The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,300 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
First Adam vs. Last Adam
In the Bible, Paul called Jesus the “Last Adam” because he is the remedy for idolatry and the redeemer of humanity, where as the first Adam was the source of idolatry and the down fall of humanity.
–The first Adam turned from the Father in a garden; the last Adam turned to the Father in a garden.
–The first Adam was naked and unashamed; the last Adam was naked and bore our shame.
–The first Adam’s sin brought us thorns; the last Adam wore a crown of thorns.
–The first Adam substituted himself for God; the last Adam was God substituting himself for sinners.
–The first Adam sinned a ta tree;the last Adam bore our sin on a tree.
–The first Adam died as a sinner;the last Adam died for sinners.
According to the Bible,we die in Adam but are born again in Christ: “For as in Adam we all die,even so in Christ all shall be made alive”.
–In Adam there is condemnation, but in Christ there is salvation.
–In Adam we receive a sin nature, but in Christ we receive a new nature.
–In Adam we’re cursed, but in Christ we’re blessed.
–In Adam there is wrath and death, but in Christ there is love and life.
ARE YOU IN ADAM OR IN CHRIST?
This is incredibly important because, literally, your identity and your eternal destiny hang in the balance of whether you’re in Adam or you’re in Christ. You’re born in Adam as a sinner and you’re born again in Christ, who is the Saviour.
None of us are individuals alone. None of us are isolated. None of us stand alone. We’re part of one of two groups, one of two families, one of two teams, one of two nations: those who are in Adam, and those who are in Christ. Here’s how Paul says it in 1 Corinthians 15:21–22. “For as by a man came death,” that’s Adam, “by a man has also come the resurrection of the dead,” that’s Jesus. “For in Adam,” there’s one team, one group, one category, “all die”, but in Christ,” (here’s today’s big idea), “in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Who do you think you are?
God says that you’re created and you’re an image bearer. You’re made to mirror Jesus. Therefore, your true identity is not yours to create. It’s given to you by God. The real question you need to know the answer to is, “Who does God say that I am?”
There are only two categories of human beings: those who are in Adam, and those who are in Christ. Are you in Adam or in Christ? In Ephesians 1, Paul says that if you are in Christ, you can be faithful, you are blessed, you were chosen and made blameless, you are forgiven, you can know the will of God, you are reconciled, you have an inheritance, you have hope, and you have the Holy Spirit.
In Adam or in Christ
The Bible speaks of identity as being in Adam or in Christ, so much so that the Bible speaks of believers being in Christ no less than 216 times. Just the Apostle Paul himself, in the thirteen letters of the New Testament that he writes, he talks about us being in Christ. He’ll use language like, “in him, in the Beloved, in Christ,” 216 times. Let me say this: anyone who tells you something 216 times, number one, it’s important, number two, they’re afraid you’re going to forget it.
Do you know how many times the New Testament says that a Christian is a Christian and uses the language of “Christian”? Three times. The Bible says that your identity is ‘a Christian’ three times, and that your identity is ‘in Christ’ 216 times. It’s one of the primary ways, if not the most common way, that God refers to a Christian.
Here’s the difference between being in Adam and being in Christ: at the cross of Jesus Christ, he traded places with us. He literally traded places with me. All of the death, all of the shame, all of the condemnation that I deserve went to Jesus. All of the forgiveness, all of the love, all of the grace that Jesus rightly has as the sinless Son of God comes to me. What that does is that changes our identity.
I want you to see this
If you are in Christ, you are in Christ’s position and Christ is in your position. He suffers and dies so that you might be blessed and live. Do you believe that God the Father loves the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you believe that he is kind toward him, and gracious toward him, that his ear is attuned toward him, that his affection is devoted to him? I have great news for you. If you are in Christ, you stand in the position of Christ. You are loved as Christ is loved, you are blessed as Christ is blessed, you are embraced and adored as Christ is embraced and adored. I want you to see this so that you’ll live from your identity in Christ, that you’ll realize that you’re free from religion and trying to perform for God. You’ll be free from shame and condemnation, because all of that is taken care of for you by Christ and is available to you in Christ.
WHO WROTE THE BOOK?
For a brief time at the end of his second missionary journey, and then for more than two years on his third missionary journey, Paul ministered to the church at Ephesus (Acts 18:18–21; 19:1–41). During his time in this city that housed the famous temple to the Greek goddess Artemis, Paul saw many converted to faith in Jesus Christ and many others who opposed his preaching in the synagogues and homes. One prominent silversmith, Demetrius, who made implements for the worship of Artemis, found his business suffering greatly because people were converting to Christianity. The ensuing near-riot led Paul to leave the city, but only after the apostle had done much to stabilize and grow the Christian community there.
Where are we?
Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians sometime in AD 60–61, around the same time he wrote Colossians and Philemon, as he sent all three letters by the hand of Tychicus, accompanied by Onesimus (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7–9; Philemon 1:10–12). It was during this time that Paul sat in Rome undergoing his first Roman imprisonment (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1), making Ephesians one of the four epistles commonly known as the Prison Epistles. The others are Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
Why is Ephesians so important?
Second Corinthians and Galatians abound with personal touches from Paul, either about his own life or that of the recipients. Ephesians, on the other hand, stands at the opposite end of the spectrum as one of Paul’s most formal letters. While Galatians offers instructions particularly important for those churches overrun with legalism, Ephesians deals with topics at the very core of what it means to be a Christian—both in faith and in practice—regardless of any particular problem in the community.
What’s the big idea?
Paul divided his letter to the Ephesians into two clear segments; applying the truths of the first makes possible the actions and lifestyle of the second. Paul spent the first three chapters of the letter discussing God’s creation of a holy community by His gift of grace in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The members of this community have been chosen by God through the work of Christ, adopted as sons and daughters of God, and brought near to the Father through faith in His Son. All people with this faith—Jews and Gentiles alike—were dead in their transgressions and sins but have been made alive because of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
While Paul was not responding to a particular theological or moral problem, he wanted to protect against future problems by encouraging the Ephesians to mature in their faith. So after laying out profound theological truths in the first half of the book, Paul made his purpose clear: he expected that this community of faith would walk in accordance with its heavenly calling (Ephesians 4:1). As a result of the theological realities Christians accept by their faith in God, several practices should follow in their relationships within the church, in the home, and in the world.
How do I apply this?
The book of Ephesians hits on a wide range of moral and ethical behaviours, designed to ensure believers are living up to our heavenly calling. As we continue in our faith from day to day, month to month, and year to year, the temptation to get comfortable will always exist. However, Paul presented the gift of God in Christ and the benefits we receive so clearly that we cannot help but ask ourselves if our lives reflect that reality as they should.
How have you grown in your Christian life since you came to faith in Jesus Christ? The latter half of Ephesians makes clear that spiritual growth occurs primarily in community with others, iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17). Your Christian “walk” (in other words, your daily life) is to be characterized by unity, holiness, love, wisdom, and perseverance in spiritual warfare.
Maturity yields benefits in believers’ moral lives, but it extends far beyond that as well. Increased maturity benefits the community at large, leading us as Christians to present a more consistent witness to the working of God in our lives as well as protecting us from the harmful divisions and quarrels that have plagued so many communities throughout history.
Join us at Bethel Church in Lindsay ON. and follow along on our biblical voyage to and through Ephesus.
Pride and self-sufficiency are unmistakable signs of a heart that is in desperate need of reviving. Isaiah 57:15 tells us,
For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
To have a contrite heart literally means you break easily. Even at the thought of grieving God’s Spirit you break and repent very quickly. It means you walk softly in your heart before God.
God says He will revive those with a humble spirit and a contrite heart. But one of the great dangers among Christians today—especially for those living in the western world with all of its abundance—is a belief that we don’t need anything.
More than ever we need to read the words of Jesus in Revelation 3:17,
“Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.”
How can you be miserable and naked and not know it? It’s obvious that Jesus is speaking of their inward, spiritual condition. Apparently, their outward wealth blinded them to their inward poverty. They fell into the trap of pride, which is one of the inherent dangers that comes with prosperity.
At Disney World there is a ride with cool little cars. I remember once seeing a little boy on the ride with his dad, and his feet didn’t even reach the pedals! But Junior thought he was driving, oblivious to the fact that Daddy was actually driving the car and making it go.
We need to remember that our feet don’t even reach the pedals, and that Daddy, our God, is the One who makes this thing go. We need to maintain a humble heart.
Here is the WordPress annual stats report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 30,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Is this the last Christian generation in North America? Mark Oestreicher of Youth Specialties stated recently in Christianity Today, “There are a lot of people who’ve had this nagging sense that we’re missing the mark somehow . . . teens seem happy and willing to attend, and engage in our ministries, but five years from now, when they’re in college or post-college, they just really aren’t connecting with real faith, let alone church.”
I know what you are thinking: “This is not new.” Of course, I agree.
However, some believe it has reached a dangerous new level. This upswing prompted Josh McDowell to co-write a new book with Dave Bellis. Josh states, “the decision to call this [book] The Last Christian Generation was not made lightly nor was it done for sensationalism. I sincerely believe unless something is done now to change the spiritual state of our young people – you will become the last Christian generation!”(1)
Is Josh’s concern justified? Will this trend correct itself or will we follow in the secular footsteps of Western Europe?
How are we doing at converting church involvement by teens into a lifelong relationship with Christ? A 2006 study indicates that over eighty percent of today’s teens attend church for a period of at least two months during their teenage years. What an opportunity! The bad news is that only one out of four of those ‘churched’ youth are still spiritually engaged by age twenty-nine;(2) that is, they are still actively attending church, reading the Bible, or praying. In comparison, roughly twice as many adults in their forties are spiritually engaged.
An earlier study looked at the beliefs of teens involved in evangelical churches. Over two-thirds of these young people believe:
• that there is no absolute moral truth
• that Christianity is about showing bad people how to live better
• that there is no way to tell which religion is true
• that Jesus is not the Son of the one true God
And, over half believe that Jesus did not rise from the dead. What?
Let’s consider some potential causes why 3 out of 4 ‘churched’ teens become disengaged from Christianity during their twenties.
One cause may be the way we define and measure youth ministry. As adults abdicate their training responsibility, our youth are isolated as their own congregation. The measure of success is numerical attendance rather than instilling a life long discipline for spiritual growth. Church becomes a series of fun activities interspersed with encouragement to avoid risky behaviors.
A second factor is primarily teaching topical lessons about the Christian faith rather than laying a strong foundation of truth. As our teens move into college, professors, peers, and the popular media all portray authentic Christianity in a negative light. It takes a strong foundation to choose to endure hostility when one can adopt a so-called “private faith” and avoid the confrontation. As you know, soldiers participate in exercises simulating the most effective tactics of their opponents before being sent onto the battlefield. Yet, in training our teens, we often avoid exposing them to the tough questions in case some of them are put off by the experience.
A third factor is allowing teens to be content with a second-hand faith. In Joshua, we learn that “Israel served the LORD . . . all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, and had known all the deeds of the LORD” (24:31). After these elders who had personally experienced the Lord died, most in Israel fell away from serving God. More recently, during the Welsh revival of 1904, over 100,000 conversions were recorded in less than five months. The impact was so pervasive that police duties were reduced to providing quartets for prayer meetings. A century later, church attendance in Wales is at an all-time low. Only nineteen percent of UK teenagers say they had a religious faith. Luis Palau summed up the Welsh experience by noting, “God has no grandchildren.” Teens who attend church to live out their parents’ faith find it easy to leave the faith to conform to the expectations of their new authority figures.
A new factor, somewhat unique to today’s culture is a “distorted worldview filter” unwittingly adopted by many youth and adults. This filter tells them:
• Truth is relative, not absolute.
• Science and spirituality are at odds.
• Science confirms that I am nothing but insignificant dirt.
• An irrational, spiritual tradition can help me cope with this harsh reality.
• However, I am in no position to critically evaluate someone else’s tradition.
With this distorted filter in place, even solid biblical teaching can leave teens unprepared to stand firm in their faith.
The book “The Last Christian Generation” lists some of the concepts distorted by this filter, for example:
• Truth now means whatever is right for you.
• Tolerance means accepting that each individual’s values and lifestyles are equally valid.
• Moral judgments mean bigoted attitudes we have no right to hold.
Many teens are synthesizing Christian teaching and popular culture into a new personal religion. In their 2005 book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, (3) the authors found that religious teens tend to hold a vague group of functionally religious beliefs the authors termed “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Its key tenets are:
• God is distant and uninvolved in daily life.
• But I can call on God as a “cosmic therapist” when I have a problem.
• My purpose is to be happy and feel good about myself.
• If I avoid being an intolerant jerk, I will go to heaven.
Although these beliefs could be considered theistic, they definitely are not evangelical Christianity.
What happens when these beliefs are put to the test? I’ve known Julie (not her real name) all her life. Julie consistently attended youth group. She was also tuned into the popular culture. When her circumstances disappointed her, she turned to God as her “therapist.” When He did not change her circumstances to suit her, she decided that God was not worth her time. Instead, she chose to escape her circumstances through drugs. She had distorted the truth into a perversion that prevented her from having a solid relationship with her Creator.
How should we respond to this disturbing trend?
Historically, much of youth ministry has been about getting the crowd in the door and keeping them involved. Recent studies show we are doing a good job at this function. But we are not doing well if we measure success by how many are still actively involved through their twenties. If the problem is not getting them in the door, it must be in what is happening once they are involved.
Josh McDowell suggests that we need to readjust both what is being taught and how it is being taught.
What should we teach? Although we should not ignore behavioral issues such as sex, drugs, etc., McDowell calls us to help our teens see the reality of God. If there is a God, it is of paramount importance that we seek to know absolute Truth with a capital T. Consistent with everything the tools of modern science can observe about our universe, they have rational reasons to believe that God has revealed Himself to us through His Word.
McDowell and Bellis suggest teens must learn to know Him as the God of redemption, relationships, and restoration. A clear understanding of each of these aspects serves an important role in countering the tenets of today’s teen religion which I call “iPod faith” (choosing what we like or deleting what we don’t like based on our own preferences) which we define as “moralistic therapeutic deism”:
• Knowing the God of redemption tells them that good people don’t go to heaven; redeemed people go to heaven. Our definition of good is so shallow compared to a transcendent, holy God. We must rely on Him for redemption.
• Knowing the God of relationships tells them God is not a cosmic therapist, but a personal heavenly Father, intimately involved in all aspects of life.
• Knowing the God of restoration highlights that our earthly life is a brief precursor to eternity. This truth changes our central goal to creating eternal value in Christ.
Youth who can articulate these truths have taken a big step to repairing their distorted worldview filter.
Christianity is often communicated as a set of behavior rules covering one topic at a time, rather than as a deep relationship emulating the character of our heavenly Father. Bits of knowledge and rules for behavior are not a comprehensive worldview.
So how does this affect us in our local church setting?
The entire inter-generational community is modeling their faith and articulating their biblical worldview. For this model to work, parents and youth leaders, together, must continually express their reasons for believing that Jesus is the truth in a world that says there is no truth. Teens must experience a community of faith willing to trade in a life purpose of being happy for a life purpose of building eternal value through serving Jesus.
This may sound like a daunting task, but when I see the heart of our ‘Bethel Church’ youth ministry directors (Mike & Judy) and the other capable and committed youth leaders I say there is hope and future generations will benefit because of it.
The future is here. It’s just not widely distributed yet… but I believe God has called all of us to be a part of responding to this challenge. So my answer to the titled question is NO, this is not the last generation to purposefully follow Christ.
1. Josh McDowell & David Bellis, The Last Christian Generation (Holiday, Fla.: Green Key Books, 2006).
2. “Most Twentysomethings Put Christianity on the Shelf Following Spiritually Active Teen Years,” The Barna Update, Sept. 11, 2006, http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/16-teensnext-gen/147-most-twentysomethings-put-christianity-on-the-shelf-following-spiritually-active-teen-years.
3. Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 2005).
4. Bruce Murray, “Understanding the Religious and Spiritual Lives of Teenagers,” FACSNET, www.facsnet.org/issues/faith/youth.php.
I’ve often been described as “dynamic” and a “go-getter” Mostly on my CV. 😉 Most Small Group Ministries are similar. On paper they seem like a grand idea but in reality what they promote compared to what they produce are very different.
Let’s keep it simple.
A community group is a gathering of people from the church that get together weekly to share life and support one another. Life is hard. It was never meant to be lived in isolation. Community is a gift of God intended to help us see and experience the good news of Jesus in profound and tangible ways. If you are new to the church this the perfect place for you to belong, ask questions, and wrestle with your faith in a community of people who care for you, not because your life is together, but because you are created in the image of God. It is within community that we exist as true family in a time when the concept of a loving and caring family can seem foreign. It is a place where we encourage and challenge one another in our journey to know Jesus in deeper and more personal ways. In Small Groups, people talk through life issues, eat together, pray together, laugh together, struggle together, and serve others as we are transformed by the grace of God in our lives.
WHY ARE SMALL GROUPS SO IMPORTANT?
Getting connected at our church [Bethel] means participating in both the Sunday gathering and a community Small Group. Sundays are a time for celebrating in worship of Jesus together, hearing the preaching of the Word, and sharing in Communion. Small Groups are the place where the seeds of the preached Word take root and become real. It is the place where we build relationships with one another and live life. Together.
As well, it is within the groups within the neighbourhoods of our city, towns and villages that we can participate in the work that God has called us to as a church. Our groups are an opportunity to love and bless the our neighbours in unique ways.
We want you to identify with the mission and vision of our church in context where you worship, serve and participate in community. For most that will coincide with where you live and the small group that is the closest. We discourage people from attending our church and participating in a community of another as that disconnects community from the mission. We would like to encourage you to consider where God has called you to participate and join in the mission of Bethel Church and plant roots there in attendance, service and community.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT WHEN I GO?
Each Group is unique as the group reflects the neighbourhood in which it exists. However, you can expect a weekly or bi-weekly gathering that involves food, conversation, prayer, discussion for applying the Bible to practical living, and service in the neighbourhood. Bethel Small Groups are an environment for building relationships with one another, which strongly emphasizes challenging one another to drive God’s Word deeply into our lives. Most Groups follow the Sunday sermon series; although some may choose to work through another book of the Bible or topic related study. Small Groups are much more than a Bible study however, they are community, a place where we can laugh, cry, work and play together for the glory of Jesus. This means you could expect BBQ’s, yard work for an elderly neighbour, bowling, working together in children’s ministry, visiting people in the hospital, birthday parties, etc. in other words “Life. Together”.