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My acquaintance, Dr. Ray Ortlund, has a great blog on reasons to be thankful and concerns. He writes…

Going into this new year of grace 2009, I am thankful for four things and concerned about four things.

Thankful:

1. The gospel is being rediscovered and rejoiced over and ransacked in a fresh way, as evidenced by Together for the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition, Acts 29, etc. God seems to be creating new conditions for revival in the future. I hope I see some of it in my lifetime.

2. The rising generation, now in their 20s and 30s, are both theologically-minded and emotionally-intense toward the Lord. This is a powerful mix. If they will stay focused, we’re in for some good days. Future buffetings will test us, and we are all weak. But the race of Hebrews 12:1-2 is always runnable, if we will keep our eyes on Jesus.

3. The age of parachurch usurpation seems to be ending, and the rightful, biblical dignity and authority of the church are being re-asserted. Since the church is where God locates his power (Ephesians 3:20-21), again, it looks to me like the preconditions of revival.

4. The Bible is the focus of renewed fascination and serious study. I see the success of the ESV Study Bible as one evidence here. Pragmatism is less acceptable as a form of validation, and biblical authority is increasingly required. This is the Lord Jesus himself touching us with his royal scepter, asserting his authority, for his greater glory and our greater power.

Concerned:

1. Too many churches remain uninvolved in and even unaware of the new things God is doing. They seem stuck in old patterns of dysfunction. Will they be left behind and lost to tragic inconsequentiality?

2. A tsunami of sin has been slamming us for years now, especially through the internet and increasingly filthy “entertainment.” When will we get sick to our stomachs, sick of ourselves, sick enough to cry out to God for the massive cleansing only he can give? We tolerate sins that put our Savior on the cross. When will we become indignant enough to change?

3. Even in churches and movements that God is blessing, still, prayer can appear to be perfunctory at times. What is our confidence — our cool personalities, or the power of the Holy Spirit in our weakness?

4. My generation and above has most of the money. What are we doing with it? Padding our comfortable lives, or plowing it into the cause of Christ? Lazy self-indulgence is a huge temptation for older people. But the next decade can be the greatest season of our entire lives, if we will invest our historically unprecedented wealth in the rising generations of Christ’s soldiers.

Thanks, Ray.

I’d add…

1. I’m grateful for the number and quality of Christ-followers preparing themselves for missions service overseas. Mission volunteers and appointments are near record-high levels.

I’m concerned that the way we do mission trips may actually inoculate many against the gospel. I’m also concerned with the number of mission volunteers who seem to be motivated more by a romantic view of missions than anything else.

2. I’m grateful for the rapid growth and evangelistic outreach of many new churches around the country. Their pastors and staff are young, passionate, and committed. I believe the largest and most effective churches in American history are still to be planted.

I’m concerned about the large number of church members who give little evidence of a regenerate heart. We are increasingly a mile wide and an inch deep. Listening to preaching via websites and Itunes can be very discouraging.
We are Christianized, but not transformed.

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2 Comments

  1. Sam, I’m interested in the bullet point about the “age of parachurch usurpation.” I’m not sure I understand this and I want to talk with you about it more. I was reading something about this recently in The Christian Century. By the way, your blog is pretty good. Mine, on the other hand, isn’t very good. But I’m working on it. Peace, Galen Holley

  2. I did a Google search on “regenerate heart”. Out of 1,030,000 hits, the first 31 hits involved the scientific concept and results of regenerating heart tissue in humans, animals, etc. The 32nd hit was to Christ the Redeemer church that actually involved a spiritual connotation of regenerating the heart.

    For Christians that are already born again, the term is even more important than any medical meaning. I have personally found myself continually in need of heart regeneration – sans surgery. And it goes to your point about sermons via podcasts. Sermons via ipod, while better than nothing, do not provide a suitable framework or environment for either accepting Christ or regenerating your heart. It’s a one dimensional experience at best, mostly devoid of emotion and unable to compel a life changing event or commitment. And how is a pastor suppose to know if he making an impact without seeing the audience? (Which might be why televangelists are generally suspected of acting.) There is no suitable feedback mechanism.

    Happy New Year Pastor Sam!


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