Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I change not!

We live in a changing world. From the moment of our birth until the day we die, we see constant changes. While my father lived to see the transition from the horse and buggy to the car, my generation has seen a transition from the lowly radio to the full blown electronic computerized era. Nothing seems to stay the same for long. As soon as we think we are up to speed on the latest gadget, it is already out of date as new technology leaps on the scene.
We have noticed the changing church too. Just a few years ago, when a church was looking for staff members, they looked for a senior pastor and a youth pastor. Today, churches are seeking preaching pastors, executive pastors, media ministers, worship and drama pastors, video projection and graphic artist pastors, children’s specialists and next ‘gen’ pastors. The stress levels for pastors and their families have risen along with the expectations of churches and their leadership. Today, pastors are vacating their God-given calling in record numbers, falling victim to demands they just can’t keep up with. Others, under stress, fall into the enemy’s traps of sin and disqualify themselves for leadership.
There have been some powerful factors that have been continually changing the face of the church and Christianity at large. In a recent study on how to reach needy groups in our community, I was drawn to information that stated that the most powerful factor that is currently influencing change in our culture is: 1. movies 2. television 3. the internet 4. books 5. music 6. public policy and 7. family. Only a few years ago, the family was the most powerful influence in our culture. We wonder why the family unit is breaking down, why the church is accepting alternate lifestyles and immorality, why churches who follow traditional methods are loosing ground so fast. They have stiff competition! Notice that nowhere in the list do we find the church as an influencer of our culture. Today, Hollywood puts out a movie about a fiction book, and millions believe it as fact. Television documentaries about topics of faith produced by spiritual skeptics raise issues with which the church struggles. While the people in our churches deal with the changing world around them, the pastors often feel like they are loosing ground to the immoral culture pumping out its filth on the internet, in movies, on television and in magazines. Ministries that seem to be succeeding today have bought into the cultural media changes, and they show movie clips on Sunday morning to make a sermon point, use dramas and illustrated sermons to “preach” the message, give book reviews, and the music used to worship the Lord is very much like secular music in rhythm and glitz. The more the church accommodates itself to the demands of the culture, the worse it seems to get. Its like having children demanding dessert for breakfast. Once ministries begin to yield to worldly demands, it is hard pressed to know when and where to draw the line.
It is interesting to note that before Jesus made His glorious appearance in Bethlehem, 400 years earlier, Malachi, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit wrote… “ For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” (Malachi 3:6) While we daily face changes, take heart—-God does not change! He is a Rock of unchangeableness. Jesus is unchanging too. Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrew 13:8) So while we may not be able to count on people or pastors or music or churches to stay the same, our God is changeless!
His nature is unchanging.
God will always be a God of love, who is eternal, whose nature is truth, who is all powerful, ever present, and all knowing. His role and office is permanent. His love for mankind never wanes. We can find immense comfort in a God who remains the same while so much of His creation is in continual change and flux. There are no factors in the world around us that can ever change God. Science may make new discoveries. Governments may change. Wars may have a permanent affect on us and on our culture...but God still remains the same. New diseases may be discovered, new technologies may change the way we do things, but God is not moved! Our confidence can be placed in a changeless God who is not influenced by man’s skepticism, the atheist’s unbelief, or the dictators commands. When politicians change to try to win the popular vote, God is never striving to change in the hope of winning another vote. God never changes! He is not discouraged or depressed. He is never making plans to do things a new way. He sticks with the old. He is faithful to Himself. Because of His faithfulness, we can count on Him, no matter what we are going through. If you have a change of pastors… God remains the same. If your body gets sick… God is still the healer. If you feel alone...He is the One who sticks closer than a brother. If you are discouraged at the changes you see in your church, your family and your city… God has not changed!
He longs for your genuine worship!
While worship may have changed in your church—hymns giving way to choruses, and harmony giving way to rhythms—God still wants to hear you worship Him from your heart. You can do it on your own time. During your quiet time with God, worship Him from your heart. Sing Him a love song that expresses your praise to God. Don’t do it to show others how much you love God. Do it just to exalt God to His rightful place in your heart. He made you his temple. Invite Him into His house! Worship is the heart’s true expression of genuine love and exaltation.
He longs for your faithful obedience!
All God ever wanted from His creation was to be loved and obeyed. Yet man, from the Garden of Eden has struggled with this simple expectation. God warned Cain that ‘sin was crouching at his door’—-and sin is continually waiting for the unwary Christian who lets his guard down for just a moment, opens the door of disobedience just a crack, whose curiosity for sin drives him to unfaithfulness. Yet even in those moments, God remains the same, willing to forgive the repentant sinner and welcome him back into intimate fellowship once again.
He longs for your loving fellowship!
One of the things that has so dramatically changed our culture is it’s demands on our time. We are forced to schedule all our activities. We barely have time to go to church on Sunday mornings, let alone all the other programs at the church. We fill our calendars with movies, sports, conferences, school events, and are grateful when we find we have an evening at home to kick back and watch a little TV. We rarely take time to get to know our neighbors or play with our own family members. We rush here and there, trying to maintain a standard set by our culture. But God has another that does not change. He created us for His pleasure. He longs to have us choose to love Him… to take the time to place Him at the top of our priorities… to want to spend time with Him more than anything else… more than movies, more than television, more than the internet, more than music, public demands, and even more than your family. We can fill our lives with busy activities and fail to fulfill the divine plan God has to fellowship with us. We are here on earth for such a short time when we think of eternity. Yet we will be spending eternity with Him. Each of us will stand before this eternal changeless God in judgment. I can hear some folks now trying to excuse themselves…. “God, I meant to….” or “ I just did what everyone else was doing…” or “I was going to get around to it….” and then life was over. There is nothing more shaking than to go to a funeral and realize how brief life is. God gives us one life, one moment, one opportunity—-and then it is over.
When I stand before my Maker, I want to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter in…” It may mean I have to die to selfish desires. It may mean I have to say ‘no’ to society’s demands. It may mean I have to walk a lonely road where few are willing to go. It may mean I must choose that higher pathway as I set an example for others to follow behind me. It may mean I have to pray when others play. He is looking for us to love Him back the way he loves us—without any variation or changeableness. Theologians describe the changeless nature of God as being immutable, that is, having to variableness. James describes the immutable God as the Father of lights. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." (James 1:17) While all may be changing constantly around us, God remains the same. Because He never changes, His promises remain true throughout all time. He is forever the healer of our bodies, the healer of broken hearts, the One who sets the captive free, the One who forgives our sin, the One who is our King and High Priest, the One who is our friend and intercessor, our Provider, our Guide, our Peace, our Righteousness, our Lord, our Savior, our Rock, our Redeemer and our Judge. And when we stand before Him on that final day, we will give an accounting of what we have done in this life. He is the changeless Lord of Lords. If we fail to make Him the Lord of it all in our lives, then He is not really Lord at all. We just fool ourselves.
We often say we want to see revival. If that is really true, then we must recognize that God is not the one who needs to change….we do! If we take the stance that we cannot change, we become like the ones God spoke about in the Word who were described as ‘stiff-necked’ or with ‘hardened hearts’. The only hope for such is to get a ‘new heart.’ "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26) Is it time for a transplant? If we want to see changes come, let’s yield our lives into the hands of the changeless One, and let Him change us into His image and likeness. God does not change! But we must! Keep your eyes on the one changeless anchor in this changing world. He will never fail you for He remains the same from age to age, regardless of how much we change.
J. Johnson

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