August 2012 Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beamer
Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beamer is a challenging study of why kids will quit church and what can be done to stop it. The central argument of this book is that the church is in need of a new Reformation akin to that in the 16th century, to call the church back to the authority of the Word of God, from Genesis through Revelation. The reasoning for this proposition is simple “over 60 percent of the children who grow up in our churches will leave them as they reach the threshold of young adulthood” (141).
In order to carry out this Reformation, the Church needs to critically evaluate what its approach is in teaching its children. In recent decades, churches have stressed that the majority of challenges to the faith of young people will face come during the college years and that the Church ought to be preparing them for this. This is true that college is a great challenge to faith but Ham and Beamer argue that the Church is “losing many more people by middle school and many more by high school than [the Church] will ever lose in college” (32). This means parents, pastors, teachers, and the Church at large need to rethink the way they teach children.
According to Ham and Beamer, “the Sunday school programs of today are statistical failures” (44). What is meant by this is that a child who was raised in Sunday school answered questions such as “Do you believe that premarital sex is wrong?” and “Do you feel good people don’t need to go to church?” in approximately the same way as those who never attended Sunday school. Something has to be done to remedy this.
Ham and Beamer suggest we look at our audience. Things are not the same today as they were a couple decades ago when Billy Graham’s Crusades were effectively calling the nation to repentance. 1 Corinthians 3:22-23 says…
 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,  but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.
While the Jews of the time in which Paul is writing feared God and had a reverence for Scripture, the Greeks were more likely to question the idea of there being a God at all. “The basic foundation of the Judeo-Christian heritage in this country no longer exists. It’s already gone” (88) Ham and Beemer argue. This environment has penetrated our schools. Day by day, kids who attend public schools are being taught Darwinian evolution and secular philosophies and that to disagree with these is a sign of sheer ignorance. This environment coupled with soft teaching in our Sunday schools, youth programs, and churches leads to doubts on the authority of Scripture and its relevance to life.
In order to fix this, Ham and Beemer propose a four-pronged approach in which parents, Christian educators, youth pastors, and pastors must participate. All of these are called to both live by the Word and defend the word, from Genesis to Revelation. Parents must humble themselves before the Lord and make the word of God prevalent in their home. Christian educators must commit themselves to teaching Bibles history not simply Bible “stories” through solid curriculum, teach apologetics, and connect Biblical teaching to the real world not just the “spiritual”. Youth pastors must be committed to prayerfully equipping teenagers with the skills necessary to own and defend their worldview while equipping parents to help in this process. Pastors must commit themselves to teaching and defending the Word, not limiting their teaching to the spiritual side of things only but to show how the Bible connects to the real world.
Overall, Already Gone is a thought-provoking read. For parents seeking to raise Godly children and equip them for the future, this is a must read. The authors do a good job of practicing what they preach, which is connecting Biblical truth to the real world rather than simply withdrawing to the spiritual realm. With a great combination of Biblical knowledge and good statistics, Ham and Beamer ought to be read and considered by Christians seeking to raise Godly children.
August 2011 The Millennials
The Millennials is an in depth study of anyone born between the years of 1980-2000. This book provides statistics to help the reader understand the largest generation in America’s history. The Father/Son team of Thom and Jess Rainer began conducting research, through asking important life questions, about the young men and women of The Millennial generation. The Rainers asks important questions about subjects ranging from money, to leadership, to spiritual views. After all, knowing about the worldview and spiritual beliefs of America’s largest generation gives us a glance into the future and what we need to be doing as Christians to reach them.
In a generation of 78 million, The Millennial’s are impacting businesses, workplaces, schools, churches, and other organizations substantially. This generation is on track to becoming the most educated generation in history. All of these facts are significant with a generation who is so active in American society because nine out of ten Millennials feel responsible to make a difference in the world. What kind of a difference are these Millennials trying to make? When it comes down to it, most Millennials don’t think about religious matters at all. Only 13 percent of Millennials described any kind of spirituality or religion being important in their lives. Only 31 percent of this generation believes that Christ is the only way to heaven. It is obvious that this generation must be reached.
While reaching this generation seems impossible; it is far from that. Possibly the most important thing to a Millennial is having a connected family. They want their family to be involved in their lives. This does not necessarily mean that they want their parents to be kissing all over them in front of their friends. Millennials do want to know that their parents care, and that they truly do love them and desire to be involved in their lives. Millennials want a mentor in their life, and who can be a better mentor than a father or mother who is living a Christ-like life. How can family stay connected with this millennial generation? No, these are not the days of sending a letter, reading a book, or even calling on the telephone. Cell phones are one of the tools parents must use to reach this generation. I am unlike younger Millennials because I enjoy talking on the phone instead of texting in most situations. 47 percent of younger Millennials said texting is their primary form of communication, while 34 percent said talking on the phone is their primary form of communication. Another tool parents must use to stay connected with Millennials is Facebook. Of all social media avenues, Facebook drew in 73 percent of the Millennial’s votes. Through calling, texting, and being involved on Facebook, parents can connect with a generation that desires just that.
While, The Millennials, can be boring because of all the statistics, it is a must read when trying to understand this generation. Millennials are impacting this world, and it is every Christian’s responsibility as a believer in Christ to preach the Gospel. One-third of Millennials indicated that you cannot possibly know what happens to you when you die. We have the truth and are simply not doing our job of spreading what Christ has done for us.
Reading: The Millennials by Thom and Jess Rainer; Disconnected by Chap and Dee Clark
January 2011- Encouragement for the New Year
Welcome to 2011! New years present a lot of awesome opportunities for everyone, because it symbolizes a fresh start, a clean slate. All of the laziness, failures, failed math tests and procrastination are locked away in 2010. It’s time to do something great! New years are famous for people making radical resolutions, which are determinations or intentions a person has to do something or live a certain way. According to 2011resolutions.org, these are the top ten resolutions for 2011:
- Lose Weight
- Getting Organized (Being more disciplined, well planned, etc.)
- Spend Less, Save More
- Enjoy life to the fullest
- Staying fit and healthy
- Learn something exciting
- Quit Smoking
- Helping Others
- Fall in love
- Spend More time with Family
These are all great goals that everyone should strive to achieve (hopefully smoking isn’t an extreme struggle for you- if it is then quitting should be your number one resolution!) but the fact that we are sinners affects everything that we do, including how we discipline our lives. The average time it takes for a person to give up his new years resolutions is two weeks. I’m a living example- one of my resolutions was to stop drinking soda, and sure enough by January 7th I’ve already chugged 2 mountain dews and a Pepsi. Surely there has to be a better way to achieve our goals than just having some general resolutions at the beginning of the year and hope for the best! The fact is any change that ever comes in life happens over time. We are creatures of habit. One of the reasons we do what we do is because we do those things on a consistent basis over long periods of time. It’s like muscle memory- if a person practices piano every day for twenty years, he doesn’t even have to think hard to play a gorgeous Bach concerto- he just does it. This is equally true with bad habits. If your daily routine for a year and a half is to just go to school, come home, watch TV, play video games, and not do you’re homework, chances are you will continue to do this unless you drastically change your habits.
So this year as we’re seeking to become more like Christ and better stewards of our time and energy, let’s focus on the one habit that we know absolutely needs to change. As Christians, every single one of us desperately needs fellowship with God- studying the Bible, praying, journaling, etc. Yet this is one thing I am positive every Christian struggles with. This isn’t something that will be turned around by a simple new years’ resolution. If you struggle with reading the Bible and you want to change this, start small- try waking up one day this week 15-20 minutes early, and read through the gospels, or one of Paul’s epistles. Start to develop consistency. Then, once you have done that, try waking up 2 or 3 days a week. The more you do it, the more it will become a habit, and it will be ingrained into your daily routine. More importantly, having that consistent communion time with God will put everything else into perspective. You cannot have a consistent encounter with God in His word and not be changed. We can try all we want to change based on our own strengths and resolutions, but the truth is that we will never change unless we are trusting in God completely to accomplish that change. Trusting in God will give you the power to fulfill your other goals like fighting sin, loving others, procrastinating less, or whatever. Yet the fact that we don’t consistently spend time with God makes it obvious that we trust ourselves far more than we trust God to make any sort of change in our life. We must spend time with God otherwise we deprive ourselves of the very life that He graciously offers to us. Don’t be discouraged- this will not be completely fulfilled in the years 2011. I’m still struggling to figure out how to consistently make time with God my first priority. Yet the life of freedom that Christ offers us if we simply trust in Him daily is too great to pass up. Make this your resolution for the rest of your life, and while you will never perfectly achieve it, you will experience the freedom of Christ in every area of your life!
December 2010- Preparing to be a Godly Man
I had the opportunity this past fall to help lead the all guys retreat, MAN KAMP. It was an awesome weekend- we got to make an epic antler knives, play Ultimate Frisbee until 1am, and freeze our nubs off and get zero sleep! Yet during all of the craziness that was Man Kamp, there were some great opportunities for men to grow as fathers and sons. Throughout the sessions there were many things highlighted that men ought to be working on as they seek to become spiritual leaders of their home. During my session, I talked specifically to the students about how they are to prepare to be a godly man, and this blog summarizes those thoughts. The main thing to keep in mind when thinking about preparing to be a godly man is that it is not going to happen overnight. Jeff Merithew illustrated this faulty mindset that many of us have well. He said many of us, especially teenagers, assume that once they are forced to be responsible- pay the mortgage, provide for a family, pay off the insurance and utility bills, then they will become responsible. He says it’s as if we think that we can do whatever we want, and then once we’re walking down the aisle on our wedding day a switch will be turned on in our heads that will magically cause us to grow up. Yet becoming a godly man doesn’t just happen- it takes years and years of preparation, and we must all be preparing NOW.
The passage I taught from was Ephesians 5. By this point in the book of Ephesians, Paul had finished discussing the amazing truths of the gospel, and based on how Christ has changed us he talks about to practically live those truths out. This is typical of how Paul writes most of his letters- the first part is usually a dense section of rich gospel theology, and the second part is practical application grounded in that theology. This is a model of how we are to grow in our Christian walk- we should always start off with an understanding of the gospel truths, and then take those truths and put them into practice. That is the heart of the first thing we are to do as men to prepare, which is to become more like Christ by increasing in our knowledge and practice of the gospel. Ephesians 5 verses 1-2 say “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
As men, we are called to become more like Christ by imitating His character and walking in His love as it was exemplified in His life and death. This discipline is the most important of all when seeking to become a godly person, because it involves our very identity. The only way to become a true man of God is to imitate and model our lives after the only perfect man who ever lived- Jesus Christ. Therefore our lives must be entrenched in meditating on Christ, understanding the gospel, and daily practicing to live out His love. How does a man go about becoming more like Christ? By daily reading the word in order to know God and understand the gospel, and by preaching the gospel to yourself daily, which involves a constant self-reminder of your complete sinfulness and God’s amazing grace. It also involves talking to people about the gospel and reading Christ centered books. It means sacrificing time to live out this gospel through Christ centered ministry, and sacrificially loving your family even when you are tired. Learning your identity in Christ is everything. None of the discipline or hard work we do will help us become godly if our hearts have not been transformed by Christ. Without the power of the gospel working in your life, everything you do to prepare to be a godly man will just be good moral works, and those won’t sustain you through the difficult battles of lust, selfishness, laziness, and loving your spouse. Yet when we discipline to ourselves focus on the gospel, we realize that we have already been saved, so becoming more like Christ means becoming more like who we already are!
The second way to prepare to be a godly man is to root out all immorality and impurity. This is where men fall the most, which is why Paul spends the bulk of his time in Ephesians 5 discussing immorality. And the reason he’s so intense about it is because whether you’ve been married for 25 years or you’re a teenager, it’s one of the most difficult sins to root out. One important thing to keep in mind is that any time Paul talks about sexual immorality, it includes ALL forms of impurity- not just the act of sex, but also lustful thoughts and looks, relational impurity, immodesty- anything and everything related to sexual impurity. And it is important to prepare in this area because none of our lust problems will simply vanish as we get older, more mature, or more spiritual- if we are not preparing to root it out, it will consume us.
Sexual sin of any kind will destroy your ability to love God, to love your wife, or anyone else correctly. So how do we then prepare? By growing in our knowledge of the grace of Christ, getting accountability, and desperately fleeing from any situation where we could fall. Listen-you will fall 100% of the time if your mindset is that you’re going to get as spiritual as you can and then hope for the best. The only answer is to develop a dependence on Christ’s power over sin in your life, rely on other strong Christians for support, and increasingly trust yourself less. You don’t have to strength to fight sexual sin- so don’t even put yourself in situations where you can fall- FLEE!
The third way to prepare to be a godly man (there are many more- these are simply derived from Ephesians 5) is to discipline ourselves spiritually. Paul was aware of how easy it is to waste time, which is why he says in verse 16 that Christians are to be “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” If we don’t intentionally discipline ourselves towards godliness, by default our lives will simply be shaped our evil culture and what it wants us to be. And even apart from the evils of our culture there are a million things, even good things that can consume our time if we aren’t disciplined. This is important because as believers, we’re called to pursue the will of God and not be of the world. How are we supposed to do this? By reading and meditating on the word of God, and constantly be in an attitude of prayer. The Bible gives us everything we need to know about what the will of God is for every single decision of our lives. Yet if we don’t spiritually discipline ourselves in this way, we will be controlled by our laziness and our desires, and once again we’ll simply become a product of our evil culture.
So this is our call as men. We must to prepare to become true men of God- men who look like Christ in how they love others, men who intensely fight sexual sin and aren’t afraid to admit when they’re struggling, and men who daily discipline themselves in the word of God. It’s not just going to happen, and it will be very difficult. But be encouraged- we have the power of Jesus Christ, who promises us in Matthew 16:25-26 “For whoever would save his life will lost it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”
November 2010- "Radical" by David Platt - A Challenge to Live the Normal Christian Life
I am convinced that being a “Christian” in America is one of the easiest things in the world. Because of how strongly our forefathers fought for religious and political freedom, we have the unique blessing as a church to worship God and live out the Christian life without fear of government persecution or cultural isolation. This is an amazing privilege most countries do not have, and it is an understatement to say that we have taken this for granted and abused it. The result is that true biblical Christianity has become mixed with elements of the American dream, capitalism, individualism, and the entertainment industry. Therefore, living out this newly defined Christianity is extremely easy, because being a good Christian means nothing more than being a good American citizen. Yet whenever any sensible person sits down and reads the Bible at face value, it is blaringly obvious that many of our churches and individuals fail to live up Jesus radical claims.
David Platt, a young pastor of a mega-church in Birmingham Alabama, is a man on a mission to return people back to true Biblical Christianity. He is a pastor who is deeply committed to passionately preaching the word of God and challenging people to obey Jesus’ difficult commands. He just recently came out with his first book, “Radical- Taking Back your Faith from the American Dream”. This book is basically calling people to live the normal Christian life. People might ask “well then what is so radical about this book if it’s just describing normal Christianity?” David Platt’s definition of normal Christianity is what clashes with the American dream, because if you actually live the normal Christian life like the Bible describes it, it will look extremely radical to the typical American Christian. Platt basically says in this book that most of the Americans are living sub-normal Christian lives based on the radical claims Jesus made all throughout the gospels. This book is a challenge to follow Jesus and obey His commands, no matter how uncomfortable and difficult that may be.
Throughout the book Platt attempts to outline the basic messages of Christianity as outlined by Jesus and the apostles, and he shows how this is in stark contrast with the American Dream. He’s especially tough on American churches because of how much money we waste on ourselves compared to the embarrassingly small amounts we give towards mission efforts and the poor. When speaking of the American church, he says “somewhere along the way we had missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable. We were settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually abandoning ourselves” (Page 7) This is what true, normal Christianity that Jesus calls us to is all about- selling your possessions and giving them to the poor, spreading God’s glory to the nations, committing your life to a Christian community and becoming a passionate disciple of Jesus. Platt summarizes the stark contrast of Biblical Christianity to the American Church- “Give up everything you have, carry a cross, and hate your family. This sounds a lot different than ‘Admit, believe, confess, and pray a prayer after me’” (Page 11).
Every chapter of the book is challenging and rich, so I won’t summarize it, but one of the more unique aspects of the book is his challenge for every reader in the last chapter- the “Radical Experiment.” Once again, none of his challenges would be considered new and fresh ideas, but rather they are the basic disciplines of the Christian life that faithful disciples have been doing ever since Christ’s coming. The Radical Experiment is to take one year out of your life and commit yourself to do five things- 1.) Pray for the entire world 2.) Read through the entire Word 3.) Sacrifice money for a specific purpose 4.) Spend time in another context and 5.) Commit your life to a multiplying community. He explains these steps in detail, but any Christian who is familiar with the Bible knows that these are not entirely radical steps. Yet any Christian who has been struggling to live the Christian life faithfully knows exactly why this sort of commitment is in fact deeply radical. It forces one to step outside of the American dream mentality of the church and sacrifice time, money, and energy towards the glory of Christ. Living this kind of radical lifestyle will transform your life.
I could not recommend this book enough, and if you’ve already read it, read it again and pray about committing yourself to the Radical Experiment or reconsider how closely your walk with Christ matches up with His actual claims. For those who haven’t read it, it is a very easy and quick read, although I promise you will constantly be smacked in the face by it’s convicting truths. Yet even though this book can be difficult to read because of the radical commitment it calls us to, it is extremely inspiring and refreshing to hear these truths being proclaimed in such a bold and unashamed way. Our culture has become increasingly fed up with fake Christianity, half-hearted passion, and self-centered living. We are fed up with all of the millions of dollars that are going towards ourselves when there is a hurting and dying world out there that needs love and needs the gospel. We are tired of sitting comfortably in our pews when we could be getting up and going somewhere hard and doing the difficult work of making disciples. We are tired of living for ourselves and constantly being disappointed when we know we were made for something much more joyful and fulfilling- living for the glory of Christ. So, if you’re looking for a great resource to help change your life and your outlook on Christianity, then there’s no reason why you would not read this book. If you’re comfortable where you are by doing nothing with your faith and living for yourself, then the last thing you should do is read this book because it will shake you at the core and cause you to be even more stubborn in your self-made religion.