Dubai: Reflections on Modern Change

On the way to Africa a few years back, I stopped in Dubai. It's like Phoenix, with way more money. The airport is impressive and the clash between what's modern and what's tradition and what's western and what's eastern is both dazzling and dizzying.

If you've seen the MIssion Impossible: Ghost Protocol film, you'll note that Dubai is prominent as the heroes navigate tall buildings and sandstorms. Dubai encapsulates modernity's rise in a centuries old desert. Os Guinness notes in his book The Last Christian on Earth that "Christians have always shown a curious inability to consider things from a long-term perspective." The latest isn't always the greatest.

How, then, do we hold on to ancient wisdom in an era of restlessness? What happens to long-term or longview leadership in an age of start-ups?

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Why the Case for Christianity Is More Important Than Ever

Much has been written and discussed about this year’s Pew Research Center poll, America’s Changing Religious Landscape, and I’ve also weighed in on the findings. The percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. When statistics like these are released, it’s tempting to panic and respond without properly examining the trends. The devil is always in the details, however, and a careful analysis of the data ought to energize rather than discourage us. Opportunities abound, and the case for Christianity is more important than ever.

While more and more people say they no longer identify as Christians, the ranks of atheists and agnostics are not growing in equal percentages. During the same seven year span, as Christian affiliation dropped by 7.8%, those claiming an atheist affiliation only grew by 1.5%. So where did all the Christians go? They went to the ranks of those claiming no affiliation with any established Christian denomination or belief system (a category affectionately called, “the nones”). Importantly, those who no longer claim a Christian attachment, have not yet jumped in with the atheists or agnostics. They haven’t even jumped in with other religious groups (such as Jewish, Muslim or other believers). This is an important reality for all of us who seek to make the case for Christianity. We sometimes mistakenly think our culture is becoming more and more atheistic. It isn’t. Instead, it’s simply becoming less and less Christian.

People are not nearly as resistant to the existence of God as the more liberal, atheistic media would like us to believe. In fact, 92.9% of the country rejects atheism and is open to the existence of God in one form or another. We are a country of theists, even though we might be divided on which form of theism (or deism) is true. That’s why the case for Christianity is more important than ever.

Those who believe in the existence of God, yet reject Christianity, can still be reached for Christ. I sometimes think this group of “nones” has rejected their experience in the Church rather than their belief in Jesus. That may simply be a reflection of the sad, non-evidential nature of the Church rather than a reflection of the strong evidential nature of Christianity. Some of those who have left our ranks may never have heard anything about the evidence supporting the Christian worldview in all the years they were attending church with us. My own anecdotal experience, as I speak at churches around the country, supports this uncomfortable hypothesis. Most churches are still uninterested in making the case for Christianity, while more and more Christians want to know why Christianity is true.

Now is the time to make the case for the reliability of the New Testament, the historicity ad Deity of Jesus and the reasonable inference of the Resurrection. People are still hovering in the “nones” category, open to the existence of God, but skeptical of their past experience in Christianity. Now is the time to show them a new way forward and a reasonable path to belief. The reasonable, evidential case for Christianity is more important than ever.

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Moses and God Upon Mount Sinai

In the last post, and first of a series of 3 on Moses and the supernatural encounters he had with God, we looked at the story of the burning bush.

Whiteside County, Northern Illinois

At some point, though, I will have THAT conversation. The one about how girls should be avoided and how boys do stupid things and at some point, the conversation will turn toward the physical. My son currently doesn't care much about certain singers or bands, he likes Arkham video games more. At some point, though, girls won't be yucky and not all will look like his sister. The first kiss for me happened in Whiteside County in Northern Illinois. Do I remember her? Yes. Does she remember me? I have no idea--not the point. Did I know what I was doing? Not at all. But, don't we all think we have something, even love, figured out until the idea of the thing crashes in to our daily life? 

This is an inevitable conversation, not because sex absolutely must be talked about in explicit terms, but because love is physical and to deny that is more than Victorian sensibility or aristocratic decorum.

Not Opposed to Effort: Solutions for Better Discipleship (part 2!)

(This post is the 5th and final blog in a series about the nature of discipleship in our churches today.)

 

Making disciples is what the Church was made by God to do. In this series I explain why we aren’t doing it well (Read it here)  and two things that stand in our way (read about them here—Roadblock #1: the Christian message that is too easy to be good, and Roadblock #2: we have traded acts for facts).

Malestrom: An Interview With Carolyn Custis James

Who gets to define what it means to be a man? Pop culture? Church culture? Jesus? Evangelical thinker and author Carolyn Custis James has spent the last two years examining these questions, and she’s now calling Christians to the urgent task of recapturing God’s vision for men. The title of her new book, Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Current of a Changing World (Zondervan, June 2015), alludes to the dangers of whirlpools in the open seas, maelstroms. She chose this powerful title to help readers grasp the destructive and disorienting forces that took root as humans turned away from God’s original vision for men.

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If Religious Freedom Is So Important, Why Do So Few of Us Exercise it?

Religious freedom has certainly been in the news over the past few years, given the controversy over many elements of President Obama’s healthcare program and the recent religious freedom bills in Indiana and Arkansas. But if I am honest, I sometimes wonder why we, as Christians, are so concerned about religious freedom. Especially when don’t seem to exercise our freedom very often.

As I travel around the country making the case for the Christian worldview, I sometimes ask my audiences about their own efforts to share the gospel or defend the faith. In most settings (at churches, Christian conferences and schools), there are only one or two attendees who say they regularly share their Christian beliefs in any setting. Think about that for a minute. When was the last time you shared the truth about Jesus with someone at work, at school, at family gatherings or (dare I say) in public? I bet if you are honest, it’s been a while. For the majority of us (yes, the majority) it’s probably never happened.

I’ve written about evangelism quite a bit at ColdCaseChristianity.com, and I think there are several obstacles (either real or imagined) that keep us from sharing what we know to be true. Here is my list, hyperlinked to articles I’ve written to help you overcome whatever fears may have:

1.    We mistakenly think our beliefs about Christianity are entirely subjective

2.    We think we have to be a theologian or apologist to share effectively

3.    We aren’t sure who we should share with

4.    We are simply afraid to take the first step

5.    We think we have to know someone well before we can share the truth

6.    We’re not sure how to engage people (especially people we don’t know well)

7.    We’re afraid of feeling uncomfortable at any point in the process

8.    We hold pessimistically low expectations of being successful

9.    We have been conditioned to speak a Christian language foreign to the secular culture

10. We think our success as evangelists is entirely dependent on our individual effort

Take a look at that list; I bet your hesitancy is represented somewhere. It’s time to get busy, folks. Don’t let your excuses become obstacles. If we want to be consistent in our concerns and objections related to the shrinking religious freedoms we are about to experience, we need to be a people who actively exercise our religious freedom on a daily basis. We can’t simply complain about losing something we never used in the first place. Exercise your freedom. Speak up. Share the truth.

I’ll post these ten evangelism obstacles later this week in the form of a free Bible insert.

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Did the Burning Bush Really Happen or Was Moses Hallucinating?

Moses had an unusual upbringing to say the least.

Why the New Pew Report Ought to Energize Us As Christian Case Makers

Yesterday’s release of the Pew Research Center’s report, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” affirms what most of us already know: Fewer and fewer people in America identify themselves as “Christian”. I’ve been reading the reaction to the poll with great interest. Many of us seem to still be in denial about this continuing trend away from the Church; some interpret the statistics as little more than movement away from traditional denominations (and not necessarily a departure from Christianity). The interactive data doesn’t support this optimistic view, however. Fewer people appear to believe Christianity is true today than seven years ago, and this should energize all of us to become better Christian Case Makers. Here is what I see in the 2014 Pew Research Center Report:
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Not Opposed to Effort: Solutions for Better Discipleship

(This post is the 4rd blog in a series about the nature of discipleship in our churches today.)

 

In the first post of this series (Read it here) I argued that the American church’s misunderstanding of the phrase “grace is enough” causes us to miss out on what it truly means to be disciples of Jesus. 

To right the ship, we need to understand two roadblocks that prevent us, and others, from following Jesus into the life of discipleship we were created for.

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