A Christian Training Center?

While meditating on the possibility of establishing a training center for church leaders, I felt led to discuss it with my pastor.  He was encouraging and made several observations that I want to share with you.  First, it will take time.  The old saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” seems very appropriate here.  It also fits with my experience in life.  I was once asked how did I get so smart.  My answer was it took 75 years and I am still learning every day.  I have also observed that the men that God used the most all spent years in preparation.  Consider Joseph’s time as a slave, an overseer, a prisoner, and forgotten, before he was made vice regent over Egypt.  Or you might consider Daniel’s time as carried off into another country as a prisoner,  lost everything and was watched carefully and accused by jealous government officials, cast into the lion’s den yet rose to serve under 3 rulers and was over the wisest of that country.  Or David who was the youngest of his 7 brothers, given the least jobs as a shepherd, faced a lion and a bear and then later Goliath, defeating them all and was pursued for 20 years, lost his wife and had multiple attacks on his life before being anointed as king.  Even Jesus himself didn’t have it handed to Him.  He knew his mission at the age of 12 yet he spent the next 18 years under the authority of his home.  These are just some of the examples that are in the Bible.  

Secondly, it require the Lord’s power.  It is not something that I could ever do on my own.  That is good because it is God’s work, not mine.  I am just a part of His plan.  That way we get to see Him and His working and not me and my working.  The Lord wants the world to see Him and that He keeps His word that He really does work in the world today.  He is trustworthy and we can attempt great things when God is in charge.  Our faith in Him is put on display and He is the one that does the work. 

Thirdly, it will work wonders within me.  I think it is important to remember that we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.  He is more concerned about our development than He is about our works.  It is in the exercise of our faith that we are changed from each glorious experience unto the next glorious experience.  Walking by faith in the Lord will tax you to your limit so that you begin to understand His limitlessness.

Fourthly, it will enable those called of God to prepare themselves for the task that He is calling them to do.  When I went to China last year and again in Japan this year, I saw the need for a training center.  The hunger was greater than I had ever seen as well as the commitment to learn. even at great sacrifice.  The fact that the governments are persecuting the church and trying to eliminate Christianity only underscores the need.  Whenever a vacuum exist there is an effort to fill it.  When I saw people going by the thousands to worship gods that do not exist, I realized how great this need is.

These are just some of the reasons that I am praying and preparing to establish this work.  The pastor also issued me a challenge to write out my view of how it should be done and I am working on that.  Here is briefly what I see from my vantage point.  First, it will begin small to meet some immediate needs.  Specific training in the essentials such as the conference we just had in October in walking by faith.  The next thing that is on my heart to do is training on knowing the one and only God, as He has revealed Himself.  There is no other gods and when you worship a god that doesn’t exist, Satan steps in to be that god and leads people away from the true God.  As it progresses it will change in structure but not in dynamic.  It will always hold to the Bible for doctrine.  It will use the church facilities or rent space for events but will keep cost as low as possible to help those coming for training.  It is not clear to me at this time as to many of the details but just as a fog is lifted so also are the detail becoming clearer.

I am asking you to become a part of this effort by praying regularly for this endeavor.  I welcome your suggestions and any other help that you believe the Lord would have you do.  Mostly, I need your prayers and encouragement. I will be posting additional information in the coming posts as it develops.

The Wide Gate or the Straight Gate

As I write this blog, I am thinking of the burden that the Lord has placed on my heart about training the church leadership in the Eastern Asia Countries.  It began last year when I made a mission trip to china and saw the hunger for the Bible and also saw the lack of training available for the house church pastor and church leadership.  The sacrifice they were willing to make just to attend a bible training meeting was soul searching. 

Then to be invited to speak at a Bible training conference in Japan this year had another impact on me.  As we were preparing for the conference, we visited a shrine and a temple there in Japan.  We were told that the entrance to the shrine or temple is always through a gate such as the one shown here. 

The gate entrance to a shrine.

The purpose of the shrine is that the people have a place to worship and they would go through various exercises in order that the “gods” would bless them.  The gods were somewhat mystical in how they would respond but there was a void in the culture and this was established to fill that void.  It reminded me of Acts 17:23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. Since there is no other God than Jehovah God, to worship another god would be worshiping a false god or Satan and his cohorts.

My thoughts then turned to Mt 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  If this worship is not of the only true God, then it is not a god at all but one of Satan’s haven of refuge that teaches his false doctrines and holds people in bondage.  Simply put it is the entrance to hell.  Jesus promised that the church would storm the gates of hell and they would not stand against the forces of God that He would bring against the forces of darkness This faith is the power and method of Christ working through the church.

We felt this power all through the conference that was attended by leadership of churches from 6 countries.  The conference was presented in three languages, English, Japanese and Chinese.  This may seem odd to some as the Chinese and Japanese have fought each other for a long time, yet about half of the attendees in this Japanese setting, came from China.  The theme of the conference was walking by faith and it extended over 4 days.  One of the features was the session in the evening where those attending the conference would share from their observations, what they had learned from the days events.  The worship sessions were a special blessing as the music was sang in three languages as well.  As we sang and worshiped together there was a unity of spirit that overshadowed all other separations so that we all focused on Christ alone and His presence was especially felt.  The afterglow that followed the day’s events was also a special blessing as it was spent in sharing and counseling as late as midnight and beyond.  This was a tremendous meeting and following it there have been additional results of three additional mission trips, and opened doors to additional possibilities.

This brings me to my burden for a training center in Japan.  I shared it with my pastor who not only endorsed it but also stated that this is where our mission efforts are projected.  He challenged me to write down my vision for such a conference and agreed to work with me in its concepts.  One of the pastors that attended the conference is now moving to Oklahoma to pastor a Chinese church there and we are meeting in December to also pray and plan for this Training Center.  Also, we will be meeting with Dr. Alan Bandy who is the NT professor at Oklahoma Baptist University who I spent a few days with over the Thanksgiving Day holidays.  I have also contacted some other Christian education schools who have also indicated their intentions to work with us on this project.

As my wife and I were returning home on the flight, I was following our progress on the monitor and considering the idea of a training center, I was jolted by what I saw on the monitor.  The route showed a satellite view of the ocean floor and just below the Aleutian Islands and on our route I saw 17:7, below the route and near the center of the picture.  The Aleutian Islands are above the route line and the islands are shown as the white portions.  You can see it also on Google Maps in the satellite view.

The 17:7 is below the route line and nearly centered. The Aleutian Island are shown as white above the route line.

It has been there for thousands of years and was truly put there by God when He created the earth.  It was so plain but what did it mean?  I noted that this is the chapter and verse designation used in the Bible of separating the chapter and verse by a colon.  I began to look at each book that has 17 chapters or more and in the 17th chapter has a 7th verse.  There are 23 such verses in the Bible so which one was intended? 

Of the 23 verses in the Bible that have a 17:7 location, one stands out above all the rest because it is the only one that  references sacrifices offered unto devils and it is found in Leviticus 17:7 And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute forever unto them throughout their generations. 

So I sense that the message is simply this, Go in faith that God intends to deliver those in bondage to false gods so that they may come to know the only true God, Jesus who is the Christ and He will deliver them.  Satan does not have the power to withstand against the church that walks by faith in Christ alone.

Life Event

You may have been wondering why I haven’t written more on my blog in the past few weeks so here is the answer.  Life gets in the way sometimes and we have things that we have to do that messes up our schedule.  I know that sounds like an excuse but in this case it is reality and my preferences have nothing to do with it. 

My wife had a knee that was not only quite painful but was just wore out.  She was past the cartilage and well into the bone and it would fail her at times.  On Friday of last week she had a knee replacement operation to correct the problem.  The operation was successful and she was up walking immediately after recovery from the surgery.  They have had her doing  therapy twice a day and a busy regiment of ice, exercise,  compression socks, compression equipment and pain medication that requires a lot of time on my part to assist her in her recovery.  I must be close to her to fetch things that she needs and assist her in things that she cannot do yet, like showering, dressing herself, and getting in and out of bed.  But even with that she is continually surprising me with things that she can do now that she couldn’t do just 4 days ago.

She is doing very well and even was able to go out on a short trip to Walmart to pick up a couple items that we needed.  She is diligent in her doing what she is instructed to do as we have known some who have neglected this part of recovery and have had problems that affected them a very long time.  I think that because she had so much pain with her knee that she is not suffering as much as some do who will not do the exercise because of the pain. 

I marvel at the fact that she was on her feet just a couple hours after having knee replacement.  As I see her walk now I marvel that her leg is now straight and she can walk on it so well.  I thank the Lord that we live in a time and place that all of this is possible.  I think of how great our God is and that He is the one who has made all of this possible.  It causes me to praise God from whom all blessing flow.  Sure it interferes with my schedule and I have to make a number of adjustments; but just look at what He is doing.  I will gladly go through these events to get my eyes off of what I am doing to see what God is doing.  It can really adjust your perspective.

Japan Mission Trip

We have returned from our mission trip to Japan and I am so blessed to have been a part of such a great event.  There were six nations represented at the Olive Conference.  It was presented in three languages over 4 days.  There were 64 attendees (mostly church leaders and pastors) in addition to speakers, worship leaders, and host.  It was such a joyous spirit of love and fellowship and unity that differences had little meaning.  Evidence of Christ’s presence abounded and many new bonds were made.

The theme of the conference was “Walking By Faith” and First Baptist Church of Keller was invited to teach the training classes (6) that was followed by a discussion time for each day.  It was amazing how the participants could almost quote what was said in each class and had real insight of its meaning.  I have rarely witnessed such commitment to learning and applying the material to everyday experience. 

The team from First Baptist Church of Keller, Tx consisted of four:  Mission Pastor, Lawrence Duhon; Mission Committee Chairman, Bob Vigoren;  Mission Committee member, Michael Faubel; and Mission Committee member, Vernon Ball.  Beside teaching the six classes, the team participated in personal counseling, joint worship where the music was sang in three languages, each in turn, and participating in the group discussion time. 

There was some time allowed for personal devotions and relaxation.  On a couple of these times I went for a walk in the forested mountainous setting  on one of the trails and found a number of spider webs that crossed the trail.  To keep from walking into them we waived a stick up and down to clear the webs from the trail.    It reminded me of the snares of the devil.  Sure enough, Satan tried to trick a key person in the conference into leaving the conference, but the Lord stepped in and that member was rescued from making a life changing error in her faith walk.

We saw a number of such victories in several different situations.  It was a great blessing to see the Lord magnified among us in so many ways.   I received a note from Pastor T saying that the “connection with the local leaders and pastors are now more committed. Next month I’ll visit some cities there.”  There is speculation of another conference next year.  Please be in prayer that we will remain in step with the Lord in this matter.

Mama’s Boys

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crises of Faith – 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Train Up A Child – Responsibility

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. 

We are living in a time that teaches entitlement as one of the basic values and it is taking a devastating toll.  When I was a child it was common to hear that the world owes you nothing and you had to earn what you get.  We had chores that we had to do every day and I hadn’t even hear of an allowance.  Today, we hear of families that do not have a job, live in a nicer home than many of those around them, have all of the latest gadgets, stylish clothes, nice cars, etc. and the government pays for it all.

One day I was asked what I thought about this modern philosophy and I responded with this story.  Suppose there are 100 people who are holding up a platform with an elephant on it.  Then 25 people who are struggling are allowed to ride on the platform.  Now the entire weight of the platform and elephant plus the weight of the additional 25 people, have only 75 people to support it.  Lets also suppose that the 75 people who were not struggling before can just barely support it.  What will happen is that some of the 75 remaining supporters will also want to ride instead of supporting and now you have even less doing the job.  At some point, everything will come crashing down and the devastation will be great.

I am not against helping at all.  In fact, I am active in helping, even without a program.  What I am pointing out is that everyone should have a responsibility to do his part.  In  2Thessolians 3:10 we have this admonition For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.  Everyone is responsible to contribute.  We spend millions of dollars each year, just on cleanup which could be done by the welfare participants.  Even though there are many who are physically handicapped, they can contribute in other ways, such as encourager to the next generation, etc.  I remember watching a TV program when I was a child, about even the blind sorting bolts.  Yes I know that it may not create a profit but it will lessen the burden and provide that individual of a sense of self worth.

Responsibility must begin at an early age.  My parents gave me responsibilities in many ways.  Chores was only one, and another was in money management.  I was picking strawberries at the age of 5 and began contributing to the family by buying my own school clothes.  I was taught savings by building my own reserves.  Whenever I got money for my birthday or earned a profit from some project, I was required to put it in my savings and then plan for its expenditure and to avoid impulse buying.  My brother and I would even make our own toys.  My point is that if we are irresponsible then we will suffer.  The cost will be directly proportionate to the degree or irresponsibility.  If we fail to teach a child responsibility then we will get a society who loses its sense of values, takes no responsibility for its actions, becomes lazy, loses its creative abilities and ingenuity and taxes those who are responsibility into destruction.  I would advocate that all welfare come with responsibility, that all parents and guardians teach responsibility, and that responsibility be rewarded instead of punished.

Train Up A Child – Respect

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Someone once said that insanity is inherited, you get it from your kids.  This ‘joke’ is telling in that the kids are the ones in control and speaks to the fact that the parent or guardian is abdicating (failing to do) his/her responsibility of training.  Training is teaching the same lesson in multiple ways, until it is finally grasp and adopted.  It does not count in how many times it is said, it counts in the ways it is illustrated by our actions, attitudes, and demonstrations.  It will do no good in just telling the child, if there is a disconnect in the belief of the teacher to what is being taught.  It is one thing to say that we must obey the laws, but all that is lost if we then excuse our speeding or yell at the other drivers who are obeying the laws.  Repeated telling without teaching will only insulate the child from learning respect.  Respect is given when it is believed.  It is the submission to the authority represented first and then to the person standing in that position of authority.  The more there is a disconnect in the person in authority to the purpose of that authority, the less respect there will be.

There are 7 distinct authorities that God has established to govern society,1. Marital Authority, 2. Parental Authority, 3.  Educational Authority, 4.  Administrative
Authority, 5.  Governmental Authority, 6.  Ecclesiastical Authority, and 7.Scriptural Authority.  These are the avenues that God intends to us to bless us.  When we disrespect this authority, we are really challenging God’s Plan of blessings.  Every sin of man will be accompanied by at least one of these authorities being disrespected.   A child who has no respect for authority will also have no respect for God.  One of the evidences of a lack of respect in today’s society is the me-ism that is so prevalent.  The disregard for responsibility in order to have fun; the ‘self portrait phenom’; The ‘I want, I think, and the I will, mentality that is so predominant.  We need to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around us, and it will continue on,after we are gone.

When determining what lessons are important for a child to learn, this is one of the most important lessons that should be taught, but sadly, it is one of the least taught.  If a child never learns respect then nothing will be sacred and he will fight every authority and his chances of ever knowing God personally become very, very slim.  Not only that, but he will attempt to break every rule until he is broken over them.  One of the vital keys to keeping a society healthy is that they teach the children respect to all of the authorities that God has established.

Train Up A Child

Pr 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

This Scripture is loaded with clues as to how to prepare a child for adulthood.  In this dis-functional world we live in, we are often left with the impression that there is nothing that we can do about the state of affairs of the next generation.  This is absolutely not true.  It is not a time to give up, but it is a time to shape up.  For the next few entries I will be addressing some of the basics in raising our children in a way that will make us proud, honor the Lord and to prepare them to live in chaos, victoriously.

Today we will look at this verse and in the following few entries I will focus on some of the basics that will help prepare them for what they will most certainly face.  The first half of this verse gives us the instruction of what the job of the parents is.  We are to train up a child in the way he should go.  First of all we are to train up a child.  That presupposes that we know the way he should go.  There are a lot of different voices claiming do this or don’t do that.  How do you know which one is right?  It is easy, just compare it with Scripture.  There are two things that are certain and that is God’s instructions are right and that any voice contradicting the Scripture is wrong.  You don’t have to understand it, just obey it.  Before we even begin training the child we must first make the way certain in our own lives.  If we have proved it to ourselves then we will have the confidence in the principle and the assurance that it works.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no man cometh to the Father, except by me.  If you don’t know that you don’t know, you are ignorant of the truth.  If you know that you don’t know, then you are lost and without direction.  If you know that you know then you have both knowledge and direction.

1John 5:12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.  It is not in telling them that gives them life, it is not in yelling at them that they catch on to life, Its not in punishing them that imparts life, but it is in introducing them to the giver of life that they can then receive life.  Christianity is more caught than taught.  If they can see it they can conceive it, but if they don’t perceive it then they remain in darkness.   Once a child begins to see with his spiritual eyes, nothing else will satisfy and they will remember and they will return.

Harvest Time

I know that it is different in other parts of the world but here is Texas it is already harvest time.  The temperature is in the 90’s and will get hotter.  About a week ago I picked the first picking of green beans.  My wife, Darla, cooked them in butter with a little garlic and they were delicious.  Yesterday I picked the first picking of peas and we will eat them this evening.  I also picked a few turnips, which I like to eat raw.  I also noticed that the tomatoes are setting on and I even found three that were the size of golf balls.  Not bad from my small garden in a subdivision.

I hope that you are drooling by now.  The farmer plants with the view of a harvest.  All of the work in preparing the ground, sowing, weeding, pruning, etc. is just part of the investment as you look forward to the harvest.  So it is with the Lord.  He also is looking forward to the harvest . . . of souls.

Revelation 14:15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.

There is coming a day when He, too will harvest His garden (the earth) and there will be a time of celebration for those who allowed Him to change them from creatures of sin into the children of God by surrendering their sin and learned to walk by FAITH in Him.

We go through this world only once and we make the choice as to what we become.  Every day of our lives we make that choice over and over.  Either we choose righteousness or we choose to reject what is right and become even more self focused.

You have been invited to join the Lord at the marriage supper of the Lamb but you must come dressed in your robe of righteousness.  It will be a time of rejoicing and a time of fulfillment.  All the investment of sacrifice and suffering will be worth it all.

1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.