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.

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.

A Crisis of Faith

There is a strange phenomenon going on in the churches of America.  It is affecting all churches of all sizes and all denominations and that is that the attendance is dropping, as well as resources, influence and power.  If it were only one denomination we might conclude it was because of a teaching or doctrine.  If it were just the larger churches or just the smaller churches we might conclude it was because of resources.  But it is affecting all churches which are causing church leaders to ask why is it happening.  I have even heard that it is the fulfilling of the prophecy that times will wax worse and worse as we get closer to the end times.  However, this process of degenerating has been going on for thousands of years already.  No, this phenomenon is something else that has not yet been understood by the vast majority of the churches.

I remember before I became a Christian that it was hard to distinguish between the Christians and the non-believers.   They all seemed to follow the same moral code and conduct.  There was a general respect for the church member over the nonmember but little else.  Later, after I became a Christian I became curious about not seeing God’s power working in the lives of the members and churches.  I wondered why I didn’t see or hear much about God doing much in His people.  Then the scandals of the tele-evangelist and the breakdown of our national morals followed, until today when we have been devastated by compromising many of our long held beliefs.  Despair has become much more prevalent and there are all manner of “churches” sprouting up that claim that the long held truths that we have stood on for ages are no longer valid and were just for a time.

Lest I be understood to be saying that there is no hope and that everything is falling apart, I want to say that this is nothing new.  It has happened many times before.  If fact, every great revival of history began in such times as we are in today.  Let me also say that this phenomenon is not worldwide, though it is found in several countries.  Last year, I visited the underground church in another country and found an altogether different church.  There it was illegal to publically share your faith and Christianity was declared as darkness by the government.  Still, believers were so hungry for the gospel that they would travel up to two hours to a Bible Study; they would arrive 30-45 minutes early and quietly pray and read their bible;  sit on a plastic child’s stool that didn’t even have a back, for nearly 3 hours without complaining or squirming around;  take notes like a college student studying for an exam; stay for an hour or more in fellowship; and travel the up to two hours home.  After they completed their work day they would return the following evening and each day thereafter.  They weren’t tardy or missed opportunities but considered it an honor to be able to be there and were very grateful.  I came home wanting to bring that back with me.  Under these conditions the ratio of Christians was around 1in14 where here it is somewhere between 1in50 or 1in100

So we come back to the question of what is wrong in our churches in America.  I have prayerfully considered this for a long time and remembered what my Father told me years ago, “ You can’t fix it until you know what is broke.”  If we do not properly diagnose the problem we will just be treating the symptoms and will not see real change so I share with you what I believe is the real problem.  We are in a crises of faith.  With all of the books that are written on faith, I do not know of one that is addressing this as the problem.  So I will be writing several post on this and hopefully we can move closer to the center of God’s will in this matter.  After all, Romans 14:23 tells us that whatsoever is not of faith is sin and Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please Him.  I conclude therefore that until we get our faith walk right that we will see a continued deterioration of our churches and the quality of life that we live.

What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

I have listed a few of my favorite scriptures on believing as I will be discussing them and they are here for your reference.

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

Mark 9:23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

Matthew 17:19-20 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?  And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

In our harried world of social networking, busy schedules, pressures, and hectic paces, we often try to simplify or reduce the topic to one main idea.  We have all heard the saying, “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.”  When it comes to studying the Bible, we often look for basic concepts or verses that go straight to the heart of the truth.  One verse that was eye opening to me was John 6:28-29 (The title of this article and verse 29 listed above).  I was a new Christian and I simply wanted to know what I should be doing.  I didn’t know a lot of verses or history and it was all new to me so I wanted to just be doing the right thing.  I wasn’t interested in denominations or traditions, just what the Bible said.  Verse 29 summed it up for me.

But then I asked the question, “What does it mean, to believe on Him?”  I had a generic idea that it meant to be in agreement and to do right things but what were those things that I was supposed to do?  Like so many other people, I thought that the Lord would be pleased with me if I did the right things.  My understanding was in the doing, but the verse said that it was in believing and not in the doing.  As I studied I learned that the word, believe and the word faith are the same word in the Greek.  That word is pistis and it is translated as believe in one place and faith in another.  This opened a whole new thought process to me.  The Lord is not looking for me to do great things but He is asking me to allow Him to do great things through me.  Now I am not working for God (as though I am earning His favor), but He is working on me, and consequently through me so that he can transform me into His likeness and image to prepare me for eternity.

I learned that to believe on Him is to trust and rely on Him to do the work.  It is His job to do the mighty works and it is my job to be in a position of faith, reliance and dependence on Him for the results.  Those results are limitless. There is nothing impossible that he will not do to those who are believing in Him.   This brings up the question, why then, do we not see this power working in and through our churches today?  I believe that He answered that in Matthew 17:19-20.  The disciples could not cast out the demon because of their “lack of faith”.  But it was not a shortage of faith, rather it was that their faith was not in Him.  This was also brought out with the father of the demon possessed son.  He began with the word “if”, as though to say I don’t know you well enough to trust you but I have no other one to turn to so please help.  I trust you to help my son, but I need you to first help me with my faith.  The barrier to our seeing God work is that we see him as a man, but he works when we see him as God.

This faith in Jesus is to see him as the God of Creation who can move mountains.  Even to the extent of using the likes of me to do greater works than those that He was doing.  Simply put, to do the impossible.  So how do you know Jesus?  Is He just a man?  Or even a prophet?  A might man of power?  Or is he very God who loves you and will spare no expense, and cross any barrier that we might know Him for who He is and know His resurrected power in this present evil time.

John 14:14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

Luke 1:37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Honesty

A young church of about two years since it began, called a young preacher as its pastor.  It was his first pastorate since graduating from school and he was eager to see his church grow and do well.  Things were going along well for the first few weeks but then came his first challenge.

At the first business meeting he discovered that there was a problem with the finances.  There was no one taking the funds but there was a shortage and the budget wasn’t being met.  He began to investigate to find out the cause of the shortage and he found that the church budget looked fine.  Everything was paid except the mission giving and nothing had been paid toward it. It was a modest budget and included the items you would expect to be there.  They weren’t wasting any money and they certainly weren’t over paying the pastor, in fact he was working to subsidize his income to provide for his family.

He decided to do nothing until he could investigate this further so he told the church he would look into it and bring back his recommendation at the next meeting.  He searched further and in talking with the church treasurer he asked the question as to why nothing had been paid toward the mission.  The reply was most revealing.  “After we paid all of the bills, there was nothing left.” This was a well-meaning church and were following the same system of finance used by the world system.  Their priority was to pay the bills first.  The problem is that the Lord must have first place and our method of operation is to be by faith in Him and not in what we think. 

At the next business meeting, the pastor poised the proposition that honesty is a necessity for a church, to which everyone agreed.  He then stated that it was not honest to declare that they wouldl give 10% of our income to missions and not give anything.  He further said that the church should make the adjustment in the budget that properly represented what they truly believed what would be the proper giving amount.  If it was zero, then that is what the budget should say.  If it was more than zero then that is what they should do, and since this was a commitment to God then it should be given before anything else.  This would be the true expression of faith in the Lord.  He then offered that the church discuss what that true amount would be and he would return when they had come to a decision.

When he was called back, the church had decided to reduce the amount to 5%.  The pastor further reinforced the commitment by asking them if they understood that it would be paid before anything else was paid.  They responded that they did and then he further clarified that that included even his own salary.  They weren’t happy about this further clarification but finally agreed, reluctantly.

The very next month there was enough to pay the mission giving and all the other expenses, with a little bit left over.  This continued for the next two years of always having enough to pay everything and the mission giving never lacked.  Then one month there came a shortage and the mission giving did not get paid and the pastor took his check and gave it back to the treasurer and said he would not accept a check until the mission giving had been paid.  The treasurer disagreed and insisted that he take the check as he needed it for his family, but the pastor stood his ground and refused the check.  Finally, the treasurer took his check, paid the mission commitment and monies came in to more than cover the pastor’s salary as well.  In fact, during the 4 ½ years he was there, there was never a time when there was another shortage, even though they had increased their mission giving to 14% and had doubled in size and budget.  In fact they even built a new church building on nearly 3 acres of prime real estate, and their total indebtedness’ was only $34,000.  Honesty is truly the best policy.  God honors them that honor Him.

Responding to Difficulty

Last night was a rough night.  I got little sleep and was so sick that I couldn’t function.  I had severe pain in my abdomen, I was dizzy, I broke out in a sweat, then chills, then my throat began to water and I had the extreme urge to throw up and then it would all repeat itself every 15 minutes.  That lasted most of the night but then it eased off and I was able to get a few hours of rest.  I then woke up at 10:35 and remembered that i had an 11 AM appointment at the dentist.  I made it and was only a few minutes late.  I got the tooth with a cavity filled and was home by noon.  I still don’t feel well but I am able to function.  I still have several of the symptoms but they are less than they were last night.

Ac 14:22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.  The Christians life is littered with difficult situations.  It is not without difficulties but with each difficult situation we can find victory over it by trusting our Lord to bring us through it.  God has not promised a life without trials but  promises to go with us through them.  I am not sharing this with you for pity or for your kind words.  They are nice but I want for you to get the deeper meaning behind it.  It is the hardships, difficulty and pain that God uses to make us like Him.  He is ever present help in time of trouble and will shape us for eternity through these difficult times.  I can praise the Lord that He can trust me to properly represent Him in this time.  We should always be mindful of what He is doing and not so much of what we are going through.