home > Pastor’s Desk > 2016 > September 17th > Concentrated Christianity

CONCENTRATED CHRISTIANITY 

In the movie, The Matrix, the lead female character, Trinity, learns to fly a military helicopter in twenty seconds. In the hit TV series, Heroes, one of the heroes, “Copycat”, can master any skill after watching it just once. And in real life, there are people who can flick through a many-paged book and read it in under a minute. Unfortunately though, most of us don’t live in the movies or TV shows, or have highly developed mental faculties. Instead, most of us have to work really really hard to learn how to fly a military helicopter or to be able to read War And Peace in under a minute. Achievements usually take time, effort, application, and a deal of concentration. And the deeper Christian life is no exception. Perhaps this is why our Enemy will today use multiple means of distractions to tempt the followers of The Conquering Lamb away from the rewards of concentration. This is a call to the Blood-Bought to shake off the bewitching of our Enemy and begin to experience concentrated Christianity. 

concentration-spans-ruined-by-smart_devicesWhen Abraham Lincoln was campaigning for President of the United States he would  travel from town to town to do ‘town hall meetings’ where the towns-people would fill their town hall as he would give a speech for an hour, his nominated contender would respond with his one hour speech, then each would be given another hour each to give their rebuttal. Their audiences would sit and pay attention to the candidates for the full four hours! Today, according the Statistics Brain Research Institute, in the year 2000 the average adult’s attention span was 12 seconds. That is, in the year 2000, you could hold an adult’s attention for just 12 seconds before they switched off! According to their follow-up research, in 2015 the average adult attention span had dropped by 3.5 seconds to 8.5 seconds! This statistic gets worse when we consider that attention spans decrease dramatically the younger a person is. The average 12 year old has a 4 second attention span and this continues to decrease as the age decreases (just ask any Primary School teacher!). Not only does this present every Christian witness with a serious problem (because the Gospel takes more than 8.5 seconds to be communicated reasonably), it also means that many new believers are never going to discover the awaiting riches of the spiritual life.

Attention-Spans

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HERE A LITTLE, THERE A LITTLE

When I was growing up in the church I would hear preachers quote the prophet Isaiah to encourage believers to read bits of their Bibles –

For it is precept upon precept,
precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little.”
Isaiah 28:10

This verse was used to promote the idea that preachers could more or less surprise their congregations each Sunday by preaching something this Sunday which had little connection to what was preached the previous Sunday. But Isaiah was not commending Israel! The previous verse reveals that he was rebuking them for their spiritual immaturity –

To whom will he teach knowledge,
and to whom will he explain the message?
Those who are weaned from the milk,
those taken from the breast?
Isaiah 28:9

Israel was being rebuked for only giving God their left-over attention. They had failed to concentrate on God and His Word, and therefore, they had failed to dedicate themselves to God’s will and ways. Treating your relationship with God by only giving Him “here a little, there a little” can never lead to the spiritual strength that can withstand spiritual attacks. In Israel’s case, the prophet says that their lack of concentrating on going deep into God’s Word would mean that they would be susceptible to brokenness, being snared, and being taken captive by the Enemy.

And the word of the LORD will be to them
precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little,
that they may go, and fall backward,
and be broken, and snared, and taken.
Isaiah 28:13

If you’ve made it this far into this article you deserve congratulations because you are better than average (since it would have taken you about 2.5 minutes to get to this point). Concentration requires practice. “Smart” devices (phones, tablets, computers) have all served to undermine our ability to concentrate. Many mature believers have derived great benefit from either fasting technology or returning to paper for a month for their Bible reading. They find that they are able to concentrate and savour God’s Word far better. I hope that despite the Enemy’s attempts to distract God’s people with more and more innovative ways, we can resist these temptations and develop a highly concentrated Christianity, for God’s sake.

Your Pastor,

Andrew

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3 EXERCISES THAT WILL WILL MAKE YOU HEALTHIER, FITTER, AND STRONGER, PART 3

Now I turn my attention to an oft neglected aspect of our spiritual well-being: resting. As a disclaimer, I am one of the least qualified to discuss this topic—but, embarrassing, any lessons I have learned about the value of rest have come negatively from not resting as I should have and then enduring the inevitable consequences.

3 EXERCISES THAT WILL MAKE YOU HEALTHIER, FITTER, & STRONGER, Part 2

A healthy lifestyle involves regular vigorous exercise (aerobic exercise) – such as long brisk walk, a competitive game of tennis, or a 30-minute jog – and, eating a healthy diet. In Part 1, I drew the parallel to how we maintain our physical health with how we can contribute to our spiritual health. In particular I pointed out that just as doing aerobic exercise delivered more oxygen into our blood stream, so too does developing our times of prayer add spiritual oxygen into our soul. In this instalment, I am going to draw parallels with maintaining a healthy diet of eating fresh fruit and vegetables, cutting down on sugared and processed foods, and how our spiritual diet. Too many Christians have poor diets. I hope to encourage you not to be one of them. 

3 EXERCISES THAT WILL MAKE YOU HEALTHIER, FITTER, & STRONGER, Part 1

Every physical fitness coach will tell you that daily exercise which causes you sweat and puff is the kind of exercise that is doing you long-term good. Vigorous physical exercise such as running will cause you to need more air in your lungs which will cause you to puff. Puffing, the act of heavy breathing to replenish your need oxygen helps your respiratory and cardio-vascular systems to become healthier. Interestingly, breathing is the word that the Bible uses to describe how God created the First man. As a result of the lack of spiritual exercise, too many people do not have spiritual reserves, and consequently lack spiritual strength, capacity, confidence, psychological contentment, or the emotional happiness that they would otherwise have had. Yet, this is so unnecessary considering that there are three very simple spiritual exercises that everyone whose spirit has been regenerated can do to remedy this malady. 

AS MOSES LIFTED UP THE SERPENT

It might seem an odd thing to write about just two days before Christmas, but the story of God plaguing the Israelites with poisonous snakes and then commanding Moses to construct a bronze serpent and attach it to a cross-beamed pole has baffled even the best minds for centuries. Some people have regarded this story as yet another reason for them to reject God and the Bible and consider both to be nonsense. An ever-so-slightly-less-cynical approach that some, who seem to really want both God and the Bible to be true, have taken is to regard the story as a fictional myth with mysterious allegorical meaning. I think this is how Dr. Jordan Peterson recently interpretted it in his discussion with Mr. John Anderson on their Youtube discussion last week. The high profile psychologist Dr. Peterson seems to have been on an interesting spiritual journey of late and he is obviously delving into the Bible and coming up with what appear to be some roadblocks to his complete acceptance of the claims of Christ largely due to these obscure passages in the Bible such as this account in Number 21. “No one has ever been able to explain it to me!” he told Mr. Anderson. I wish he had asked me, because if he had, this is what I would have explained to him.

THUS SAITH THE LORD

Within the sixty-six books of Scriptures we have a unified and coherent revelation from God about His identity as the Creator, the Law-giver, the Redeemer, the Saviour, and the Final Judge. Its sixty-six books tell one story – God’s plan of redemption and conquest over and ultimate vanquishing of evil. Within the Scripture is the revelation of how to be reconciled to God by having our sins forgiven through Christ. It is the Scriptures which assure us that we have one mediator between us and God the Father – Jesus the Christ (1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 9:15; 12:24) through whom we can directly appeal. It is within the Scriptures that we find the commands of God for how we are to live, conduct our lives, order our affairs, treat others, and prioritise our worship of God. Thus, we are not permitted to just be “hearers” of God’s Word, we are to accept its authority and be compliant with its commands and imperatives (Rom. 2:13; 1 Tim. 4:16; James 1:22-23) – because it is the Word of God.

HOW TO BE A SUCCESSFUL INVESTOR (OF MORE THAN JUST MONEY)

The most basic form of investing was described by Christ in the parable of the talents where He described it as putting money with the money-lenders to earn interest. Albert Einstein stated that ‘compound interest’ is the eighth wonder of the world! When some people hear the word ‘investing’ they might think that it only involves money. Investing involves thinking about present action and the future consequences of those actions. And then acting in a way that sacrifices present income to invest in a richer future. Understood in a much broader sense, investing can and should mean thinking about much more than just money. It can involve investing time, effort, wisdom, training, and prayer. Investing done well results in increased wealth and riches which is not just limited to financial rewards. It is exemplified in the biblical promise, “You reap what you sow.” Each generation is responsible to steward the resources that are at its disposal. These resources are managed by individuals, families, communities, states, nations and the Church. Church leaders have a duty to invest well into the spiritual resources that shape culture to the glory of God so that a tree is planted for the next generations will be the ones who enjoy its shade.

AMAZING ACCESS

Anyone who has attended a large event such as the recent Will Graham Outreach event that was held at the Launceston Silverdome would be familiar with the varying levels of access that are provided to staff and volunteers associated with this type of event. The security system used included identification in the form of different coloured shirts, prayer volunteer cards, and all access cards that permitted access to the entire venue with no questions asked by security personnel. This is like the access level that God has to our lives. Being omnipresent, He has unhindered access to every aspect of our lives. He knows our innermost thoughts, sees all that we do, hears all that we say. God has the ultimate ‘all access’ card.

WHY FINDING TRUTH MATTERS

How can we determine whether a claim is true or false? Some people think there are different kinds of truth — my truth, their truth, and your truth. But how do they know that their assessment of truth is true? After all, their assessment – that there is my/their/your truth might just be based on their truth rather than the truth. Truth has certain qualities that distinguishes it from what is false-
 Truth corresponds to reality.
 Truth is verifiable (that is, if it is true, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is falsifiable (that is, if it is false, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is sometimes testable (that is, claims that are experiential can be tested by experience – including scientific claims, historic claims, and existential claims).
We have good reasons for the believing that the Bible is true because it is the divinely inspired, reliable and authoritative Word of God which has been superintendedly preserved by the Holy Spirit (read more about this).

THE 5 MOST IMPORTANT YEARS OF ANYONE’S LIFE

Parents, Kids Church leaders, and Christian school teachers should be intentional about shaping children to be fully devoted followers of Christ who have reasons for believing Christianity is true – which shapes them into virtuous contributors to society and to find their role in God’s Kingdom. This will be one of the necessary and indispensable means for the Church to fulfil the Great Commission of Christ.

TIME- YOU CAN’T CONTROL IT – BUT YOU CAN LEARN FROM IT

We live in a fast paced world. We expect things to happen quickly. None of us like to be kept waiting. Even when we order something online we expect it delivered straight away. Some of us having to work two or even three jobs just to be able to pay the bills. We describe ourselves as time-poor. Yet, we all get twenty-four-hours in a day. Sixty-minutes in an hour. And sixty-seconds in a minute. Most of us need to adjust how we see, understand, and treat our time. This will involve, what will be for some, adopting a foreign and largely unaccustomed view of time that involves worship, sabbath, and deepening relationships. From this biblical perspective we will come to see time as a gift from God, not a curse, or source of frustration. Within this gift of time God teaches us how to worship in those times when it is difficult to do so. Rather than thinking this divine gift of time is ours to do with what ever we want, God uses this gift to teach us that we should gift it back to Him beginning with (but not limited to) treating Sunday as a sabbath to come together to recommit our hearts, voices, minds, and presence with God’s people, back to God. God gives us passing time to learn to deepen relationships – especially with our kin, and our friends. Time is meant for relationship building.