Sunday, December 28, 2008

House For Sale?

You see the signs posted on every street….sometimes more than one… as our nation faces financial pressures like it has not known since the crash of 1929. Mortgage companies fold up their offices...Big box stores post their going out of business signs...and strip malls have vacancy signs in every window. It’s the ‘signs’ of the times!
Many of the youthful generation don’t have the base of knowledge that the seniors in our culture have, whose parents survived the breadlines of the ‘30’s, and some think it just a passing ‘phase’ that will soon pass and prosperous times will come again. Perhaps….and perhaps not… Only God knows the future. But while it is all a little scary for most of the population, not knowing if they will have a job tomorrow, or if they can continue living above their means as they have done for most of the last few decades...I am concerned for the spiritual state of the nation! Finances come and go. People eventually learn to deal with the way life is. For some it takes a little time as they learn to withdraw from opulence. For others, reality hits quick. But the spiritual state of what used to be called a ‘Christian’ nation is becoming more and more concerning.

The Church:
Let’s look first of all at the church… More and more, we can expect the state of the church here in America or Canada, to be like the state of the church in Europe. In France alone, only one fourth of one percent attend church regularly. In many European nations, churches stand dark and closed, or bought out by businesses or cults, or alternate world religions. The business of ‘faith’ has put the church up for sale. There is a new ‘dark ages’ looming on the spiritual horizon. Missionaries have been struggling to hold the line against the darkness. As costs skyrocket, faith takes a nosedive. When did it all begin? When skepticism, doubt, and atheism rose, and the Word of God lost it place of respect, not only in the educational circles, but in individual hearts.
The more tradition arises, so does apathy. With apathy, comes a lack of prayer and reading and study of the Word of God. It’s the little foxes that spoil the vine. As individuals allow new restrictive laws to hinder the freedom of worship and religion, soon, the general population accepts the status quo as ‘life’ and resists the effort it takes to change things. The church has posted it’s FOR SALE sign and when it’s gone….it’s gone! Recent news postings have informed the world that Christianity is not popular in some parts of the world. In Vietnam, a brand newly constructed church was destroyed on purpose by the local government officials and the Christian believers held back with cattle prods… In India, Christians are under severe attack for their faith. In Europe a recent survey reported: When the European Union asked citizens to rank values representing Europe, religion came last -- far behind "human rights," "democracy," "peace," "individual freedom" and other choices. Only 3% chose religion. A passive indifference has left Europe’s churches nearly empty. While atheism thrives, so does the Muslim faith and that frightens the few remaining Christians, especially as these non Christian groups become more dominant and assertive. In Germany, a wealthy furniture manufacturer is funding a "think tank of Enlightenment," a group of scientists and others committed to debunking religion...Around three-quarters of Europeans still describe themselves as Christians. But only a small minority go to church. In Western Europe, according to polls, fewer than 20% do. The pattern we see in Europe, we can expect here in America. Already, we have seen the massive decline in Sunday Schools. The role of the evangelist is already extinct in many denominations. Sunday night services have yielded to the priorities of our ‘entertainment generation’ who go to churches that please the media pallet. It appears that it’s an either/or taste...either the big mega church in entertainment mode, or the small home church movement. Traditional churches struggle to survive as never before. Tough finances are causing pastors to take secular jobs. Those once committed to a lifetime of serving God are taking a second look at their lives. Tithe paying members are holding their wallets tighter than ever. Those who attend the mega churches often don’t see the struggles of the smaller community church. Denominational officials are seeing a huge decline in pastors continuing in the profession they trained for, and instead learning new professions. Money has become the guideline for ministry. Certainly, there is a remnant out there of Godly men and women who are determined to weather the storm, by taking salary cuts, spending hours on their knees in prayer and raising a high spiritual standard for their church. But they are becoming more and more scarce. If you have such a pastor...take good care of him. Give him all the support you can, both spiritually and financially.
So what’s the problem? Where does one begin to point a finger? What do we begin to change now to stop the dyke from leaking? We live in an age of compromise. One of the dangerous attitudes the church has often adopted is the need for constant change….new ways of doing things to please the limited attention span of the media motivated songs, new choruses, new bands, new d├ęcor, new buildings, new business-like church organizational structures, new titles of church pastors...and worst of all, a passion exalting love and unity above purity of doctrine. In recent years, I have been increasingly alarmed at the pervasive views of fundamental and evangelical believers who seem to adopt whatever they see or hear on the radio or TV as if it were good Bible doctrine. Cults are on the rise. Those who do not know their Bibles are easily deceived. Pastors who fail to preach the clear doctrines of the Word, fail to feed their people the truth that will set them free and keep them that way. More and more of our younger generation are questioning the reality of ‘judgment’, the definition of ‘sin’, resulting in a ‘softness’ that is less offensive. There is weariness and impatience with those who do ’spiritual warfare’ because of it’s negative nature, opting for a ’positive’ faith that makes one ‘feel good.’ Yes, the church is for sale… but who is buying?

The Temple of God…You
We can point our fingers at the leadership of our churches, at denominations who slowly accepted such things as divorce, homosexuality and ‘prosperity’ rather than hold the old hard line of previous years. But in each of our lives, each one of us must give an accounting of our lives, what we have done for God, where we choose to stand and what we choose to believe. For many today, their lives of compromise have taken them down a path leading further and further from the Word of God. The Tyndales and the Wesleys and the Spurgeons of another generation would be shocked at the tolerance of most of today’s generation of ‘believers’ who no longer stand by the absolutes of the Bible.
Where do you stand believer? Is the Bible the absolute Word of God? Did He mean it when he called adultery and fornication “sin”? Have God’s standards changed? No, of course not. God does not change. We do! And we must change! We must have a restoration to Biblical values as never before! Faith in God and the freedoms our nation has preserved up to this point depends on it. It will take spiritual ‘guts’ to take a stand today like the spiritual giants of the past. Where is the church today who longs for a pastor with a heart after God rather than a heart after prestige, position and power. God give us people once again who will choose to serve God, no matter what their salary, no matter what their benefits, no matter how much flack they get from their peers. God longs for a people with clean hands and pure heart. Those that want to feast in His holy presence need that requirement. I learned recently that the Jewish people, before eating bread, will wash their hands in a special way, then say a special prayer of blessing before the meal of bread begins. Today, we need to be feasting on the ‘Bread of Life’, but we come to the table with dirty hands and soiled hearts. We ask God to bless us...rather than bless the bread. Then we reach out and grab all we can get. It must break the heart of God! Yes, too many have the For Sale signs up in their own front yards, selling out to the highest bidder… We listen to the voices around us, flattering our ‘new enlightenment’ which in reality is just a little more compromise. We let that flattery change us and adapt us to the culture around us. We become like chameleons, changing with our surroundings. But if we would stay in the Word, we would remain steadfast...marked by the absolutes that Jesus taught his disciples. If Jesus were to come back today to find a band of disciples He could use to change the world, would he find men and women of integrity? People of absolute values? People whose lives matched their walk?
We face a challenging year ahead of us. Some cities are already in a depression such as Detroit MI. where unemployment is 21% and the average house sells for $18,513. They face a bleak year. But even in the leanest of times, when we put our faith and trust in God, when we look to Him for our resources, when we believe He is able, He will come through. He is still the God of the supernatural. But we must be a people who will listen to and obey our supernatural God. We must want Him more than anything around us. We must be willing to sacrifice the things we think are important for what God thinks is important. We cannot take our houses and lands and bank accounts with us into eternity...but we can take people. And that’s what we are all called to do…”go and make disciples of all nations…”
If you have had your spiritual house up For Sale this past year, doubting the ability of God or the willingness of God to intervene on your behalf, it’s time to get back to the basics once again. Nothing is more important than time spent with His Word, in his presence, at His feet. Miracles come to those who put their trust in God. Take down your For Sale sign and replace it with a sign that tells the world you are a building dedicated to God, ready for miracles, open for the impossible, believing for the supernatural. This is God’s opportunity to bring glory! Let your sign read: “Sold Out...for God!” Take some time to give yourself to ministry. Remember His promise…. “Give and it shall be given…. pressed down, shaken together and running over….” give of yourself, and let God meet all your needs. A loving God responds to generous hearts! I’m not For Sale! How about you? J. Johnson

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Wedding Bells!

We want to wish all our friends and family around the world---a beautiful Christmas. In this picture you will see our family, celebrating the wedding of our Son Jarred, and his new wife and our new daughter-in-law, Jenny. They were married in Waupaca WI on November 15th, 2008. God bless you all!

Turn on the LIGHT!

We live in a dark world. You watch reports of the growing darkness every night on the evening news. We are no stranger to darkness. Yet in the midst of darkness, there shines a light that dispels darkness. In the beginning of creation, God created light. He called the light day and the darkness night. And though we still have both to remind us of the creative hand of God, we often forget about the power of the light. God first reminded the Children of Israel in their flight from Egypt that light has great power over the darkness…. They watched as God in the tenth plague, at the command of Moses, brought darkness down upon Egypt. It was not just a momentary storm or and it lasted for three days. It was a supernatural darkness so thick you could feel it. Then later after they fled from Pharaoh, God gave them “ by night...a pillar of fire to give them light” (Exodus 13:21) Just like the people of God who were coming out of the darkness of sin and bondage of Egypt, so today, we need the light of God, the pillar of fire in the darkness of the night around us to give us light.
That Light came after 4000 years of waiting for the promised One… the Light of the world. First it was just a flicker...a star shining in the eastern sky, noticed by some astronomers who recognized its significance. They were willing to travel great distances to find the One whose Light was about to shine in the darkness. The prophet Isaiah has spoken of this One, hundreds of years before it ever happened...The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Isaiah 60:19 and The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Isaiah 9:2 and I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. Isaiah 42:16
Then along came John the Baptist who declared to his followers about the ‘light’ that was coming..... 6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. (John 1:6-8)
The Purpose of Light
God made light to dispel the darkness. It would be impossible to see what we are doing down here on this earth without light. Without light, nothing would grow, and life would be so limited. Without the light in our physical lives, some often suffer from depression, and some from Season Affective Disorder or SAD. Without the Light in our spiritual lives, we walk in despair and darkness. We all have a choice about whether we walk in darkness or in light. In the natural, we can turn on a light switch and the darkness of a room leaves us. If we light just a single candle, the darkness is dispelled. Jesus told his followers, in John 8:12 "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life"
We must choose to follow the Light of the world. Those who think they can be their own light continue to walk in spiritual darkness. Jesus was not just the light for Israel, not just the light for Jews, not just the light for the time when He lived on the earth...but He is a Light of the whole world. His light shines wherever people give him an open door….wherever folks open their hearts to the Light of lights.
It amazes me that some folks love darkness when they can have light. I have been in homes where they have beautiful sunny windows covered by dark and depressing draperies. They never open the curtains and let the sun shine in. Some folks do that in their spiritual lives too. Fear paralyzes them and keeps them from trusting in the One who is Light, who brings light into the darkness and who overcomes the fear generated by the enemy.
There is coming a wonderful day for all who will trust the Savior and let Him shine the Light of Life into their lives. The world around us does not have much to offer when considering eternity. Folks often live with just a ‘hope’ that after they die, they will end up in a good place. We can do more than hope. We can know! We can anticipate a glorious future living in a city that needs no sun to light it… no moon at night...for there is no night there… and yet there is no darkness at all. There is One who will radiate the glory of God.
Revelation 21:23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. It’s soon Christmas again...and though the world seems dark and bleak, though the economy is suffering and folks wonder how they can celebrate the season with joy, there is One who gives us a reason to rejoice! Life was not easy for Joseph and Mary when Jesus came into their lives. They were living under a repressive Roman regime, taxed beyond measure, and without much hope for a reprieve. Yet in the midst of the political turmoil of that age, Jesus came...the Light of Life! And in a stable in Bethlehem, a light shone through the darkness that few understood. Few were even sensitive to what was happening around them. Are we any different today? Do we listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He speaks into our hearts? Are we obedient like the shepherds were? Do we follow His leading as the wise men did? Do we give to the Lord with their kind of generosity? Are we trusting as Mary and Joseph were? Do we recognize greatness in our midst as the prophetess Anna and the devout Simeon did when his parents brought Jesus to the temple after His birth? For many of us, we would have to be honest and say, “No”. Today we are a skeptical lot. We rarely trust others. We tend to believe the worst before we even know the truth. We hoard our resources instead of giving as Jesus did. We tend to do our own thing instead of walking in spiritual obedience. Thank God, Jesus is not like us!
Turn on the Light! We desperately need His Light! Yes, even today, His Light still shines. The darkness still goes. The path is made clear, the fear is dispelled! No darkness can remain in His presence! As you gather with your families around the story of His birth, make Him the focus of your day. It’s not the goodies on the table or under the tree that matter. It’s the Light that counts! Without Him, we would all be walking in darkness without hope, without a future…! Just as the Light shone brightly into the darkness of Bethlehem on that night so long ago, His light still shines brightly, not dimmed by the years, not overcome by darkness...shining to our churches, our homes, our businesses, our families and our own hearts—-if we let Him.
The Power of the Light
While the sun above us radiates both heat and light on our world, the Son also is an endless source of energy and power. From Him, all power is available to meet the needs of humans who will turn to Him for help. Divine energy flows from His limitless source and empowers believers to stand strong in the face of the enemy. Healing power flows down from the Son to enrich and bring vibrant health and strength to His children. The anointing flows through this power to meet the need. It is power to heal, to witness, to be bold, to pray, to worship, and to serve.
Does your world seem a little dark lately? Turn on the Light! Let the Son shine in! J. Johnson

From our house to yours, we wish each of you a blessed and Christ-filled Christmas season. Thank you for your faithfulness and prayers throughout the year. God Bless you all!