The Necessity of the Struggle

1Co 2:3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.  4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:  5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

When we think of the Apostle Paul, we often think of a man who presented his message powerfully and had everything under control, when in fact that is just the opposite of how it was.  He was a man of small stature, and his appearance was marred because of a physical ailment.  To see him you would not think that he was significant or mighty and would not intimidate you in any way.

He did not even suggest that was the answer to your problems for he had problems of his own.  He struggled continually with the carnal nature and the elements of this world.  So what made him so effective?  It was the struggle itself, because people do not need to see the greatness of another person, but the greatness of God.  When we trust Him, He alone is the solution to our struggles.  By seeing Paul in his weakness, they could see the greatness of God.

We often slip into the thinking that it is our strength, or wisdom or our presentation that conveniences and convicts others to come to Christ.  In reality, that may be the very thing that stands in the way of them trusting God for that is the job of the Holy Spirit.  Even if we could persuade them by our efforts then they would become dependent upon us instead of God and their faith in us would not help them, but would be a hindrance to their faith in God. 

But there is another purpose in God’s plan beyond our usability, and that is our own growth.  Note that Paul specifically stated that it was for our own faith that would bring stability with God.  It is encouraging to see faith work for someone else but it is life changing when faith works in our own life.  Like the adage “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.”, so it is with faith.  Show a man faith and he has the pattern, but when he proves God for himself he has hope and promise.

Faith in God only comes after the old nature has been subdued.  The reason for this is that our old nature fights to be in control and the conflict is not won until the old nature is overcome.  This is a task that we cannot accomplish through any natural means and it requires supernatural power which we do not have until we place our faith in Him.  John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.  The struggle is necessary for the individual to release his grip on the controls and take his place as a passenger on this journey to forever.  We do not have the wisdom nor the skills to navigate life successfully.  The struggle is within us and the victory is won by surrendering to the Lord as our pilot (Savior) by trusting Him to get us home safely. In our weakness, we are made strong and in our coming under His control we are saved.

Bits and Pieces

Yesterday was a day of progress in several ways.  I began my day with sleeping in because I was up past midnight.  I took a leisurely shower got dressed and spent time with my wife as we usually do.  I then spent some time in my office catching up on different projects and miscellaneous paper work. 

My wife had a luncheon with one of the ladies at church so I fixed myself some lunch.  I had a meeting with my pastor at 2:30 in which we discussed the status of the latest developments of the Christian Training Center for Eastern Asia, that I am working on.  I shared with him about my meeting in Oklahoma City with a Chinese pastor and his chairman of deacons.  We considered the establishing of the Christian Training Center and a suggestion was made to consider Taiwan as a central location as it was fairly central and visas would be easier. What do you think?

We then discussed the organization plan and objective.  My pastor had given me an assignment to write out my vision of what that was and I went over it with him.  We then considered the target audience and I shared the need I see from my perspective.  This is where I need your help.  Would you write me and share with me your ideas and needs?  I know that I do not have a complete view of the real need but here is what I have so far.  The main target is the new pastor or church leader with little or no training in his role in the church.  The objective is to assist and enable him in his development so that he can equip his people in Christian living.  He will be charged with self-study within the bounds of the curriculum.  Our task is to provide an environment of support and guidance as well as the resources for him to accomplish that task.  To this end we noted that we need the curriculum of specific courses of study and identified the first as being that of walking by faith.  This is a project that I will begin immediately.

To achieve this end, I need your prayers, ideas and input to provide the best program to meet your needs.  I need individuals who the Lord has placed in this time and space to step forward with wisdom, resources, prayers and a heart to be God’s hands and feet for such a time as this.  I need to be sensitive to what the Lord is doing and keep in step with Him. 

After my meeting with my pastor, I met with our pastor of Discipleship and shared with him our present status of this project.  He then shared with me that we have within our church, two additional resources.  One is a project that our church is already working with and that is a similar project in Africa.  He will be getting me in contact with the leaders of that project to see what we can glean from what they have already done and enable us to avoid wasted motion.  The second is an individual who has worked with Eastern Asia radio and how we might utilize that resource in our efforts.  I continue to see God’s fingerprints on every step of this effort and am continually being amazed at what He is doing.

I think that it is important to remember that this is not my project, nor is it our project but that this is God’s project.  He began it and has led it along the way.  We are finding the different resources that He has provided ahead and we proceed based on His power and provision.  In the final analysis, our own development and transformation is His first objective while in the process we become tools in His hands to build His kingdom.

The Flaming Sword

Occasionally, I like to address a Scripture that is commonly misunderstood.  Today is one of those days.  The Scripture is found in Genesis 3:22-24 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:  23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.  24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

A common understanding is that since man sinned, he was driven out of the garden where the tree of life was located because he couldn’t be trusted any more and the angel with the flaming sword was stationed there to protect the tree of life by preventing man from ever returning. 

There are several things wrong with that interpretation.  First, God was not protecting the tree of life from man but rather He was protecting man from the tree of life.  Had Adam taken from the tree of life, he would have sealed his own doom because that would have sealed his eternity in the fallen state and God had greater thing planned for man.  It would have destroyed God’s plan of man being completed in God’s image, likeness and authority.  Man needed time to be changed into that likeness.

Second, it was not an angel that was placed at the entrance to the Garden of Eden, but a Cherubim, which means spiritual enforcer.  This was not to prevent man from taking from the Tree of Life, but to restrict man until he would come restored to a right relationship. 

Thirdly there are two directives as to man’s exodus.  In verse 23 states that the Lord sent him forth from the garden to till the ground from whence he was taken.  The ground was cursed for man’s sake (v. 17)  He needed to see the effect of sin in order to turn from it and back to God.  Then in verse 24 we see that man was driven out.  Man had willfully gone against God and he needed to understand that thereare consequences for sin.  God will not lower His standards and wink at our sin.  It will take God’s intervention to deal with sin and it was pictured in the slaying of the animal for their new coverings or clothing.

Fourthly,  the flaming sword is described in Eph 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: as the Word of God.  We know it as the Scriptures or The Bible.  It is further described in Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  You cannot fool God and He will know you to the depth of your inner most being.  Entrance is restricted to only one way, the way of the cross.

Finally, the phrase “to keep the way” does not mean to keep the way closed, but just the opposite, to keep the way open.  Though it is kept open it is still restricted to meet God’s standards.  There is hope for man to complete God’s plan for man by entering in the manner that God is pleased with and that is the was of Faith in Jesus.  However, we must come repentant of our self-government and surrender our will to the Lord Jesus for it is His blood the brings our sin into submission.  Without that blood there is no remission.

Seeing the invisible

As I sit here this morning, I am already seeing God at work.  The mission meeting in Oklahoma is starting to take shape and I see God’s fingerprints on each thing that happens.  Each person is key to its success.  God began this work many years ago.  As I consider just how long ago, I find that it began before He created anything.  We were in the mind of God and everything needed for us to become what He intended was provided.  He has been working ever since and I found Him working in my life long before I found out that I was a part of His plan.  You may remember a blog that I wrote recently about HIStory.  That is what history is all about, it is HIS story.  He alone establishes kings and rulers and He alone removes them.  He orders the natural laws that govern the universe and He made mankind, and more specifically, He made me.

He is the one who spoke to my heart and called me out of darkness and into His marvelous light.  He is the one who gave me a burden for the persecuted church.  He directed me to write The Mystery of Faith, then moved me to where I now live, and connected me with all of the ones who have established this vision of equipping the church leaders.  He provided the translators of my book, paid for the mission trips and provided everything to go on these trips.  Now I am beginning to see His plan on equipping the persecuted church leaders to do the work of shepherding their churches.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews has some wonderful insights on seeing spiritually.  It begins by listing a number of notable Bible personalities who LOOKED for a city, made by God and SAW it from afar (verse 13).  There is an interesting note in verse 27 concerning Moses which says “for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”  Then based on that vision, they responded by faith which is summarized in verse 33-38.   The chapter concludes with the statement, “having obtained a good report through faith . . .”

As I look ahead I see a vision taking shape.  It is not my vision, but His plan which has it beginning in God, and will see its realization by faith in Him.  The hardest part of such an endeavor is to keep my hands off.  The temptation is to claim it as my vision, my work, my heart, etc. but it is in truth, not mine at all but His.  This is His working so we must not lead but follow, we must not offer our works but our faith in Him.  If I can do it without His involvement then it will not require faith nor His power and will not properly represent Him.  It is precisely because of this impossibility that I can see the invisible.  It is because I see God working on all fronts that I can see His objective.  It is because the devil is working so hard to keep people in darkness that they need God’s light in order to see beyond this world into eternity.

We are much like the 12 spies that Moses sent into the promise land to search it out.  They all came back with a report that the land was a good and rich land and even brought evidence with a bunch of grapes that it took two men to carry.  The difference was in what else they saw.  10 saw the giants and determined that the fight was impossible.  The other two, Joshua and Caleb, also saw the giants, but also saw God who was greater than the giants.  So here you stand, giving your report of the Promised Land.  What do you see, Giants, in the form of an oppressive government or God who is greater than the opposition?  What is your report on what you see?

Having Faith

Yesterday, while my wife and I were shopping for Christmas gifts, I noticed a lady in the store who looked at me as though she knew me and then walked over to me and asked me if there was anything that she could pray for me about.  My immediate reaction was where did this come from?  I don’t know you and this is so out of the ordinary so why do you want to pray for me?  I made no response but knowing that the Lord works in wondrous ways.  I thought about it for a moment and the first thing that came to mind was the Christian Training Center in Japan so I asked her to pray for that.  I specifically asked that she not pray that the Lord would bring it to pass but that we would be sensitive to what the Lord had planned.

I have learned that God is not concerned about the doing of mission projects as He is about our walking by faith in Him.  After all, He is the one doing the work, as the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.  You see, God’s greatest work is us.  He is completing His image in us so that the world can comprehend what He is like.  He will bring it to pass without our effort if we will “believe in Him”.  Another way to say it is “if we will have faith in Him”.   

In my Bible studies I try to find the exact meaning of the original language in order to accurately understand.  This led me to an amazing discovery and that is that the word we translate as “faith” is pistis, which means to trust, rely on, or follow.  Then I found that the word that we translate as “believe” is also pistis, and has the exact same meaning.  The only difference is that faith is a verb or action, whereas believe is a noun or the act of trusting.  In other words you can substitute one for the other without violating the meaning.  For example, in Mark 9:23  Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.  This is an amazing promise and most people believe that God can do anything. However, if you substitute the word faith, for the word believe it takes on a whole new dimension.  Now it reads “. . .if thou canst faith, all things are possible.”  Do you see the implication?  What is holding God back from doing, is our unbelief or our non-faith in Him.  In other words we are the limiting factor in God working. 

Most of the time, we focus on the doing, instead of the believing.  That is because the carnal mind is trying to earn God’s favor but God has removed effort from the formula of pleasing him and now all that is required is for us to “believe in Him” or “to have faith in Him”.  God’s part is the doing and our part is the believing.  He works through our faith but He doesn’t work because we work.  God’s power is only exercised upon our position of faith in Him.  This is perfectly aligned with James 5:15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

Our efforts should first be to know the Lord intimately, and then to discover what He is doing and join Him.  He does not join us to fulfill all our plans and dreams but when our plans and dreams are to see Him magnified here on earth we will see Him do amazing things.

God At Work

As I said in my last blog, I would share some more developments in the training center for Eastern Asia.  The need is growing day by day.  The attempt to stamp out Christianity by several countries only emphasizes the importance of this effort.  I considered why these countries would fight so hard to eliminate the church and I came up with a few considerations.  First, the number of Christians is growing dramatically.  In China alone there are somewhere in the neighborhood of a million or more Christians.  That is one in fourteen of the people in China are professing Christians.  That is a serious block of people who could potentially threaten the government’s power.  This “threat” would make any government uncomfortable by itself.  What the governments fail to recognize is that the Christians will only make the government stronger when they are seeking to do what is right.  Christianity stabilizes the people.  Yet the genocide and persecution of Christians to death , is alarming.  There have been more martyrs in the last 10 years than in all of the previous years of recorded time, and the rate is increasing every year.

Secondly, historically speaking, every government that has set out to destroy the church and its people, have incurred God’s wrath and have fallen as a result of their error.  Governments were established by God to be a blessing to the people but when they reject God and His ways, they are removed by God.  The Christians are not the ones that they should fear but rather, God who set them up to begin with for he sets up kingdoms and also removes them.  If they truly want to do what is right then they should embrace them. 

There is a hunger for Bible Training that must be met.  I saw this in China last year and again in Japan this year.  People are willing to make great sacrifice of time, resources and personal suffering in order to satisfy this hunger.  I saw people endure long sessions on small plastic stools night after night, taking notes as thought their lives depended on it; and do it night after night.  Stories abound of the cost to satisfy this need.  People are crying out for help and God is listening and has already begun to answer their prayers.

My burden is to set in motion the working of a Bible Training Center that will be available for God’s people to get that training that is so needed.  I have already begun to contact key people who are in a position to be a part of supplying this need.  I have talked with at least two different schools that presently have online courses available as well as many of the colleges and universities that also have such opportunities.  I have talked with a couple of individuals that have financial resources that are willing to help.  I am personally in contact with some professors and educational institutions that are willing to step up and be a part of this effort.  I will be in a meeting in December with two key people who will be praying and working with me to outline such a program.

Would you make it a matter of prayer to support this effort?  As I look around I see God’s fingerprints on each part of this work.  I did not choose it but it was placed upon me and I can do nothing but move forward with it as the Lord leads.  Please understand that this is not my project, but the Lord’s.  We are seeing God at work.

Japan Mission Trip Next Week

It seems like just last week I was sharing with you about an opportunity that we have of providing the training classes for a Bible Training Conference in Japan.  Much prayer and preparation has gone into this work and now we are just 5 days from leaving for Japan.  Here is where we stand at this time.

The conference is being hosted by a pastor and church in Japan and is called the Olivet Conference.  Its purpose is for Bible Training and the theme of the conference is Walking by Faith.  The reason for this theme is that the Scripture states in Romans 14:26 that whatsoever is not of Faith is Sin; and in Hebrews 11:6 it states that without faith it is impossible to please Him (God).  Putting these two verses together it is clear that one of the most important things that  a Christian needs to learn is walking by faith; yet, I have never know a church to make this important enough to warrant a class just on living by faith.

After I wrote my book, The Mystery of Faith, I made a trip to Japan to visit my son who lives there and met a Christian pastor that became a close friend and co-laborer in the Lord’s work, who lives there in Japan.  He has made two trips to the US and we have been praying for the Lord to lead us in His will.  The last trip was to meet with our church and to plan for this conference.  He pastors a small church in Japan yet still has made multiple trips into China to train new pastors.  That training is not available in China.  When I went to China last year, I witnessed personally the need for training and it is simply not available there.

My burden for the church is to provide such training and Pastor T shares that same burden.  We are praying for direction beyond this conference.  Right now we have a few of the pieces that could become a training center there in Japan and are simply taking one faith step at a time.  We would covet you prayers and ask that you share with us whatever you believe that the Lord has given you to be a part of this endeavor. 

Right now there are over 30 church leaders from China that plan to attend this conference as well as over 20 from Japan and a few from other countries.    It will be a tri-language conference (that is it will be done in three languages).  It will be taught in English as several will be able to understand it in English.  It will also be translated into Chinese and Japanese so that it will be heard in their own language.  Materials are also being printed in all three languages as well.  The need is there, the hunger is there, the opportunity is there and in less than one week we will be there.  Our church is sending over a team of 4 to conduct this meeting.  I am one of three who will be speaking twice each. 

One of the things that we are doing is that after each session of a lesson, there will be a time for those attending the conference to discuss the material amongst themselves and/or ask us questions that they may have.  One person has even voiced a request about specific problems they are having with the current persecution of the government.   Please pray for us that we can properly represent Christ in our responses and that we can hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.

My wife and I are leaving on October 1 and we will not return until October 13.  We will get to spend a few days with our son and his family before returning here.  Then I will be going to visit another of our sons for about 3 days, returning on the 17th of October.  Then my wife is scheduled to have a knee replacement on the 25th of October.  There are two reasons that I am sharing this with you and that is to request your prayers and also to let you know that I will not be able to posts  for a few weeks.  At my first opportunity, I will share some of our mission trip upon my return and then continue posting on this website.

I would like to hear from you as well.  Do not be concerned about sending me a response in another language as I have a translator on my computer and will post my response to you.  I will avoid sharing things like cities, names and identifying pictures so as to protect those attending the conference.  I will share all I can to answer your questions so that you can be a part of the experience.  I sense that some of you have found this site and are following along on My Journey.  I want you to be as much a part of it as you can be.

Japan Mission Trip Update 8.28.2019

Some of you who have been following with me on my journey home may remember the story of how I met the pastor of the Christian Church in Japan.  My wife and I were visiting our son who works in Japan and we decided that we wanted the experience of worshiping with Christians in Japan.  Since our daughter-in-law is Japanese, we asked her where we could find such a church.  She is a Christian but has known Christianity through the Catholic Church, but she had a friend who did attend such a church that we were looking for.  However, her friend had just moved back to the States but she called her anyways.  Her friend called her back in about an hour or two and told her that she had already called the pastor who told her that they would pick us up so that we wouldn’t have trouble finding the church. 

Sure enough, they were waiting for us and took us to the church.  On the way, I remembered that gifting is big in Japan and I had not secured a gift so I silently offered up a prayer – God, HELP!!  Then I remembered that I had an extra copy of my book, The Mystery Of Faith, and decided to give it to the pastor when we arrived.

As soon as we arrived we were escorted to the worship center and was met by the Pastor, who greeted us very graciously.  I then presented him with my gift and wasn’t sure how it was received.  Not being familiar with the customs, I was unprepared for his response.  He got choked up and I thought he was going to cry.  I quickly asked, did I do something wrong?  He replied, NO, NO, you don’t understand.  You see I have been praying for some months that God would send me someone to encourage me, and you are him.  Then I got choked up as well and also felt some relief that I had not offended him.   From that first encounter we have had a growing relationship that has lasted for three years already.  He has made two trips to the USA and met with me on both occasions

He is also translating my book into Japanese and hopes to complete the translation this year.  At one point he had another person helping with the translation and there was a great flood and all of their work was lost in the flood.  On another occasion there was an earthquake that did damage to his home and I don’t know if he was able to get it repaired or not.  The short version is that Satan has been working overtime to stop his work on the translation.  Please pray for him to be encouraged and that Satan’s efforts be turned against him.

Several months ago the pastor shared with me his plan for a Bible Training Conference again this year.  He has had such a conference several times but his concern was that the attendees had been coming to be entertained, rather than be trained.  We discuss his dilemma and he wondered if I would be able to attend this year.  I shared it with our mission pastor at our church and he suggested that we offer to provide the training for the conference this year as a help to focus on the training aspect.  After the pastor prayed about it for several days he agreed and invited our church to be a part of the conference.  I had no trouble getting a team together, in fact it happened immediately.  We even had volunteers beyond our need and had to limit the team to four.  The pastor from Japan made the trip to meet with the team from our church and we saw the Lord hand all along the way.  It has been exciting to see the Lord bring it all together.

Today the mission team met to do the final planning for the Olivet Training Conference in Japan that is scheduled for the first week in October in Osaka, Japan.  We received the final schedule this week and we are making final preparations for the trip.  Everyone is excited and sensing the Lord’s involvement.  I will be speaking twice.  My first session I will be on the Operation Of Faith.  It is so amazing to me that there are so few in the church who knows how faith works and why.  The second session I will be addressing the Trial of Faith.  We need to understand that the trials are not to put us down but to build us up in our faith.  We are anticipating about 50-60 in attendance and the conference will be in three languages (English, Japanese and Chinese).  The reason is that just over half of the attendees will be from China and just under half will be from Japan.  We have an opportunity to touch the church leaders from two great nations who are presently facing great difficulty.  Already they have made request for situations they are facing and are looking to us for Biblical answers. 

When I returned home from the meeting with the mission team, I checked my website and found a comment from  one of the attendees of the Olivet Bible Training Conference that we will be doing next month.  I share his comment that you can rejoice with me.   Dear Pastor Vernon

I am one of the attendees of the Bible Training Conference in Japan. I am very exited to find this place.

I am reading your book The Mystery Of Faith, and it really helps me know more about God and the truths of faith. Praise the Lord and thank you so much!

I don’t know how he found my website but I was really blessed that he would make such an effort to let me know how they were preparing for this time.  It is my prayer that the Lord will be able to use us as His instruments to meet their needs.  I have a saying that I use for such occasions.  “It has God’s fingerprints all over it.” 

May the Lord build you in your adventures of faith.

Brother Vernon

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.  

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.