Hope And Blessings In The Darkness

faith, hope, uncertaintyWe all find ourselves in dark places from time to time.  Places where answers are hard to find and the future seems uncertain.  In those times our world seems to shake around us and the foundations we have laid for ourselves no longer seem capable or strong enough to last.  What we thought we knew no longer applies and we find ourselves perplexed and dismayed.

Everyone searches for hope in the darkness but few seem to find it.  Why is that?  Could it be that we often look in the wrong place for hope?  Could it be that we are ignorant of the source of true hope?

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1 (NASB)

As a child of God, our hope should be in God and God alone.  He is the only one with the power and the authority to speak calm into our turmoil and light into our darkness.  But even in this there is a proper time and a proper order that God alone knows.

When we find ourselves in a place of need, desperately searching for an answer, our first response should be to cry out to God.  But what if God does not answer right away? What if God does not answer in the way that we think He should?

Then we are blessed to be able to exercise our faith.  Faith is the assurance of that which we hope for and it is our conviction that even though we can’t see our way out we know that God can!  With just a word God created the world and everything in it.  When God speaks, all creation must take heed.  God’s word still has the power to completely change our lives and to perform miracles in places without hope.

God’s will is to take us home to be with Him in perfect fellowship for all eternity.  But we often forget that only He knows the path that will lead us home.  Sometimes the darkness is allowed to persist and the uncertainty lingers.  And the more uncomfortable our situation the faster we want out and the more we struggle against it.

Sometimes we must be led through the darkness in order to increase our faith and so that we may be a guide for others who are following behind us.  Our dark periods are not just for us alone and have far reaching spiritual ramifications that we will never fully understand until we see Jesus face to face.

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,  while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NASB)

We must learn to use our eyes of faith and see beyond that which is temporary to that which is eternal.  Whatever we are going through now and whatever situation we find ourselves in on this earth will change.  Good or bad, it will pass away and it will not persist.  In the light of eternity, it is momentary.  But even these moments, as confusing and uncertain as they often seen, can be used by the Lord God of all to produce in us an eternal weight of glory that is far beyond all comparison.

Trust in God, even in the darkness.  Don’t forget your hope and remember to look forward to the day when all is revealed and your reward is received.  It will be worth it all.

The Only Question That Really Matters

sin, salvation, the gospel, faithI try not to pay much attention to politics or current events.  I have a friend at work who, I am fairly certain, thinks of me as either willfully ignorant or somewhat uncaring about the world at large.  Whenever he tells me about the latest plane crash, energy crisis or political scandal that is making the headlines my usual response is something like “hmm” or “oh, really?”

It’s not that I don’t care or that I am unconcerned about the world in which I live.  It’s simply a matter of perspective and the difference between mine and his.  He’s a professed atheist and I am not.  I love the Lord Jesus, read my Bible daily and I try to view him and the world around me through the lens of God’s grace and redemptive plan.

He knows that I am a believer in Christ and that I attend church weekly but as a non-believer without a strong biblical background he doesn’t really understand my point of view.  No one can, not unless they are first adopted into the family of God by faith and belief on the Lord Jesus Christ and the washing and remission of sins.

What I would really like to say to him is “God is in control, love and serve Him with all of your heart and leave the rest to Him” but as my desire is not to antagonize Him it comes out as “hmm” or “oh, really”.

I say all of that to say we need to be careful about not getting so caught up in lesser matters.  What exactly is a lesser matter, you might ask?  I leave the precise answer of that question up to your conscience and the leading of the Holy Spirit but for me a lesser matter is one that distracts from the message of the gospel and the good news that Jesus saves.

In terms of politics do I want a strong believer in the White House?  Absolutely, I do.  I pray for my country and its leadership often.  But I am not open to entering into political debate on my position because ultimately it is going to lead back to my belief in Jesus Christ and in God’s plan for this world and for His people.

In terms of social matters, do I support gay marriage?  Well, I believe the act of homosexuality is a sin and I also believe that marriage is defined by the Bible as the union between one man and one woman.  However, our lawmakers, the ones in charge, have decided to extend the same rights and privileges to same sex couples as heterosexual couples and now I, as a believer, have a choice in how I will respond.  Will it be a response that is filled with care and concern for the soul of each individual or will it be a bitter complaint against the sorry state of our world?

I will insert here C.S. Lewis’s response to a question about homosexuality just because it is such a good one:  “I take it for certain that the physical satisfaction of homosexual desires is sin. This leaves the homosexual no worse off than any normal person who is, for whatever reason, prevented from marrying. Second, our speculations on the cause of homosexuality are not what matters and we must be content with ignorance. The disciples were not told why the man was born blind (John 9:1-3): only the final cause: that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”  Notice how C.S. Lewis takes on the question of homosexuality?  By answering it in the context of scripture and bringing the discussion around to God’s plan.  And that is exactly how we should be striving to answer any and all questions about our society and our world.

In short, you can’t expect the unrighteous to live righteous lives and instead of focusing on the fruits of sin and the behaviors of the lost we should instead be focusing on God’s grace and doing everything in our power to point the lost to Him.  I’m not condemning those who get involved in good causes and spend their time and energy to make the world a better place but I am saying that if we lose the message of the gospel or if it gets somehow overshadowed by our cause then we have lost everything that this world really needs.  And at that point our cause amounts to very little.

The world we live in has issues but the reality is there is only one issue: Sin.  And that means that there is only one question that really matters.  Everything we do should lead up to and expand upon this one question.  “Do you love the Lord and live each day to serve Him?”

God’s Provision for a New Year

provision, Philippians 4, faithLast year is over.  A new year has begun.  While making New Year’s Resolutions might be the popular thing to do, as God’s people we are assured that we don’t have to wait until a new year in order to turn over a new leaf.  God says “Today is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2) and God’s help and provision are always present tense and available right now to all who would receive.

Maybe last year wasn’t a good year for us.  Maybe there were circumstances that brought pain and sorrow or perhaps we found ourselves in a place of regret over mistakes that were made.  Maybe we began this new year with a hope for something better but without a concrete plan for positive change.

I’m here to tell you, God has what you need.  In his letter to the church at Philipi, Paul offered encouragement and Godly wisdom which is still applicable to us today and can completely transform our lives if we will put it in to practice.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:4-7 (NASB)

Thankfulness in all things and in all circumstances is the first step.  No matter what’s happening and no matter how we feel at the moment, we can express our thanks to God.  Not that all things are good or desirable, but that God Himself is always worthy of our thanks and that His salvation and Spirit sustains us even in the midst of the darkest days.  And with that thankful heart we are then in a perfect position to offer up our prayers and requests to God who is able to provide for all of our needs.

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19 (NASB)

Once we have decided to be thankful (and it is a conscious decision that we must make) and offered up our earnest prayers to God, then God Himself will provide an incredible peace which is able to do a miraculous thing for us.  God’s peace will “guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”!  This is a wonderful promise because a heart and mind that is guarded by God’s peace is one that is not easily moved or swayed by the evil of this world and can begin to be a light for others.  In other words, this is the foundation for a vital and growing faith that we must exercise and put to daily use.

Ultimately it is God who controls our circumstances and much of what happens around us is outside of our ability to change.  What is possible and expected of us is to become all that God would have us to be by putting His word into practice.  We must trust God with our lives and with our needs and most importantly, with our hearts and minds.  There is no blessing that God will withhold from the one who is completely surrendered to Him and there is no power in this world that can overcome those that are committed to doing His will.

How Genuine Faith Is Formed

suffering, 1 Peter 1: 3-9, faithHave you ever said to yourself “I don’t like this, I don’t understand why it’s happening and I wish it would go away!”  If you are like me then you have likely uttered similar statements or had similar thoughts on more than one occasion.  It seems to be part of our human condition to face adversity and to be in the midst of difficult circumstances no matter who you are or where you might be.

From a Christian perspective, we should understand it is Sin (notice the capital “S”, as in the fallen state of all creation) that is the root cause of the trials that we face but that knowledge doesn’t necessarily help us cope.  No, we need more than knowledge of the problem to stand firm and strong in our faith when we are facing a trial.  We need that constant connection to God the Father through the Holy Spirit in prayer and meditation on His Word, the Bible.

And the Bible, being one of the first and most important places to go in our distress, has a lot to say about the problems we face during this life.  In the 1st Book of Peter, we find the following:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith,being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3-9 (NKJV)

I’ve included verses three through nine because they form a complete thought and need to be read and understood together but take a closer look at verses six through nine.  In the midst of our rejoicing (because of what is coming and is yet to be revealed, God’s ultimate gift to us!) we might be grieved (troubled) by various trials, if need be.  And why would we need to be troubled?  What purpose is served by the problems we face and then overcome with God’s help?

Genuine faith!  God works through all circumstance, good or bad, to produce in us a genuine faith that is more precious than gold and has as its goal the praise, honor and glory of God.  And what is the end of that faith?  What is the sum total of all that God is working in and through us?  The salvation of our souls and eternity with our savior.

Something that is genuine is true.  It is the real deal.  When placed under stress its true colors shine forth and there is nothing fake or artificial about it.  If it’s real, God knows it and people can see it in us.  Can people see a real and genuine faith in me?  Can they see it in you?

To get to that point of having a real and genuine faith we are going to have to go through some things that we might not like and that might be painful.  During those times it is only natural to search for answers.  As we are searching, I pray we would remember the Apostle Peter’s words to us as recorded in First Peter verses three through nine.  God’s still working on us.  He’s not finished yet.  Hang in there and keep the goal in sight.  It will be well worth it all.

Small Steps Big Rewards

Hebrews 11:6, diligence, faithWho likes rewards?  I know I do!  It’s satisfying to receive a reward, especially after having worked towards a goal or purpose and then accomplishing it.

The right reward can help us to stay motivated and to keep on working even over long and difficult periods where it seems like we are making little progress.  It is natural to want quick results but when we don’t see them it is tempting to get disheartened and to give up.  That is where the promises in God’s word can help us.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6 NKJV)

The book of Hebrews has a lot to say about faith.  And Hebrews 11:6 begins by letting us know that we must come to God in faith.  As we strive to do God’s work we must do it through our faith in Him and His power.  We can be sustained in our efforts only by placing our faith and trust in our Heavenly Father who is always there for us.

Notice also the last part of Hebrews 11:6.  Not only must we have faith to please God but we must also trust that God rewards those who diligently seek Him.  And what is diligence?

diligence: constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken, careful and persistent work or effort, steadfast application

Diligence is not giving up.  Diligence is keeping on, little by little, day by day.  Diligence stays the course even when times are tough and nothing seems to be going right.

I find it encouraging that God will reward my consistent and persistent efforts.  Sometimes I feel like I might be close to the end of my rope physically and mentally and all I have left is my desire not to give up.  And instead of being discouraged by my weakness and lack God wants me to understand that he is sufficient at all times if I will just continue to rely on Him.

The Lord says to us “don’t give up, I have what you need.  Keep coming to me with your weakness and failings and I will be your strength and your success”.  He wants us to stick close to Him, even when we can’t understand what’s happening or where we might be going.

What He doesn’t want us to do is to give in to our discouragement.  It’s very tempting to run and hide or even to get mad at God and stop talking to Him when things aren’t going well.  But if we remain diligent then God tells us that we will be rewarded.

And what are the rewards that God offers us?  Ultimately, being with him in a place called heaven, which will be beyond anything that we can imagine.  But here on this earth He offers us peace in the midst of trials, grace that is greater than any of our failings and His steadfast love that is strong enough to see us through.  God’s presence is real and powerful and true fellowship with Him is one of the sweetest things that we can experience in this life.  All of this He offers to us.

Will we remain diligent and faithful and experience all that God has for us?  I pray that we would.

Alpha Predator Author Interview with Steve Taylor

Alpha Predator Author Interview with Steve TaylorBack on June 19th, I posted my book review of Alpha Predator: How to Be Victorious Over Life’s Ultimate Adversary and What to do When You’re Not.  If you have read the review then you know that the book and the man who wrote it holds a special place in my heart.

Today I am excited to be able to post a summary of a telephone interview that I got to do with Steve last week.  Steve was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to give me a call and to bless me with his words and his wisdom; he has given me permission to write about that call here on Matthew515.

The first thing you need to understand about Steve Taylor is that even though he is a retired missionary he is still working full time for God.  He is currently a full time pastor in Pratt, Kansas and during our conversation he was power walking for exercise in preparation for his upcoming return to Zimbabwe, Africa on a mission trip.  More on that later.  Let’s get to the interview.

Me: “How did the idea for the book come about?  Where did that idea begin and how did it take shape?”

Steve: “I was in a difficult ministry situation at the time.  It was very challenging and I was in contact with people who were really struggling.  I wanted to tell the story of Africa in the midst of challenging circumstances.  Writing was cathartic and it was an outflow of my life experiences through words on a page.  My Dad really encouraged me to take what I was writing and turn it into a book so I attended a writer’s conference in Denver, Colorado and came back with a passion to write the book.”

Steve: “Being a full time pastor, Alpha Predator was mostly written between the hours of 10pm and 2am after everyone had gone to bed and the world had gotten quiet.  I needed that time that was free of distraction so that I could really hear God speak to me.  During those times my thoughts could coalesce into something solid as they appeared on the page.  Even then, it took nearly two years to finish Alpha Predator.”

Me: “And did I hear that you were perhaps considering a follow-up?”

Steve: “Yes, two actually.  One would tell more of how God called Shirley (Steve’s wife) and I to the ministry and our early years getting settled in Africa.  The other will be a Study Guide or Workbook to go along with Alpha Predator.”

Steve: “A copy of Alpha Predator found its way into the hands of a prison chaplain in Texas and that chaplain has shared with me that he is having great success using it as a teaching tool with the inmates there.  These are men who live very close to the evil that is described in Alpha Predator.  The Workbook is a direct request from the chaplain and others who are using Alpha Predator as a teaching tool.”

Steve: “Speaking with that chaplain and my experience with writing Alpha Predator really got me thinking.  Distractions are everywhere and we need quite time alone with God to really hear Him.  Old disciplines of the ancient saints like solitude, silence and fasting are necessary.  We have an entire generation that does not know how to be still and know God.  Solitude and alone time should be a blessing, not a punishment!”

Me: “I agree with you, Steve.  I feel like the theme of my life these past few weeks has been prayer and alone time with God.  I’ve never had a greater desire to talk to God and to get away from the distractions of this world than I do right now.  I think God is trying to remind His people of something.”

Steve: “God wants to reclaim His children.  That’s one of the main reasons I wrote Alpha Predator.  I feel like there are many Christians out there who have made mistakes and just don’t know how to come back home.  The story of the Prodigal Son is a story about a Son who left, made many mistakes, but then came back and was restored by his father.  It’s not a story about a lost person, but about a believer.  We have many Prodigal Sons today and the Father wants them back.”

Me: “I feel the same way.  I had a gentleman in my Sunday School class a few weeks ago tell me that the Lord had given him a thought to give to me.  This was right after I started Matthew515 and what he said really affirmed my ministry.  He said the Lord told him “My people perish for lack of knowledge” and that’s exactly how he relayed it to me.  It just underscored the seriousness of what the Lord had asked me to do and motivated me to not hold anything back.”

Me: “You make an annual trip back to Zimbabwe and I know that is coming up soon.  Is there anything you would like to share about that?  Are there specific prayer requests that you have about your trip that I could share on Matthew515 in with my church?”

Steve: “Every year I take a small group of men to the Zambezi River Valley near where I lived while I was in Africa.  We can’t go in as missionaries anymore so it has to be for the purpose of tourism and sight-seeing but we do minister as we are able.  Last year we started 4 churches and had 227 professions of faith in 18 days.

Steve: “We go into the deep bush, 200 miles from the nearest electric light and deliver basic necessities and medical supplies while teaching and preaching the gospel.  Through these trips we’ve started 28 churches and have trained men to take them on after we are gone and ensure that the ministry continues.”

Steve: “You should make the trip with me sometime.  It would change your life!”

Finally, Steve has asked that any who read this would pray for the safety of those who are going and for safe passage through the many check-points and roadblocks that they will have to navigate on their way into the bush.  He also asks that we pray for the well being of the team while in the bush because (in his words) “everything in Africa bites”.

*Follow-up: Although this post is nearly three years old, everything in it is still relevant.  Steve Taylor is still taking yearly trips to Africa and is still very much in need of our prayer.  I re-post this interview from time to time because I love Steve Taylor and respect the wisdom that he imparted to me through our time together.*

Why Do You Believe?

1 Peter 3:15, apologetics, faithA recent sermon I heard was based around the question “Why should I believe in God?”

If you are reading this blog I hope that you have already answered that question; even so it bears repeating.  Why do you believe in God?

15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15 NKJV)

If we are to be able to give a defense to everyone who asks us, as 1 Peter 3:15 says, then we need to be very sure about our belief.  We need to have that answer ready at hand, not as a scripted response but as a heartfelt statement of faith.  The world desperately needs men and women who are standing firm on their belief in their savior and are not afraid to verbalize it when called on to do so.

On a personal level, I believe in God because I have experienced His presence and because He has changed me from the inside out.  When I was at my lowest I cried out to Him and He came and found me.  His touch was not physical but it left an unmistakable impression on my soul and since then my desire has been only to serve and to love Him with my whole heart.

I have a personal relationship with Him.  I talk to Him all of the time.  I tell Him about my day, confess my fears, worries and mistakes and thank Him for His goodness.  I ask Him for His blessing and protection and His will to be done in the lives of many.

I gave my heart to Him and in exchange He has given me hope for the future, peace in the face of trials and love for myself and my fellow man.  While I am still far, far from perfect I rejoice in knowing that little by little, He is making me like Him.

That is why I believe.  I am passionate about my defense of the gospel and my hope for all believers is that they would be able to give a similar type of answer to the question “Why do you believe?”  And beyond that I am of the opinion that all believers should be passionate about their belief and the God who saved them.  Not that we should be bullies or insensitive, because that is not the essence of true love, but that we should be ready to firmly and wisely defend the reasons for our faith.

Are you a believer who is no longer passionate about your faith?  Ask God to show you why and if you honestly want to know then He will make it clear to you.  Be the man or woman the He has called you to be and don’t accept a lukewarm faith that has no fire.

The Believer’s Proof

faith, provision, dependenceToday I am working off of a very simple but very powerful truth.  That whatever it is that I lack, God can supply it.  Or to turn it around, whatever it is that you lack, God can supply it.

Lately, for whatever reason, God keeps bringing me back to the basic idea of faith and belief in Him and His sovereignty.  And for us to really “get” the idea that God really can supply all of our needs and that He really does love us so much that He is standing, waiting to provide what we need if we would only ask, we need our faith increased.

Our faith needs to be proven and it needs to be exercised and stretched, like a muscle.  And for that to happen we need to be in a position where we don’t have all the answers and we don’t have the resources that we need.  Because once we realize that we don’t have what we need and we can’t manufacturer it or get it anywhere else but God, then we can rely on Him and watch as He miraculously provides above and beyond all that we could ask or imagine.

And then the process needs to be repeated and in that process, our faith in and dependence on God will increase.

There are many ways that this can happen.  For some of us who are very stubborn, we will only realize this truth when we have made almost every mistake that there is to make and gotten ourselves in very bad shape.  Call it a crisis point or coming to the end of ourselves, but that is what it takes for some of us.  And it is only when we’ve realized how wrong we have been and how far we have strayed and how fruitless our actions have been can we then turn to a holy God and repent and ask Him to turn our lives around for good.

For others, it is a more gradual process of realization as the Holy Spirit draws and the individual begins to listen and prove what God is saying.  Thankfully, the end result is the same.  No matter how we come or when we come, as long as we fully commit our hearts and lives to God and continue to depend on Him for everything, God will use us and bless many through us.

So my question today, for all of us, is this: what do you lack?  Whether it be something obvious and incessant or something subtle and hidden from the view of most.  And once we have realized that need, are we completely dependent on our precious Savior to meet it, waiting for His provision, or are we looking somewhere else?

Faith: The Hope and the Evidence

Faith, Hope, God,The day that God called me to write and speak His truth was a turning point in my life.  What had previously seemed like a difficult period was actually preparation and training for the most exciting plan that God had ever shared with me.

Although I was full of passion and optimism I knew that what God had just asked me to do was far beyond my abilities.  I knew absolutely nothing about starting and maintaining a website or creating content.  I didn’t have the first clue on how to go about being a blogger or using the written word to reach an internet audience.  To get where God was asking me to go was going to take a lot of faith.

I’ve been a regular church attendee for most of my life.  I know the definition of faith.  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1). Even so, knowing the definition of faith was not going to be enough.  I was going to have to live out what I had learned.  I certainly hoped that God would bless my efforts as I labored to learn all I needed to know about being a blogger.  And I believe that hope in God is always rewarded as we strive to do His will.

But what about the evidence of things unseen?  Matthew Henry, who was a Presbyterian Minister in the 17th century, wrote “Faith proves to the mind, the reality of things that cannot be seen by the bodily eye”.  I certainly had no physical evidence to support God’s claim that I could do what He was asking me to do.  And if I had waited on that physical evidence to show up before I began I would never have started.  But by exercising my faith in God I trusted that He would give me what I needed exactly when I needed it.

This is God’s way.  We can see this pattern in the 16th Chapter of Exodus when the Israelites were in the wilderness and were in need of food.  They cried out to God and each day God caused manna from heaven to fall to the ground.  With this provision came the instruction to take only what was needed for that day.  God wanted His people to see His provision as fresh and new every single day and so it is with us.

I have also seen this in my own life.  In my 2nd year of college my family was facing some financial difficulties.  As I approached the end of the first semester it looked as if I was not going to be able to come back because we simply did not have the money to pay for tuition.  We prayed for God’s will and provision and with about a week to go until the end of semester I got a call from one of the college deans.

As I sat in his office that afternoon he asked me why I had not enrolled for the following semester.  I explained what was going on with my family and he listened.  As I finished he told me that it was his desire for me to stay in school and that I would be the beneficiary of a financial gift that had been provided by someone outside the school who just wanted to help a student in need.  This gift had just come in the mail.  It was just enough to keep me in school and it was just in time.

God grew my faith that day.

God is still growing my faith.  I look back at the last several months and I can see how God provided for me at every turn and how every day it is He who is giving me the message and providing my direction.

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”  (Hebrews 11:6).  Day by day I am learning the truth of Hebrews 11:6.  If you are reading this it is my prayer that you also know the truth of Hebrews 11:6 and the power of a life lived by faith in God alone.  He loves you; He died for you and the life He now offers you is richer and fuller than you could ever imagine.  All you have to do is take that first step of faith.  God is waiting.

What step is God asking you to take on faith today?

Worth Thinking About

proverbs 22:6, faith, educationI’m going to give you a quote from a recent article on CNN and let you think about it for a moment.  Once you’ve done that please continue reading and we’ll discuss what I think it means and why it is important.

Christianity in the United States hasn’t done a good job of engaging serious Christian reflection with young people, in ways that would be relevant to their lives.”   said L. Gregory Jones, a senior strategist for leadership education at Duke University in North Carolina.

If you would like to read the whole story (which I recommend) the article in question can be found here.   http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/12/living/pew-religion-study/index.html

It’s an article about young people and millennials (the “millenial” generation is defined by most as people born between 1981 and 1997) in particular leaving the church.  What’s interesting is that the article states that many of the millenials who now claim no faith or religious affiliation were raised in homes where the parents claimed to be Christian.  The takeaway being that this generation has in large part rejected the faith of their fathers in favor of a much different world view.

While it is the atheists and those who outright reject belief in God who often get most of the attention in Christian circles the article goes on to state that many more millenials profess to be agnostic or unsure about their belief in God rather than atheistic.  And even among those who profess to believe in God they are still leaving church pews empty because they do not find the traditional church service and church programs to be relevant or engaging.  Another quote from the article is relevant here:

If it is the case that millennials are less ‘atheists’ than they are ‘bored,’ then serious engagements with Christian social innovation, and with deep intellectual reflection (and these two things are connected), would offer promising signs of hope,” Jones said.

The truly amazing thing about all of this to me is that a vibrant, growing faith in Jesus Christ is the most relevant and engaging experience that a human being could ever hope to be a part of and somehow “the church” has made it seem boring, old fashioned, misguided and not at all relevant.  And lest we cast all of the blame at the churches’ feet we have to remember that a good portion of the millennials that this article is addressing were raised in homes where the parents claimed to be Christians.  Since education starts in the home and God’s Word tells us that if we “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) then what we really have is a failure to educate and train our kids both at church AND in the home.

I don’t think this is a new problem, either.  I think this is a problem that is as old as humanity and Christianity.  The devil is always going to come after family units and will always try to distract us in any way that he possibly can and he’s been doing that for thousands of years.  The fact that we have more media coverage and more distractions nowadays is just causing the problem to get more attention and more coverage.

But make no mistake, we do have a problem.  We, as Christ’s church and Christ’s body need to do a better job at communicating why the gospel is still so relevant and so powerful.  We need to emphasize the relational aspect of our faith with a loving heavenly father who has forgiven our sins and longs for us to be with Him.  And we need to be bold in proclaiming that not making a decision is the same as rejecting God and carries grave consequences for an eternity without hope.