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Why There Is Hope For The Next Generation

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Last year while attending Cru’s biennial staff conference I watched a presentation on what it takes to reach different generations, mainly millennials, with the Gospel of Jesus. Part of the presentation was sourced from a book titled, Real Life: A Christianity Worth Living Out” by James Choung.


In his book, Choung portrays each generation as being defined by an overarching spiritual question that helps explain each generation’s attitude toward life. I won’t dive into all of the details of his explanations, but I do want to highlight each generation then offer an observation about the generation beyond millennials. 


For Baby Boomers the spiritual question that defines their generation is, “What is true?” For Generation X that question is, “What is real?” For millennials the question is, “What is good?” As for the current generation, Generation Z, but also known as Plurals, I’ll get to them in a moment. 


Now, let me provide a little background. Each generation was born during the following years:

 

God Always Starts The Conversation

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Here’s a question that every Christian must answer: What is God’s calling on your life?
Some people answer that question with a statement about full-time ministry. Others refer to volunteer roles they play at church or work done on short term mission trips. Others answer that God has called them to a secular vocation.
Now let’s try a second question: What do you want to do with your life?
Hopefully we answer the second question with our answers to the first question.
What has God called you to? Do you do whatever you do because that is what interests you or because you have a deep sense of conviction about what you are to do with your life?

The Great Commission Was Not A New Idea

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Did you know that when Jesus gave the Great Commission to his disciples in Matthew 28 that he was not telling them something completely new? In fact, when Jesus gave the Great Commission he was not only giving the disciples something spiritual, it was something that also had vast political implications. Here’s a little background on the Great Commission and its political implications. 


Politics & Religion In The Ancient World


Under Roman occupation, a religious infrastructure that built and contributed to community and economic growth was the norm. Roman rule took advantage of local deities, and established temples of its own. Whole communities thrived on the business generated by pagan ritual and devotion. The Apostle Paul experienced this in Ephesus when the metalworkers and priests of the goddess Artemis wanted Paul killed for fear of what would happen to their industry if his preaching prevailed. Culturally, the Jewish and Gentile Christians who would proclaim the faith to the known world were used to a culture where religion was a vital part of building empires and solidifying a community’s faith through the economic and political benefit that faith offered. Faith, that to a large degree helped build communities, was normal. Ironically, community building is something most of the great faiths of the East did not do. Buddhism, Hinduism, and others focused on either personal denial, or spiritual attainment, but they built no lasting communities within communities, or empires within empires. Nor did they build communities with an economy-generating component, as Judaism and Christianity did. Christianity was designed to transcend a culture, and through that transcendence, transform it. This is why Christianity was able to spread and develop beyond the cultural borders of Israel. Christianity is culturally independent: It can be applied to many cultures without losing it core values. Where its principles cannot be adapted, it will either transform the culture or be rejected. As an example: Can a cannibalistic tribe keep its cannibalism and properly apply biblical principles in that culture? Certainly not! The tribe must either be transformed in its culture, or reject the principles of biblical society.


Most importantly, even though the New Testament did not prescribe “nation-building” in Old Testament fashion, the principles of its relationship-oriented missionary venture are identical, as we will see. Christianity may not have set out with political agendas, or nation-development in mind, but the Great Commission made it inevitable. Let us be clear about this: Nation development was inevitable, it was destined to happen, it could not be avoided. The Great Commission guaranteed it. 


By this time, many Christians who believe it is best to avoid all political involvement will be scratching their head. How does the Great Commission guarantee political change? You may be in for a shock. There’s a secret you should know about the Great Commission and its place in the Bible. 

 

You Can’t Be A Christian Unless…

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Three times in the scripture Jesus says, “You cannot be my disciple.”


“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).


“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).


“Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).


There is no doubt that these three statements are hard sayings, hard for many people to accept. Now, it’s reasonable for us to say that Jesus didn’t mean that we are literally to hate our parents or hate our family members or hate our lives as if we feel hatred for these as we do for something that we have intense feelings of hate about. No. Jesus is saying something more. He is drawing a contrast between how we feel about these things and how we feel about him. In fact, his three, “You cannot be my disciple” sayings have a root in an Old Testament passage that we often don’t think about. I’ll get to that in just a moment.

 

How Is Your Reputation?

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In Acts 13:1-3, we find a list of men who had high standing and reputation either socially or spiritually. 


“Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”


Notice who was in the room. Barnabas, previously called the son of encouragement (Acts 4:36).  Being first in the list he was probably the person of highest standing in the room, along with two men whom even though we don’t know any details of their lives, seem to be important being mentioned so close to Barnabas. Then, Manaen is mentioned, a man who has high political connection. We can assume that these men were of high standing in the church because they are mentioned without explanation, as if the writer, Luke, expects his audience to know who these men are. Then Saul is mentioned as last in the list.

 

Limited Atonement

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This is for our universalist friends who believe that because of Jesus' death on the cross everyone goes to Heaven; even the wicked. It's not so, and here's why.

 

As someone who is always exploring various topics of theology, I find myself attracted to certain concepts. One of them is the idea of limited atonement. What is limited atonement? Simply put, limited atonement is the idea that the sacrifice of Christ for sin only applies to the church, those chosen by God who will receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. So while in one sense Jesus' sacrifice is enough for the world, in actuality, it only applies to the church.

 

In the Old Testament's Mosaic Law a person who sinned was required to bring a blood sacrifice for the atonement of his sin.

 

I Was A Heretic Last Week, But Now I’m Better

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For the last few months I’ve been exploring the topic of human origins looking to solve challenges that skeptics hold about Cain’s wife, Cain’s city, and his parents, Adam and Eve. I’m not going to spell out here the details that I was uncovering, suffice it to say that my exploration of this topic ended up with me an inch away from the status of a heretic. I might be a little hard on myself, but, considering how much I hate to be wrong, it’s a big deal for me.


I was exploring the topic of origins looking for evidence in the Bible to support the idea that God created humans other than and in addition to Adam and Eve. I was exploring this because I was looking for answers to some interpretive challenges in Genesis 1-3 and found that the idea of God creating other people who were not in special relationship with him, solved some problems that we encounter in the text. For instance, how many kids did Adam and Eve have? Who occupied Cain’s city? If incest is forbidden, who did Cain marry? And other questions. 


I found myself developing a theology about origins where these questions were easily answered by an interpretation of Genesis 1:27 that, “Them,” in that passage referred to many people and not simply the first couple of Adam and Eve. Starting there I found it was also easy to build a theological model based upon what scripture didn’t say as well as what it did say. Which is essentially to make scripture say something that it never really said at all, just through silence. And my solution to these interpretive challenges made everything very easy. And that, right there, should have been a warning to me. Scripture can be simple, but it’s not always easy.


Basically, I did six things. As you read this list, ask yourself, have you done these in your reading of scripture?

 

The Prayer To Nowhere

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Sometimes I hate to pray. There. I said it. I know that there are times in my life when I pray that the Lord will confront me with something that needs attention. Why can’t I have the “feel good,” prayers, the “peaceful” prayers, the prayers of “wisdom” and “revelation?”
Today I’ve been reading in Colossians, going through its verses again and again until finally this little passage hit me between the eyes:
“Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” – Colossians 4:2.
This is not the kind of verse that normally stands out to people. For me the passages that stand out the most are those that describe the majesty, power, or sovereignty of Christ—or passages on ethics and the Fruit of the Spirit. But Colossians 4:2, a simple admonition to prayer? What’s so special about that, that it should take hold of my attention?
Maybe its that little word, “Devote.” Ouch. The meaning here is not simply to perform a function regularly, or to be dedicated. The Greek word used for “devote,” is the word, “proskartereo.” It means, as John MacArthur points out, “to be courageously persistent.”

The Law, The Prophet, The King

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Have you ever considered the significance of the appearing of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration and what it might mean for your life? It may be obvious to some that Moses represented the giving of the Law (Torah) and Elijah represented the giving of prophets to proclaim God’s word. But actually, the meaning of their appearances goes quite a bit deeper than that.


Three times in scripture God speaks from a mountain. The first time was from Mount Sinai when God gave the Ten Commandments. 

 

Miraculous Healing: Where Are The Former Amputees?

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In 2006, an itinerate evangelist held a series of large rallies in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia to share the Gospel. At that time, I was Managing Director of Eagle Television in Mongolia. We decided not to take part in promoting or reporting on the event because I believed the evangelist taught elements of Prosperity doctrine. Thousands of people came to the events, and healing miracles seemed to be happening on stage.

One morning after an event one of my friends reported that her mother had been brought forward for healing. She suffered from bad eyesight and while she could see, her sight was very bad. The evangelist prayed over her and the woman proclaimed in front of the crowd that she was healed. Everyone was excited by this miracle. There was only one problem. She still couldn’t see well. Like many people who come forward for healing, when it doesn’t happen they become too embarrassed to admit that nothing has changed. This can be especially true in a country like Mongolia which is somewhat oriented as a shame-honor culture. The psychological pressure to confess a healing, despite the reality of the situation, becomes overwhelming.

The next day a video crew from the evangelist’s ministry went to her home to record the testimony about her healing for fund raising purposes. The woman was feeling embarrassed by this time because she knew she had not been healed. She admitted to the video crew that she was not healed and still had great trouble seeing. When the crew questioned her further she began to feel embarrassed again and then told them that her sight was just “a little better” in one eye. Naturally, she did not want to lose face—common in Asian cultures. Upon learning that her sight in one eye was “a little better” the producer accompanying the video crew declared that it was miracle too, so they tried convincing her to record a testimony about her healing—a healing that never took place.