Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What Do You Believe In?

Abraham kept believing even as the childless years passed. Joseph never lost faith when slavery led to prison. Moses kept walking through a wilderness that was not of his own choosing. David sang even when being chased by a king intent on killing him. Jeremiah kept on preaching in spite of the fact that no one seemed to be listening. Mary and Joseph never stopped believing, regardless of what the town gossips might have said. Jesus set his face to Jerusalem even knowing that a cross awaited him there.

Each one of those people faced down greater obstacles than most of us. They endured longer than most of us could imagine. How did they do it? Perhaps more importantly: why did they never give up? The answer is one and the same; they believed that God had something better in store for them. Their lives weren't perfect, with the one most notable exception, but they knew in their hearts that God was the true source of their hope. They believed with more than their heads and saw with more than their eyes. When tough times came their faith carried them through. Their faith impacted their heart, and that kind of faith overcomes circumstances.

If I might be so bold, I believe that most of us, in fact, all of us, play games with God. We are all for faith when faith is about material blessings or bigger ministries or attention and adulation. But biblical faith is not built on or about those things. Faith is about God, period. Faith has its foundation in His character. Salvation is built upon His love and grace. There is no part of faith that exists apart from God. That knowledge should cause us to reevaluate everything about what we call faith in our day and age. The comfort and ease of being a Christian in North America in 2014 has led us not to a deeper more vibrant faith. Faith in our time has become a means to an end for many in our churches.

But faith is not some magic potion, some panacea that clouds our vision and better judgment. To be blunt, faith is hard work. Our natural inclination is to solve our own problems, to "fix" whatever is broken. Faith goes against that way of thinking. Faith requires that we look beyond ourselves in the realization that we are not the be all and end all. We are challenged to acknowledge that God is greater than we are, and we don't like that. Trusting God is an easy thing to talk about but a very different thing to practice.

Faith is the confidence that God will keep His word, regardless of circumstances, regardless of feelings, regardless of what anyone else might say. This confidence is not without struggle, but it does have history on its side. Those who possess this kind of faith have earned it. They remember how God has kept his word, they have seen God move in their lives and in the lives of others.

What they have seen in others has created in them a desire to have that same kind of relationship. They have made a relationship with God a priority in their lives and build everything upon that relationship. These people have never given up on God and have been careful to give the credit to whom the credit is due. They have taken to heart the truth that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2); that He will never abandon us (Heb. 13:5); and that He will complete His work in us (Php. 1:6). These promises have kept them walking, singing and following whether thy understand the circumstances or not. That kind of faith is rare in this world.

What is faith to you? If your faith holds no influence over your thoughts and actions then chances are you don't have faith in anything to begin with.

Just something to think about.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

When Did Evil Become Stronger Than Us?

I have long enjoyed the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien. I first read the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was twelve and soon after discovered his other works. They have kept me entertained many times throughout the years. You will understand my mixture of excitement and apprehension when I learned that the Rings trilogy would be made into full-length feature movies. On the whole I felt that Peter Jackson did a great job adapting the story to film. I own all of the Rings movies and enjoy watching them when I have the time.

I recently purchased the second Hobbit movie; "The Desolation of Smaug." While watching it again I was struck a line of dialogue that occurs between Legolas and Tauriel; two elves who are pursuing the orcs that are hunting down a company of dwarves. Tauriel asks Legolas: "When did we allow evil to become stronger than us?" The first time I heard that line I was struck by how telling it was for our time.

It has become accepted practice in the church to ask how our culture has become what it is, and many in the church have begun to ask how it is that the church has come to be in the shape that it is in. We seem surprised that our churches are seemingly powerless in the face of our culture's slide into wickedness, but anything more than a cursory glance at the condition of our churches will provide the answer to our cultural decline. The cultural decline in America is tied directly to the health of our churches. A sick and dying church leads to a sick and dying culture.

And the church is sick because the church has chosen accommodation and acceptance over devotion and dedication. Since 1960 we have seen the dishonoring of Sunday as a day of rest and worship, the wholesale acceptance of death on demand for those in the womb, the resignation to the idea that "everybody's doing it," and innumerable other social sins. And throughout all of this "progress" (how is it that those who promote sinful, ungodly behavior have been allowed to label such behaviors as "progressive?") the church has grown more and more mute and more and more irrelevant less and less influential. If I might be so bold, I believe that the church has become this way because the pulpits of our churches have lost the power of God. I don't want to disparage pastors, I am one myself, but our pulpits have lost the power of God. Most of the pastors I know are good men who love God, but they struggle with and increasingly indifferent local body that doesn't want to heart the truth as much as they want to have their ears tickled, to be told that they are "special" and that God is all about their happiness and giving them all that they wanted. Whatever happened to dying to self, taking up your cross and following Jesus?

In short, we don't need more Joel Osteen's or Joyce Meyers'...we need more W.A. Criswell's and John MacArthur's. The American church public may not want it, but they need it. The Word of God contains the only answer to what ails America. Another program, another emphasis, another building or catchphrase or best selling book won't fix the church or our nation. The answer to what we need is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14:

and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

We all need to forsake the self-centered, materialistic, comfortable religion of our day and embrace the cross of Christ. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fiddling While Rome Burns?

Today is election day. There is much at stake in today's choices, or at least it seems that way. The control of the Senate is very much on the table and a strengthening of the control of the House of Representatives as well. Lost in all of this, perhaps, is the very important role of the appointment of the judiciary. There is much at stake,

Yet I must confess a growing pessimism in regards to government. No representative democracy has survived as long as America has - and if the last fifty years are any indication - we may not last another fifty. The political process has been co-opted by those who seek one the advancement of personal agendas and self-aggrandizement. Neither political party has more than a marginal interest in the things of God. And even that interest is little more than a self-serving attempt to gain votes.

Sadly, the American Church and American Christianity have played a large role in the decline of our nation and culture. The church has grown silent in my lifetime. We seldom speak prophetically concerning the sin of our people or our culture. When we do speak it is with a voice that is so muted by our own worldiness and timidity that no one hears.

Could it be that the "American Experiment" is failing because the American Church has embraced the American Dream? Are we more concerned with large buildings, public acceptance and overflowing coffers than with faithfulness to the Gospel? Have American Christians become so indistinguishable from the world around us that we no longer exhibit the characteristics of salt and light that Jesus said should be the hallmark of our lives?

I place the blame for the state of our nation at the feet of the church. Like the church at Ephesus (Rev. 2) we have left our first love and like the church at Laodecia (Rev. 3) we have become lukewarm. We are seeing the events of Romans 1 being played out before our very eyes. Until we arise from our slumber and embrace the cross we will continue to oversee the death of our land.

Judgment is coming. What will we do?