

by Pastor Wes Gunther

misinformation

During World War II the British were very effective at using ‘Black Propaganda’ which is better know today as Disinformation – or False Information.  During the War the British began at least two radio stations which both claimed to be broadcasting from Germany. One was geared toward the German citizens and included much information on how Hitler had gone soft and how his government was full of scandal and immorality. The second station targeted the German forces and fed them disinformation on German defeats and casualties – designed of course to lower morale in their military.

Do we think it’s possible that Satan would deploy such tactics?  Could Satan possibly be advanced enough to understand the influence of disinformation?  Of course he understands it and uses it.  Satan is wise and cunning in his attacks.  In the Garden of Eden he immediately took the commandment of God and re-worded it, embellished it, and added a few lies.  “Did God say?”  “You’ll be as gods.”   How is Satan using misinformation today?

1.  False Religions.  Today there are over 4200 religions per a quick internet search.  The truth of God is shrouded in the midst of lies.  No wonder people are turned off to religion of any kind.  No wonder people are so skeptical of the truth.

2. Doctrinal Disputes.  In order for a lie to be effective it must contain some elements of truth.  Doctrinal disputes rage in Christianity.  Clearly Satan is, at the very least, reaping the benefits of the confusion and misinformation that is taught and argued over.  Is the truth in Premillennialsim, Postmillennialsim, Amillennialism, or something else?  Is it Free Will or Pre-ordained?  Eternal Security or is it possible to lose one’s Salvation? Denominations have been formed, split, new ones formed, and split again over these and other arguments.

I am not saying that one side is somehow under ‘Satanic influence’ and therefore the other side is Godly.  I am saying that Satan is still feeding good, educated, well intentioned people misinformation.

3. Plethora of Bible Translations.  A quick internet search reveals that there are at least 450 English translations of the Bible.  Again, let me make myself very clear, I think the vast, vast majority of the scholars that have put together new translations have done so with the very best of intentions.  I believe each one saw a need and attempted to address it.  However, by doing so, we now have a high degree of confusion among many Christians (and non-Christians) that are attempting to read or study the Word of God. There are also many arguments, church splits and denominational differences over the Bible text issue alone.  I think the only one who is getting a kick out of all of this is Satan. If you want everyone to get frustrated and give up on the plan – than give everyone a different set of blueprints.  Not vastly different, just different enough to confuse everyone.

4. Worship Styles.  Churches are automatically defined today by their worship style.  Is it traditional or contemporary?  Do you sing hymns or do you have a praise band?  What – you have both??  The traditional churches think the more contemporary churches have let the world influence them too much.  The contemporary churches think the traditional churches are losing touch with the generation that they are supposed to be winning for Christ.

Mark 9:40 For he that is not against us is on our part.  Let us focus on the lost that need Jesus Christ in their lives.  We’ll let God decide if we are going to sing with electric guitars in Heaven or not and by then the whole Pre-, Post-, Amillennial issue will be a non issue anyway.

Waiting for the flames

Hell_n2

Watching television with my wife last night we were well into a crime show she enjoys watching when the star of the show stated that pulling the fire alarm doesn’t work for clearing out a building anymore because “people ignore alarms and are waiting for the flames before they’ll leave”.

Right about there I checked out of the TV show as my mind went to the profound truth that was just stated.  People aren’t scared of Hell anymore.  No matter how much we preach about Hell or read what the Scriptures state about Hell people aren’t scared of the warnings anymore.

My wife and I were in the area Children’s hospital a couple of weeks ago for several days with our niece when the fire alarm went off one afternoon.  We looked around and realized that everyone that worked there completely ignored it.  It was much like walking through the parking lot when the car alarm goes off and everyone complains about how annoying the alarm is without anyone actually concerned that someone might be breaking into a car. We are desensitized to warning labels, caution signs and safety precautions.

We preach about the horrors of Hell and I think the message is falling on deaf ears. People aren’t scared of the reality of hell.  Everything around them is warning them of the ‘worst case scenario’.  Which leads them to wonder if the church isn’t  just doing the same thing?

So how do we reach a world that isn’t scared of hell anymore?  LOVE.  We must share the love of God to a lost world.  We may live in a world where people are desensitized to the reality of Hell fire, but we also live in a world that is full of despair, loneliness, pain, depression and hurt.  Love is the answer.  People are looking for hope.  This doesn’t remove the truth of Hell and Eternal Damnation – this just focuses on the needs of the people that we are trying to reach today.  People that are just ‘waiting for the flames’ and we know that waiting until they see the flames of Hell is way too late!

Five benefits of the ‘War on Christmas’

The so called ‘War on Christmas’ has continued to become a lightning rod each year.  I have seen a number of benefits emerge from this social interaction:

1) Keeps Christ in the Conversation.  By continually discussing whether or not companies, schools, advertisers and others are keeping Christ in Christmas we are constantly discussing the fact that Christ is indeed the subject of Christmas.  This sounds obvious, but think about it; We are constantly discussing the real meaning of Christmas whenever one side or the other brings up Christ.  This really beckons to the old saying that ‘there is no such thing as bad advertising’!

2) Encourages Believers to say ‘Merry Christmas’.  Because of the increased awareness of keeping Christ in Christmas, Christians are more conscientious than ever of saying ‘Merry Christmas’.  This is especially true when a cashier says ‘Happy Holidays’.  That’s when those that are sensitive to the importance of Christmas are quick to respond with a ‘Merry Christmas’.

3) An increase in Nativity Scenes.  Because local municipalities and governments are becoming less likely to put up nativity scenes in public places – it seems that more and more individuals are putting them in their yards.  In my own neighborhood I have counted more than a dozen nativity scenes in private yards and in front of local churches.  That is far more than we saw just a few years ago.

4) Renewed interest in Christmas Carols.  Due to the sensitivity of mentioning Christ, I have noticed that people are listening to the words of the Christmas carols and hymns more than ever.  They point out when the song mentions the ‘Christ child’ or the ‘virgin birth’.  Rather than just letting the words of the songs become routine and go in one ear and out the other, people are listening to the message in the songs even if their intent is to be critical.

5) Keeps everyone aware of the Reason for the Season.  All of the above instances show that there is now a renewed awareness of what Christmas is all about.  If there was no discussion, than the gift purchasing and pretty lights and Santa Claus stories would be dominant.  Instead, because of backlash from non Christians, we find that more people than ever are at least aware of the fact that Christ is the Reason for the Season.

christ in christmas

Why does the Bible have so many rules?

God created man and woman, placing them in the Garden of Eden, and outlining their role. They were to dress and keep the garden, name the animals, populate the earth and keep one very simple rule:  Do not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil!  God gave them just one rule.

We hear so many people complain today that the Bible is full of too many rules.  They complain that it’s just full of ‘don’ts’.  All the commandments are too much to take.

Why does the Bible contain rules?  Why?  Because we are sinners.  We are humans and we break rules.  We are sinners that have necessitated the making and giving of rules. God gave Adam and Eve one rule – which they promptly broke.

Most parents, schools, governments, etc. do not make rules until there is a need for one. Rules were made because people do what they want – and often it is wrong.

The government did not make speed limits until there were cars going way too fast.   They did not have rules against drunk driving until there were drunks that were driving.  They did not have rules against texting until too many people spent their time behind the wheel texting.  God did not give the Law to Adam and Eve, He gave them just one rule.  Man and his sin necessitated the Law.  The Bible contains many rules because we are sinners.

ten commandments