A Milestone

Yesterday was a milestone in my life – I turned 75.  Just think, that is 3/4 of a Century.  In those years I have come a long way and seen a lot.  The world has changed and life is totally different than it was when I got here.

My younger years began in a behind the times era before electricity in our home; before indoor plumbing; when water was drawn from a well, we grew our own food, canned, washed clothes on a wash board and graduated to a wringer washer; milked our own cow; churned our own butter; used kerosene lamps; chopped our own wood; plowed with a team of mules and rode in a wagon. I wore bib overalls; went barefoot in the summer; ate wild berries and plumbs; fished and caught fireflies and June bugs. The biggest event I remember from this era was when China was taken over by Communism and we watched the progression across the country.

My world was flipped up side down at the age of 10 when we moved to western Colorado. I went from a hick country environment to the city; from a two room school where there was just three of us in the same grade where I was the only boy to a much larger school where there were three classrooms of +/- 50 in each class room all in the same grade. This was the era of bell bottoms, hippies, rock and roll, hot rods, the greasers, in their duck tail haircuts. The farm life was replaced by the orchards and produce stands. Color TV was the big thing and the Korean war was the big news. Rotary phones and private lines replaced the 8 party lines and the wooden wall phone. Automobiles began to display a variety of extras such as automatic transmissions, AC, radios, variable speed windshield wipers, power windows and hard top and convertibles. The 40 hour work week became standard along with a two week vacation. Social Security became mandatory and retirement was at 62 with full benefits.

Upon graduation I traveled for several months, that took me to Utah, Oregon, California and back to Colorado. I worked for the Colorado Department of Highways on a survey crew and then attended college in 1964. It was that year the President Kennedy was assassinated and the world was once again turned upside down. Darla Rae Miler and I were married on December 27th and moved to LA and saw the fires of the Watts Riots from our living Room window. Then followed the Vietnam war, high gas prices and the impeachment of President Nixon. We returned to Colorado and I went to work at Climax Molybdenum Co. and was there for 4.5 years. That is when hang gliding became popular. Instead of depression we now had to face inflation and its varied problems. This was the period that I became a Christian and my life was turned upside down once again. We purchased a mobile home (our first ownership) and moved to Carbondale, Co and another career change, this time to Construction. By now our family had grown to 5 with the birth of our 3 kids.

The next era saw me going back to college and another move to Greeley, Co. to attend the University of Northern Colorado with a major in business. This is where God began to reorder my life. The first area that He dealt with is that I needed to trust Him with all of my life. He began with stewardship and began to unveil His economy. Change is the order of the day and once again everything is turned upside down. Once I got on board with trusting Him, He then called me into the ministry and I found the something that I had been missing all along

Then it was off to school to study for the ministry and the addition of two more Children, making our family now 7. While attending school, I also became the pastor of my first church. I also served in two jail ministries, rest homes, street evangelism and a variety of other ministries. Living by faith in the Lord brought many amazing events. He provided food when our cupboards were bare, shoes and boots and clothes, financial provision and multiple demonstrations of His love and presence. I was able to graduate without any school debt or loans even though my income was $1.80 per hour for a 20 hour week, though there were times that I didn’t get the full 20 hours.

Now I am retired and have lived through some of the greatest events of history. From the end of WW II, the Korean war, the Vietnam war, the middle east wars, and several other military skirmishes. Through fashion changes of all kinds, social changes, dress codes and language changes. The technology has gone through the roof with the development of computers, cell phones, satellites and the internet. Knowledge has increased at a phenomenal rate. Space exploration has reached heights only dreamed of in earlier times. Travel has become a way of life with the airlines, trains, automobiles and water ways. Truly, I have lived in the “Golden Age” of all time and have seen and experienced amazing things.

So what lies ahead? The wonder of tomorrow is yet to be known but there are a few things that I am certain of. Time is in the hands of God. The Bible declares that now is the accepted time for now is all we have for certain. Preparation for eternity is the most important event in a person’s life. Jesus said “You must be born again” and we only have one life to make that choice. It is that choice that will determine what lies ahead. The second thing I am certain of is that everyone chooses the course of his or her life. It is not circumstances or others, or limits, or race, or environment, or chance, or even forces of darkness that determine our course, but the simple choice of accepting God’s way or the way of the world.(Jn.1:12) There is no one or anything that you can blame because the choice is yours and yours alone. Thirdly, like the Apostle Paul, I am persuaded that God is able to deliver me spotless and blameless before Him in Love. I know a thing or two because I have seen a thing or two in my short 75 years.

Update 8.4.19

As you may already be aware, a team of 4 from our church are making a mission trip to Japan the first week in October. There are about 50 expected to attend a Bible Training Conference which we will participate in as conference speakers. The theme of the conference is Walking by Faith and we were planning on presenting each participant with a copy of my book, The Mystery of Faith in their own language. There are two major problems at this point and both of them could affect whether or not we can provide the written materials to the attendees. The first is the problem of printing as China has shut down all printing presses to printing anything pertaining to the gospel and is under tight scrutiny. We have an alternate plan that we hope to use that will make it much safer for all of the attendees. The second is the completion of the Japanese translation which is currently underway and is over half completed. Please pray that this work will be completed on time.

A second piece of news is that pastor T was here in the area and met with the team and a lot of the planning for the trip was made. Both the team and Pastor T got many of the answers that were needed and all saw a great spirit of cooperation and fellowship and we all came away with the deep sense that God’s fingerprints were all over this project. This will be our church’s first mission project in Japan and much ground work has been necessary to lay a good foundation. There is the hope that this can be just the beginning of other efforts in Japan and beyond. More on this as it develops.

Our Sunday School class has taken on the task of assisting in the printing of the book, The Mystery of Faith in the Japanese language. We have not reached our goal but have reached 1/4th of it. I am always amazed as to how God works. All of the translators have come forth on their own to volunteer to do the translations and now we see the Lord providing for other facets of the work. I call it the fingerprints of God and I see Him doing what I could never do. Sometimes I marvel out loud, “God, you are good.”

The persecution in China has intensified considerably and since May all Christian churches that have not come under the control of the government are illegal and severe consequences will follow those who are caught operating as an illegal church. Numbers of pastors and church leaders have been imprisoned and their churches disbanded. It has caused much confusion within the underground church and a number of individuals have been forced to sign a paper denouncing their profession of faith and pledging full allegiance to the authority of the government. Further, all printing that has anything to do with the gospel is now strictly forbidden. I would ask you to pray for the government leaders to see that the Christian people are not a threat to their secular position but are an asset to the whole nation and will enrich their lives and secure their nationality. Also, that they too, will discover Christ and claim His new life.

The Russian translation is at a halt for now since my translator has gone on to be with the Lord. I am asking the Lord how to proceed as I do not have a translator to complete this work. As far as the Spanish translation, it is finishing up on chapter 4 and we are ready to begin chapter 5. The work there is going slow as my translator has her mother living with her and that requires many of the hours in a day to care for her. Still she is slowly moving ahead on the Spanish translation.

Encouraged

Our journey through life often takes surprising turns. Sometimes they are quite rewarding and fill your heart with joy. One such time for me came this week as I am in the process of helping a family restore a deck in their back yard and to build a retaining wall so that there will be a flat play area for their children.

I was at my oldest son’s home during a pool party for their grandson. One of the ladies there was talking about their problem finding someone to work on their rear deck. She had several quotes but they all wanted over $5,000. and she felt that since she was just renting that it was way too much money as they didn’t expect to be there more than a couple years.

I listened as she told her story and somehow I felt that she was right and thought I might be able to help her. She has 8 children which she home schools. Three of them are grown but the rest are still at home. Her back yard is sloping so there is now a good place for her children to play. I agreed to go over to see if I could suggest a solution for her. Her son and my great grandson are best friends so there was a little personal incentive for me as well. I went over to look at the situation and left there with the commitment that I would do the work for her at a much reduced rate. The work was divided up so as they could save money by doing a portion of the work and I would provide the technical part as well as coordination and skills to complete the repairs.

Half of the deck had to be dismantled which was their part as well as the cleaning of the used stones of mortar from earlier use. When I arrived to begin my portion of the work, I found that the deck had been demoed in the correct manner I had instructed and the materials had been stacked out of the way. As I began my work the 15 year old came out and began cleaning the mortar from the used stone and stacking them separately. I watched as she worked, steadily and without any effort to get out of her job and without complaining. She worked for several hours, making good progress. I was so impressed with her work ethic and her attitude. It is so rare that you see a teenager who not only knows how to work but actually enjoys it. It was so refreshing to see that in a teenager without the usual phone in hand and plotting to get out of work. It made my work quite enjoyable.

But then I got a second surprise. The 11 year old sister came out and began to join her in the cleaning of the stones. She had the same work ethic and attitude. She also stayed at the job for two to three hours. Needless to say that they got a lot of work done and did a magnificent job as well. I wonder if they have any idea of how rewarded I was to behold their conduct. My hat is off to their parents, who not only are doing a great job preparing their children for life and instilling in them respect of others, but also for their attention to their other needs as well.

I am thinking of a few women of high standards that God used in His/story (history). There was Rachel, Ester, David’s grandmother Rahab, Ruth,and Mary the mother of Jesus, just to name a very few. God has great things planned for those who develop great qualities. They may not see it now but they will in time. It is a great encouragement to me to see this when all we here on the news is woe, woe, woe. God is at work and we will yet see him overcome all evil.

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.  

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 – 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.