Persecution

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baptism

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

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

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 – 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.

Update 2.17.2019

Here it is the middle of February and Spring is just around the corner.  As the farmer prepares the field for planting, we are preparing for some planting of our own.  The Great Commission is our Lord’s instructions on how to sow the seed of the gospel of Christ to the world.  Today I am only speaking of the sowing to the ends of the earth. 

We have a missions committee meeting in just a couple hours from now and we will be working on plans for a mission trip to Japan, as well as a number of other mission trips and activities.  Concerning the trip to Japan, pastor Takeshi has invited us to join him and several other churches in Japan to a Bible Training Convention there in Japan in October.  Our role in the program is not defined at this time but we are sure that this is the beginning of a work in Japan that is just now opening up to us.  As of right now we already have 4 leaders who have indicated their desire to go on this mission trip.  Pastor Takeshi has shared with me that there are several churches there that will be in attendance.  I also know that good Bible Training is so rare there and the need is so great. 

I got the idea of possibly putting together a Bible Training institute there where we could contribute in an ongoing way.  I have contacted my alma martyr about this possibly and was told by President Fox and his staff, that they not only would like to be a part of that effort, but that they already have all of their courses available on the internet and that if they coordinated their time, that they could video conference directly into the class time.  This is a tremendous opportunity to make the Bible training available to Nations that have no Bible training available to them at this time.

This would also open up multiple opportunities for additional involvement from churches here in the USA to carry out the great commission on a scale that was not possible just a few years ago.   Instead of bringing the pastors here for training, they could get the Bible training and would be much closer to their own country and culture.  There is so much work to be done but that is the story of Acts, Crossing barriers with the Gospel?  The early church crossed the language barriers, culture barriers, racial barriers, distance barriers, etc. and we can too.  The opportunity is ours and we are endeavoring to follow the Lord in this Great Commission.

On another note, we are also looking at the possibility of another trip to China this year and we need your prayers once again.  Last year I made a trip to China and saw the hunger for the gospel and the commitment of believers to stand in the face of persecution.  Since then, the Chinese government has increased its persecution of the church and many churches have had their leaders imprisoned and members interrogated.  Their possessions have been confiscated and their careers have been blocked.  The Chinese government calls the church darkness, but in Joh 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.    He went on to say that in    Mt 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 

I amasking each of you to be a part of what the Lord is doing for us to carry out this work. Many of you have supported our efforts last year and we saw the Lord do amazing things.  This year we are requesting your prayers and support once again.  Will you do your part?  It takes all of us to see this work carried out.  All of you can pray so will you be a part of our prayer team?  We can support the work in many ways, even as simply as financially or materially.  We can go,  for the commission is as you are going and not when you go, or to put it another way, where ever you go in your Jerusalem (domestic), your Judaea (local), Samaria (territorial) and the uttermost part of the earth (everywhere else).  Go where He goes and do what He does.

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.

Study the Scriptures

My wife teaches the two year old’s in Sunday School and was sharing with me her lesson on the Ten Commandments.  It said that God wrote the Ten Commandments and she wanted to review that Scripture and asked me where it was.  I told her it was in Exodus, Chapter 20 but she could not find it there.  I told her that it says that God wrote them “with the finger of God”.  That lead me into a discussion that lasted over an hour and my searching several chapter in Exodus and then even my preparing of two studies: one about the actual writing of the Ten Commandments and the second about God‘s Covenant with Israel.  That took up all of this morning and a couple hours this afternoon.  If you would like to check out the verses that deal with the actual writing of the Ten Commandments here they are.  Exodus 24:12,31:18, 32:15, 19, 34:1, 27, 28 and Deuteronomy 4:13, 5:22, 9:10-11, 15-17, 10:1, 4

The Ten Commandments were first spoken in chapter 20; then written on the two tablets of stone that God cut out and written with the finger of God; then the tablets were broken by Moses when he saw the golden calf; then God told Moses to cut two new tablets of stone and take them up to the top of Mount Saini where they were written again by Moses and God.  Read again the above Scriptures.

There are many wonderful nuggets of truth that can be mined from the Scriptures if you will take the time to examine them carefully, prayerfully and spiritually.  Which brings me to my verse for today’s verses:

 2Ti 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 

2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

There is a need for the follower of God to study the Scriptures.  That doesn’t mean only read but to study or dig deep into not only the letter of the law but also into the spirit of the law.  What is the purpose of it being recorded?  Compare other scriptures of the same event such as the four Gospels.  Some information is common to all four but some information is only recorded in one or two or three of them.  In the Old Testament we have three sets of two books: I & II Samuel, I & II Kings and I & II Chronicles that deal with the same period of time.  You will find many such study methods that you can find similarities and comparisons that will bear rich insights that will aid you in your study. 

Secondly, remember the purpose for study.  It is not to collect information or to make you look good to others, but to gain God’s approval.  You are not doing this for selfish purposes or to gain knowledge or even to impress God.  Your purpose is that you might be stretched to hold the blessings of God; that you might be prepared to live in this world in a manner to be a blessing to others and to properly represent your God.  You want to study in such a way that you become all that you can be and to do it in a way that you are both correct and accurate in its application.

God is the source of its inspiration, the one who determines its content and preserves its message.  He has our good in mind and when we study the Scriptures, we receive a blessing.  Its study will enable us to come to the great doctrines (teachings) that God’s people have held through the ages.  It will show us when we get off course and get us back on the right course.  It will keep us on course and bring us all the way home to be with the Lord for ever.

Expanding Our Reach

It was one year ago today that I posted my first blog and if you read my last post it has been an exciting year with many wonderful experiences. Today I am announcing that I have added a new avenue to reach out with the Gospel (Good News) to a lost and dying world. That avenue is that we are now on LikedIn (pronounced – Liked In) and that site is being developed. I have a lot of work to do yet but I posted an article on it and am presently working on connecting it and this web site so that each post here will also be posted on it as well. I am slow in getting all the ends connected as I am not tech savvy but I have others to help me so I will get there.

LinkedIn is the world’s largest communication network and reaches around the world. It encompasses virtually all trades, professions and interest. Already, I have been confronted with literally hundreds of possible connections and I am asking the Lord to give me wisdom in these contacts. When the Lord sets a plan, it will always be bigger than the individual and far more encompassing. It really helps me to trust Him as I know that I fall way short of the task.

One of the features that has caught my attention is that when you become a subscriber, then every time I make a new post, the subscribers will be notified so that they can utilize their time more effectively without having to check to see if I have made a new post. I think it will be a great feature. I’ll let you know when I have that feature set up as well as other new opportunities.

My prayer for each of you for this coming year is that your faith in the Lord will not be weak, but strong in your confidence in His bringing it to pass. I am amazed at what He has done just in this past year. John 20:27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.