Persecution

For those of you who follow us on our “Journey Home”, there is some news that is quite important.  I just received an email from Japan on the state of the church in China.  The persecution there is intensifying every day.  I hear regularly about The Chinese government forcing Christians to sign a document that they renounce their profession of faith and pledging to total support the government.  If the document is not signed then there are severe consequences, such as forbidding them to hold a job and they are ostracized from society.   Sometimes they are imprisoned and other means to force them into submission.  I know of one individual who was in his third year of studying medicine and he was forced to leave the school and is not allowed to continue his studies. 

In another situation the pastor and his wife and 70 of the members were put in prison because they would not turn over the control of their church to the government.  The church was then disbanded and the remaining members were then interrogated and required to sign the paper.  In other situations the church is split into several smaller groups and forced underground.  Life for Christians in China is quite difficult,  It is illegal for a church to own property and all of their resources are confiscated.

The government will allow a church to continue if they will allow the government to place faces identification cameras in the church and yield to the government’s full control.  It didn’t work for king Ahasuerus in the book of Ester nor did it work for the Roman government’s requirement of calling Cesar Lord.  Historically, the church has always grown more under persecution than it has at any other time so we should be looking for what God is doing.  It is at the most difficult times that God is seen clearer and works the greatest miracles.  The examples are numerous of atheistic kings discovering God when trying to stamp out His people. 

I often hear the question, why does the Chinese government persecute the church?  I am sure that there is several reasons but the number one reason is probably that they are considered a threat because the church refuses to bow to the government as the ultimate authority.  It makes sense that an atheistic government would fear a people who do not recognize them as the ultimate authority.  After all, they came into power by not recognizing the then current authority so they would want to squash any authority that they couldn’t control.  This is especially true when there are as many as 100 million Christians in China (that is 1 in every 14) which is a large block of people that you don’t control.

Perhaps a more important question is, why does God allow persecution?  It all seems unfair (and it is) but God has good reasons to allow it.  Consider the following reasons as some of the purposes of God in allowing persecution:

  1. To reveal His personage.  The main reason that leaders demand to be acknowledged as the ultimate authority is that they do not know God who is the ultimate authority.  They see God as uninvolved if they even acknowledge His existence.  Often their view of God is in the lives of His professed followers who are not a good representation of Him.  They are unaware of the possibilities and the dangers of defying God.  (Consider Goliath)  God wants us to know Him as He is with all His power, knowledge, love, etc.  He has only good in mind for us but for us to enjoy it we must have our grip on sin broken.
  2. To refocus His people.  God’s people sometimes get out of step with God and become carnal or worldly.  We begin to take the reins out of God’s hands and attempt to justify ourselves and earn our place with God.  This will never be allowed by God.  The Bible states clearly in Romans 14:23 “whatsoever is not of faith (in Him) is sin.” In Hebrews 11:6 “without faith (in Him) it is impossible to please Him.”  Whenever we get on the works system we are setting ourselves up for persecution.  The Lord gave the early church the command to go into all the world and teach all nations . . . (Matt. 28:19-20) but the church stayed in Jerusalem.  The next event that followed was the death of Stephen and a great persecution against the church.  Then the church began preaching Christ after they were scattered everywhere.  We need to learn to follow God’s instructions and not what we think.
  3. To recover and refine His people.  If God did not let us know we were off course we would continue moving out of God’s will and people would perish and we would suffer great consequences.  We desperately need course corrections.  The hardest lessons are often the ones we remember the most and are most apt to turn us from our own self will.  Not only is it His intent to recover us from our error, He wants to refine us in His service and expand our usefulness.  Growing in His grace is essential in our transformation into His image and likeness.
  4. To renounce false gods.  It is important to note that everyone lives by faith all of the time.  Having faith is not our weakness but placing our faith in the Lord and not in anything or anyone else is the biblical faith that causes God to get involved with our situations.  He only responds to faith in Jesus as Lord (boss).  When we trust anything else it is unbelief in Christ and brings its own consequence.  The key to triumphant living is in living by faith in Jesus and renouncing all other options as false gods.  Why is it so important that we get this straight?  Because there is no other Gods and the world needs desperately  to see the truth.
  5. To reach the Lost.  The world will die in their sin unless and until they know the only true God.  We are the illustrated version of this message that God is real and He has revealed Himself in the personage of Jesus.  Romans 10:13-17.  Jesus said we are the light of the world.  (Matt 5:14), and II Corinthians 5:18 states that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation.  These are but some of the reasons God allows persecution.  

Baptism

There has been much debate on the subject of baptism over the years that have caused a lot of confusion among believers and even the splitting of churches.  What you believe about baptism is important and can cause real problems in fellowship.  Baptism is not required for salvation.  If it were, the thief on the cross would not have been saved yet Jesus declared that they would be together in paradise that day.  Though it is not a requirement for salvation, it is a requirement of obedience and a faith walk of the believer.  It is proper evidence of your conversion.  A Scriptural baptism will include these 5 points of identification.

  1. The first point of identification is that there must be a proper candidate.  A proper candidate is one who has become a believer in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  He has been converted from the old way of living (sin) to the new life (walking by faith in Jesus).  This is done by a confrontation and confession of sin (called repentance) and the surrender of the control of your life to Jesus (faith in Him).  This is a conscious and deliberate choice of the will.  An infant is not capable of making such a choice, yet a few do make that choice at an early age prior to the teenage years.  A proper candidate is already a believer so baptism is not a part of getting saved but it is an important part of walking by faith and should be done as soon as possible after getting saved.  Without the conversion experience, you are not a proper candidate.  Baptism is not part of your qualification for salvation but an evidence that it has already been accomplished.  See Acts 2:38, 8:12-13, 36-38, Ephesians 4:5
  2. The second point of identification for a scriptural baptism is a proper mode.  A proper mode is how it is done.  The word baptism is a transliteration of the Greek word “baptizo” which is the only method used in the Bible.  It means to dip, immerse or plunge under.  The sprinkling or pouring came much later in the history of the church and was in response to the erroneous doctrine that baptism was necessary for, or a part of salvation.  Scriptural baptism knows of only one method and that is by immersion and is seen in its meaning.
  3.  It is the picture of God’s provision of our salvation in Christ:  He died on the cross, He was buried in the tomb and He was raised victorious over death hell and the grave.
  4. It is also the picture of what has happened to the believer.  He has died to sin, buried in a grave of water and raised to walk in newness of life.
  5. It is further, a picture of the Christians’ hope.  We die physically, we are buried in the ground and we will be resurrected to join Christ in the air and so shall we ever be.  See Romans 6:4-6, I Thessalonians 4:13-18
  6. The third point of identification for a scriptural baptism is a proper time.  There isn’t a lot of scripture about the timing of baptism but the scriptural example is that it should be done as soon as possible after conversion.  Acts 8:36-38  I have heard of a number of individuals who claim to be believers but have never been baptized. In every case I have observed that there is a major problem in their faith walk.  We are commanded to be baptized once we become a believer and to put it off becomes disobedience when not done promptly, as it will affect your faith walk. 
  7. The fourth point of identification of a scriptural baptism is a proper purposeMatthew 3:15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.  A common question about baptism is why should I be baptized since I am already saved?  Some people have the idea that going to heave is all that is important but Jesus said that we should fulfill all righteousness.  Getting to heave is just the means of travel but God is in the business of transformation of the believer so that when he gets to heaven he will be at home.  Without this transformation we would either miss the trip all together or if we should actually make it there we would be dis figured or handicapped forever.  Here are some of the reasons that we should be baptized.
  8. It is a declaration of independence from the control of sin on our lives.  It is also a declaration of independence from the curse of the law (legalism).  Further it is a declaration of independence from the dominion of the old nature.  We are no longer a prisoner of our old nature.
  9. It is a declaration of dependence upon Christ not only to provide salvation but a means to continually be cleansed from sin by our confession of it to Him.  It is also a declaration of our dependence on the Holy Spirit to teach us the scriptures, give us recall of them (John 14:26), convict, convince and convert the world (John 16:8),  guide you into all truth (John 16:13), Shew you things to come (John 16:8), and to glorify the Lord (John 16:14).  We are totally dependent on the Lord.  Further, it is a declaration of dependence upon the Scripture.  It is wholly trustworthy as it will never pass away.  It has stood the test of time, trials and twisting and remains the sure foundation of all doctrine of God.
  10. It is a declaration of interdependence.  The church is the bride of Christ and very precious to Him.  As a part of a local church we support one another and learn  to lean on the Lord as He is in the church.
  11. Baptism is to be administered by a proper authority.  The proper authority is His church made up of His believers.  It is the church that was commissioned to carry the gospel to the whole world, to baptize the new believers and then to teach them to observe the things that He commanded us to do. (Matthew 28:19-20)  Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22) Acting under His authority and leadership we have been given the ministry of reconciliation.  (II Corinthians 5:18)

Mama’s Boys

This morning I saw an interesting sight as I sat listening to David Jeremiah and was looking out my back window.  There was a female cardinal picking at some birdseed that my wife had put out, and another bird that caught my attention.  The female cardinal is seen often at the birdseed so that wasn’t new, though we like to see her there.  What caught my eye was the second bird that was eating with her. The second bird looked a lot like the cardinal but was slightly larger and had no red on her at all.  This bird kept fluttering her wings like an impatient child, and holding her mouth open like a young bird in the nest wanting to be fed. 

I watched them for several minutes and the routine repeated itself several times.  The second bird continued to flutter it’s wings and then stand to be fed.  The cardinal would just ignore it and proceed to feed itself.  When the second bird would get right in her face, the cardinal would just move to the second bowl and continue eating.  The second bird would then pursue the cardinal and the drama would repeat itself.

As I watched these birds and their antics, I thought about a mother weaning her children.  I have no evidence that the second bird was indeed, a young cardinal but it seemed self-evident at the time.  A part of the next generation’s coming of age is when they can stand on their own without parental interference or supplemental assistance.  This is a necessary transition and when it is not done it cripples the child and stunts his growth.  No parent would want their child to be crippled in that way, yet today there are numerous children that are physically able to go on their own but the parents have this idea that they are doing the child a favor by making it easier for them. 

This problem is more widespread than you might imagine.  You see children in their 30’s and 40’s still living with their parents and making no contribution to the welfare of the home.  You see parents going into debt to pay for overboard weddings.  You see a growing disrespect for parents.  You see men with a wife who constantly run to Mama or Daddy at the first argument and on and on it goes.

My attention went back to the female cardinal.  I could just hear someone say, what would be the harm in her just giving the young bird some seeds, after all they were both standing by a good supply and it probably took more effort to move away from the second bird than it would have been to just feed it.  But look a little closer, the young bird was not in the nest now.  She had left the nest and has flown to the feeder, yet she wanted to be fed.  The Cardinal was wise in not feeding it as that would have resulted in the younger bird probably starving to death later because she didn’t know how to feed herself.  We do the next generation a disservice by making it too easy for them. 

Lest you think I am too old fashioned and out of touch with “modern times”, consider the birds. 
Which was better for the younger bird:  to continue to get fed without learning how to feed themselves and suffer later on, or struggle to fed yourself and be able to survive when you face hard times alone.  I believe that it is much kinder and loving to teach the next generation how to carry their own responsibility and look beyond the moment. The apostle Paul said, “he that doesn’t work, shouldn’t eat.”  Irresponsibility is a detriment to our society and an insult to our understanding.  I am not against helping our children; I have helped mine on numerous occasions.   I also taught them responsibility and respect.  My wife and I have seven children and I began teaching them about driving and its privilege at a young age.  I told them that they could drive as soon as it was legal for them to do so.  I also taught them that they would be responsible for buying their own gas, oil, maintenance, and insurance.  Two of my boys didn’t even get their driver’s license until they were 18 because they couldn’t afford it.  I am proud to say that all seven of my children are responsible, respectful and reasonable adults with families of their own.  We now have 7 children, 21 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.  Boy am I glad I didn’t make them “mama’s boys”

Which is Better, Success or Failure?

As I thought on this question, I realized that it is a loaded question.  My opinion is just that, an opinion, but it may not be a fair answer without taking into consideration some basic considerations.  For example, what determines success or failure?  Which perspective is being considered?  Who is determining the outcome?  Is there a specified time period to consider? 

Perhaps we should just consider these ideas separately so we will start with a definition of success or failure.  My first thought is can it be both or is it either/or?  Could something be considered both a success and a failure?  The original question is presented as an either success or failure so we will start there.  So what is the standard that makes it a success?  Is it because it brings the desired outcome or the best outcome?  Is it best for me or best for others?  Is it because of monetary, emotional or appearance reasons?  How about who is doing the determining of the outcome?  One might conclude something a success whereas another would see it as a failure.  And finally, what may appear a total loss could turn out to produce the greatest reward.  As you can see this isn’t going to be an easy task and my conclusion could be just the opposite of yours.

Perspective is another consideration that can change the outcome.  For example, let’s suppose that there are four of us sitting at a table on each of the four sides and we are looking at a cup sitting in the middle of the table.  If I am looking at the cup and see that the handle is on the right, the person opposite of me sees the handle on the left, and the person to my right sees the handle in the middle and the person to my left asks, what handle?  We are all looking at the same object, but from a different perspective.  Sometimes we are not in a position to see the outcome and therefore could not make the determination of success or failure.

Values are another important aspect of deterring success or failure.  My life is touched by many different things.  If it affects my life then it may be important to me but if it doesn’t affect my life it may not be so important to me.  The price of tea in China may not concern me unless I am buying or selling tea from China.  If I am living in America and don’t use tea from China, it may not be important to me at all.  Another consideration is if it doesn’t affect me directly, it may affect someone who is important to me and thereby affect me indirectly.  What your values are will carry weight as to whether it is a success or failure.

Time is another consideration.  Is the benefit needed quickly or is the final outcome more important.  Variations of the time line of the event will necessarily affect our determination of success or failure.  What may be considered a failure in the short term, may be totally different when viewed from a long term outcome.  There may be many other considerations beyond these but these will suffice for my query.

By now you are seeing the problems with the original question.  It is easy to see why we may not be able to determine whether the outcome is a success or failure.  In our eyes we see a totally different view than that of God.  We see how it affects us in a temporal world but God sees it from the eternal perspective.  We see how it affects our environment, but God sees it from how it affect us in the light of eternity.  We measure it in terms of our profitability but God sees it from the perspective of the good of everyone.  We want to look good in the eyes of others, but looking good in God’s eyes is the only eyes that count.  Because of these considerations (and probably many others) he stated in 1 Corinthians 4:3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.  It is not necessary to know if an event is a success or a failure.  All of us are flawed is determining such a thing.  What is important is that you do it in faith in the Lord and leave the results in His hands. 1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Crises of Faith – 6

As I listened to the news this morning, I heard that there was over 500 tornados in our nation during yesterday’s storms.  This is unprecedented numbers.  My wife and I had to shelter from a potential tornado for the first time ever.  I got the sensation that God is trying to turn us as a nation, but I don’t sense that we are getting the message so here it is as I hear it from God.

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him.”  “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”  We have adopted a lifestyle of religion without faith in Him.  We are similar to the Pharisees in that we are careful to dot the I’s and cross the t’s in our form of worship, without ever realizing we are in the presence of Almighty God.  We struggle and work to “do good” and to “be good” on our own, but God is saying to us that such religion is an insult to Him.  We need to get this right.  God is not pleased with a religion that does not place us in a position of trusting in Him and will judge us for not turning to Him. 

The situation is this:  All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  We are not guiltless, we are guilty of sin and will face judgment unless we turn from sin.  According to Romans 14:23 living a life of not trusting in Him (faith) is sin.  Do you get it?  Faith is the missing ingredient.  That is the only thing that will please Him.  We must own our sin.  It is not because we are so bad and fail so much, but because we refuse to live by faith in Him.

I can just hear the response of “I trust in God.  How dare you question my faith?”  My dear friend, I am not judging you.  I am sharing the truth of what the Scripture states about our condition.  Jesus Himself said that most people will travel the Broad Way that leads to death.  Only a few will find the narrow way that is restrictive and corrective but they will find life.

That brings us to the second truth about our situation.  There is a way to please Him and turn away His wrath.  Instead of insulting Him by our rejection of the truth of our sin, we need to own up to it and confess that we are desperately in need of His forgiveness.  We can’t do it without Him, whether we understand it or not.  God is well aware of our plight.  It is even worse that we know, so His plan is to take our sin on Himself, suffer the consequence of it, and deliver us from its consequence.  I remember a time when I was about four or five years old that there was a forest fire near our home and Dad was fighting the fire with other neighbors.  Dad had placed my older brother and I in a fairly safe place at the edge of the forest with a couple burlap sack to put out little spark fires that would break out from the airborne cinders.  Sure enough, one broke out near us and my brother put it out.  Soon there were others and I got involved but I didn’t know much about what I was doing.  I was wearing a pair of sandals and kicked at the fire but my sandal flew off and when I stepped down in the leaves, I stepped on a thorn and I let out a scream.  I stood there on one foot, with fire coming closer and fire between me and my brother and I cried out in desperation.  Then I heard a sound come rushing toward me and when I looked up I saw my Dad come running through the fire to me.  He spotted my sandal and in full stride, gathered it up and then grabbed me up and carried me out of my situation.  This is what our heavenly Father wants to do for us.  He is our solution and not the sum of our best efforts.

The final truth of our situation is that all God requires of us is for us to continue to walk by faith in Him.  He is not concerned with us looking good in His eyes.  His love for us is enough.  He is not pleased with our good works, but he is pleased with our faith in Him.  When Jesus was asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” he answered, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.”  The word “believe” and the word “faith” are exactly the same word in the Greek language so that it could be translated that ye have faith in Him. . .   God is not concerned with your mighty works but he is infinitely concerned with your faith in Him.  God will do the work, but you are required to do the believing.  Faith in Him is our work.  Sadly, we have it turned around today and are focused on the works, omitting the faith and that is what defines the Crises of faith today.

As You Go, He Is With You

Today was one of those days that surprise when we see what the Lord is doing and He even uses us.  It was a fairly normal morning as I went through my regular routine.  I at my breakfast of cottage cheese and pineapple as I listened to Chuck Swindoll and then listened to David Jeremiah as he shared his message on the final judgment of the lost, commonly called the Great White Throne Judgment.  After spending some time in my study, my wife and I had a few errands to do, stopped at the bank and had lunch at Chick Fila.  Nothing out of the normal but that was about to change.

If you know me, you are probably aware that I really enjoy camping, but not with a camper or even a popup camper.  I like dealing with the elements and take few luxuries with me.  I make fire without matches, cook on a campfire, figure out how to sleep comfortable with natural  (or at least minimal) gear, etc.  Recently I made a bow saw that disassembles with only one screw and is quite compact and light.  I even made a bag to store it in and to keep it together.  I was thinking about finding a place that is close to home and would not be filled with other campers.  If you have searched for such a place you know that it is hard to find.  Usually, you will have to find a homeowner that has such property and is willing to let you use it for that purpose.  It brings up a bunch of problems and I won’t go into it now, but it increases the difficulty of finding such a place.

As I was on my way home I sensed that I should go see a guy that I met a couple years ago who had such a place to ask him about the possibility of camping there.  His place is ideal as it is along a small stream in a wooded area and is about 1-2 miles from where I live.  His business was on this property but separate from where I wanted to camp.  When I got there I noticed that there weren’t many customers which meant that he might have some time for me.  I asked if the owner was there and I was lead to the kitchen where he was doing some cleaning up and he was gracious and talked with me as he worked.  It only took a sentence or two to realize that here is a man under a heavy load.  We talked about his business, the recent flood, the problems associated with a business such as cost, help, etc.  Then he mentioned being tired and his business wasn’t fun anymore.  He spoke of the cost of insurance, taxes, etc.

That is when the Lord stepped in and I had an ache in my heart for him.  I began telling him about why we get so stressed in this world today.  It is because we are carrying the load all by our self.   God’s intent is to give us life, not a load.  He wants to bless us but our refusal to trust him blocks His blessings and we frustrate the grace of God.  I asked him about his spiritual state and he told me about his religion.  I shared many things in that hour I had with him and he asked me many questions.  By the time our conversation ended he agreed that he needed the Lord and would consider it further.  As we were walking out, I commented that he had an amazing place and his response was that perhaps we should have church there.  It caught my attention and I said it sounded good.  I don’t know what the Lord is about to do but I do know that this man had communicated with the Lord today and I can’t wait to see what will happen next. 

This man’s name is Joe so I am asking you to pray for Joe.  He needs the Lord in his life and is open to Him.  Pray that Joe will have a real experience with the Lord and that he might trust Him and so follow the Lord in faith.  This journey of faith will fill your life with awe.

Crises of Faith – 5

Not long after I finished High school, I applied for a job with the Colorado Department of highways as a part of a survey crew and was hired.  The first day after orientation I loaded up with the rest of the crew and went out to an intersection where I was dropped off and was told to wait there until they came back for me.  They gave me no indication as to how long it would be but my instructions were clear, just wait until they returned.  It was a warm spring day but there was no shade for me to wait under.  I did have my lunch and a jug of water with me and that turned out to be a real good thing.

The morning began to wear on and I wondered what was taking so long.   As time wore on I began to wonder why they left me there alone.  It didn’t make sense but I continued to wait.  Noon came so I had my lunch and tapped my jug of water but they didn’t return.  I continued tapping my water as the afternoon wore on but still no one came for me.  It was just about quitting time when I saw the crew returning.  Everyone was smiling but no one said a word.  Come to find out it was a test to see if I could follow directions.  My directions were to wait and watch for their return. 

That is the same directions that the Lord gave to His followers with one exception, we are to be busy sharing the gospel of Christ as we wait and watch for His return.  There may be additional directions that that the Lord gives, but the point is that we cannot be trusting the Lord when we take it upon ourselves to add – or subtract – from those direction.  Anything we change in those directions is not trusting in Him, but ourselves.  Romans 14:23 says, “. . . whatsoever is not of faith, is sin.”  King Saul was given specific directions by the Lord to destroy the enemy, his flocks, and his herds.  But when Samuel came by to check on him, Saul had not destroyed the cattle and sheep.  He explained that it was his intention to sacrifice them to the Lord.  For this sin of changing the Lord’s plan the kingdom was taken from him.  Samuel’s response is very telling.  I Samuel 15:22-23 “. . . Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because thou has rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”

Sometimes what the Lord doesn’t make sense to us but we are to follow it to the letter else we stand against God.  Faith in the Bible is clearly understood to mean that we are following the Lord’s directives, otherwise it is not faith in Him.  What we see a lot of today is doing what we think might be the Lord’s will.  That is nothing more than a wild guess, carried out to the full of our understanding and is not faith in the Lord but faith in our guess.  In order to walk by faith in the Lord, we must get our directions from the Lord.  If He is not directing then we cannot proceed.  So where do you find His directions?  The vast majority of God’s will is written down in Scriptures.  God will never contradict His Word.  Another way that God directs us today is by His Holy Spirit.  That is not a hunch, or good guess, or even what seems right, but the leading of the Spirit.  Again, it will never contradict His Word and will require us to trust Him and not a result.  Further, it will glorify or expose God to the world and call us to righteousness.  I do not put stock in open and closed doors as Satan can also open and close doors.  However, I do believe that we can find God’s leading through those who have traveled the road of faith successfully.  Long established principles of faith and doctrine can clarify the way. 

Popular fads may look good at the moment but fade over time.  Worldly success is not a good measure of God’s involvement.   Sensationalism is one of the most popular measure of a church’s success but promotes the individual rather than the Lord.  In the final analysis the way of God is a narrow way but it leads to life everlasting.

Crises of Faith – 4

2 Timothy 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good  4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;  5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.  6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,  7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds,  reprobate concerning the faith.  9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.

Today, I want to look at a passage of Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:1-9 copied above.  The apostle Paul is writing to his son in the faith, Timothy and describing the conditions of the latter end of the last days.  This looks a lot like the days we are living in today.  We know that we are much closer to the last days than we have ever been before.  Paul describes these times as perilous, that is risky and dangerous, and that there would be a type of “religious” people who are like the world but not like Christ.  Notice that they have a form of godliness that is they may be benevolent and involved in a church but are not focused on extending the kingdom of God. When the time to stand on principles comes, they stand against truth.  You need only to look at the issues of abortion, free speech for Christians, prayer, etc.  The workplace is a mine field and can bring accusations of raciest, sexist, homophobia, prejudice, unfairness, etc. for proposing any alternate to the proposed cause. 

How can you tell if the “religious” are real Christians or just imposters?  One way is to test their message.  Does it speak of glorifying anything other than Christ.  It the message is “Hey, look at me, it or them” when it should be saying “Hey, look at God”, then it should shout DANGER!  Another evidence is that those who are following Christ are accompanied by God’s power.  God backs up the believers faith by His power.  If there is an absence of God’s power, then there is cause to turn away from the person or teaching proposed. 

A third warning is the appeal to knowledge as opposed to a faith walk.  I am not against knowledge for the Scripture states that we are to study God’s word.  However, when we come face to face with the knowledge of the truth, we are changed by it.  We will be changed  from faith to faith and we will not be able to just absorb the information without being changed.  In My dad’s day, they used to speak of educated idiots.  They had tons of information but no application.  The military used the phrase, “a thirty day wonder.”  People sometimes think that if they could just understand it then they could believe it. Just the opposite is true, however, that you must first believe it and then understanding will come.  That was Jannes and Jambres problem with Moses.  They opposed it because the problem was in their minds and the Scripture states that they were reprobate (depraved, corrupt, unprincipled) in their faith.  The Bible states that their folly shall be manifest to all men.

The crises of faith we see in the church today is not because there is no faith, but that the faith is exercised in the wrong things, when it should be in response to God’s directives.  The lack of power in the church, the use of the platform for attention, and the hypocrisy in the leadership are some of the causes of today’s crises of faith in the church today.

Crises of Faith – 3

Today I want us to look at the state of the church in America.  We see its values being attacked on a daily basis and its effect on the American culture lessening continually.  Church attendance is shrinking and the message is becoming confused with false doctrine.  In short, we are steadily losing ground  

Churches are trying different strategies to try to turn the tide, but nothing seems to bring lasting results.  One of the cries is that the church is out of date and boring, so some churches are changing the format to include a different type of music and dress code to make people feel more comfortable.  The doctrines are being watered down and compromised.  Some churches are promoting the “prosperity gospel” that is measured by physical prosperity.  While it is true that the attendance does increase for a time and the excitement is there, it is also true that many of the traditional values are driven out of the church and when the emotions subside (and they will) and when the music style changes (and it will), then the same results of a diminishing core will certainly follow. 

The reason that these will be the results will follow is that they have not identified the real problem.  It is just as my father used to say, “you can’t fix it until you know what is broke.”  Attendance and excitement are not what makes a church effective.  In reality, it is much easier to fill a church with people than it is to fill a heart with hope. 

There are several flaws in this type of approach to building a church.  First of all, we need to remember that the church belongs to the Lord.  It is not our church and therefore the ultimate responsibility is His and not ours.  He is the one who has the power to convict of sin, and He is the one who will draw the people to come.  The point is that He will fill the church in direct proportion to the room we make in our hearts for Him.  God is willing and able to turn the tide but His grace is frustrated by our refusal to surrender the control of our lives to Him.  As long as we cling to the controls of the church, we prevent God from working as He wants to and our faith is in our abilities instead of in Him. 

As I shared with you in my last blog, the object of our faith is the Lord.  Not in what He will do but simply in Him.  We need to trust His working and not our programs.  We need to trust His promises and not our ways.  Our faith must not be in our ability but in His ability to effect change in us first and then in our living in His ways.  Here is a glimpse of what that means:   new life comes from the death to the old life; gain comes from giving; greatness comes from serving; humility and compassion trumps power and authority and Love never fails.  When the lost world sees the life of Christ in the believer, then that is the only thing that will satisfy the hunger of the heart.  No other plan of man will work to stabilize the church.  The problem is not in what we are doing but is in our failing to live by faith in Him.  Romans 14:3 states that whatsoever is not of faith is sin and Hebrews 11:6 states that without faith it is impossible to please Him.  That is why I say we are in a Crises of Faith.   We are religious but not righteous.  2Ti 3:5  Having a form of godliness but denying  the power thereof.

Crises of Faith – 2

In my last post I stated that America and some other countries around the world are experiencing a decline in many areas of church life that include attendance, finance and respect, is due to a crises of faith.  Today I will begin to explore why I make such a bold statement.

Before we can really address this issue we must define some words that we use so often with many different meanings, so that is where I will focus this blog entry.  The first word is faith.  It can mean anything from a wish, to a ritual, to a feeling, to a religion.  If we are to be able to communicate on the same plane we must understand faith in the same context.  So let’s begin with how Webster’s Dictionary definition.  1.Unquesting belief that does not require proof or evidence.  2.  Unquestioning belief in God, religious tenents, etc.  3.  A religion or a system of religious beliefs (the Catholic faith).  4.  Anything believed.  5. Complete trust confidence, or reliance.  6.  Allegiance to some person or thing; loyalty . . .  As you can see there is a wide variety of ideas as to what is meant by the word faith in the English language. 

The biblical definition of faith is much more restrictive in its meaning.   I reference the Greek language, and specifically koine Greek, since that is the language that the Bible was written in.  Of the 254 times that faith is used in the bible, all but two of them are in the New Testament, and use the Greek word, pistis, which means to trust or rely upon.  Both of the times it is used in the Old Testament it uses a word of the same meaning, and Habakkuk is quoted three times in the New Testament where pistis is the word that is translated as faith.

We can therefore deduct that the meaning of faith in the Bible means to rely or trust.  It is therefore means to rely or trust is someone or something beyond ourselves.  By definition, then, it cannot mean that it is a dependence upon our ability, gifts or effort and is dependent upon that in which we trust.  So what is the object of our faith?  That is where our faith is validated or invalidated.  The object of our faith must be able to control the outcome.  If it has no power to perform then it is dead faith, and if it is flawed it will produce a flawed product.  The only object that is capable of such power as is promised is God, Himself.  That is also the one to whom we are directed to place our faith in.  Have faith in God is the directive of the Bible.  So we can conclude that any faith in anyone or anything other than God is not Biblical faith.  Further, faith in the wrong object cannot produce the fulfillment of the thing sought.  This is one of the prime reasons that “our” faith doesn’t work.  Faith must have the proper object of trust.

That brings us to another critical point and that is that if we are trusting another (ie. God), then He is in control and not us.  You do not have the control of the outcome but you are trusting in the one who knows best and does what is best.  You may not understand the why of the outcome but because of who it is that you are trusting, you entrust the results to Him. 

In my next posts I will address the operation of faith, the steps of faith and many other aspects of faith that help us to understand why our faith is not productive and our church are so enemic.