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 décor, 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

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