Personal Thoughts

Is the Supreme Court ruling an answer to prayer?

White-house-lit-up-1

Several years ago a movie was made named Evan Almighty.  It was actually a pretty decent movie with a powerful message of obedience to God regardless of how the world reacts.  There is one exchange in this movie in particular that I think speaks fairly strongly to our current cultural environment.  In the exchange we find the wife of our modern day Noah, speaking to God (though she thinks he is simply a waiter) about how she should handle the situation.  His response to the situation;

Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?

In one of the rare cases where Hollywood gets something right a truth is revealed that we all know deep down to be true.  God rarely zaps our prayers into existence, but uses the environment around us to grow and shape us.  When we pray, God directs, but it is rarely as we expect it to be.

Over the course of the past decade I have prayed alongside thousands of brothers and sisters in Christ across this nation for revival.  It has become clear to all that the American church is in deep need of a fresh fire that can only be brought about by a movement of God.

Attendance is down, professions of faith are down, baptisms are down, and many churches are closing their doors for good.  Of those who remain open there are large numbers of churches who clearly have lost their first love.  I have even begun to call some ecclesiastical gatherings, because the resemblance to what the church of Christ should look like is almost nonexistent.  To say the American church appears to be in trouble could be looked on by many as a vast understatement.

Many of us have been grieved, and we have cried out to God to move in the hearts of the church.

This past week many in religious circles cried out in fresh anguish following the ruling from the Supreme Court in regards to same-sex marriage.  With the legalization of same-sex marriages now in all 50 states many see the very real possibility that the attack on the church in America will become much greater, and life as Christians may no longer be as easy as it once was.

Churches are going to have a harder time keeping their building doors open.  Following Christ in America is going to begin to cost a great deal more than it once did.  It appears life as a Christian is about to get harder in the United States.

Perhaps this, though, is an answer to a prayer that we have had for a long time.  Perhaps instead of seeing this as another nail in the coffin of the church we should instead see that God is working around us for revival in the church.

Sounds crazy?

Think back to our Hollywood God with the great words of wisdom.  How does God answer prayer, by zapping things into existence, or by opening up situations where the answer can be developed?

Tertullian once said that ‘The blood of the martyr is the seed of the church’.  While looking into the environment he lived in he realized that the church is never healthier than it is when it is being squeezed by the culture in which it lives in.  As we look across the global landscape of Christianity today we see the truth in that statement.  In the places on Earth where persecution is the greatest, and the cost to be a disciple of Christ is the highest, the church is the healthiest.  In fact, in some of the places where following Christ could cost you your life the church is thriving.

In America, where the church has been looked upon with favor for hundreds of years, the situation is much different.  Where Christianity comes with no cost, and favor has even been granted for those who hold to our world views the church appears to be dying.

In America all 4 soils exist as described in Matthew 13, but we have few sources of heat to scorch and few thorns to choke out.  The church appears to have experienced great growth over the years, but how much of it was from the good soil, yielding crops?

Many times our churches have been filled with unfruitful, bad soil, “Christians”.

Imagine a farm where most of the field yields no crop.  That is our current environment, and the reason for our years of prayer for revival.

Perhaps God is answering our prayer for revival.

Perhaps God is allowing the church to enter into a season where the trappings of acceptance will no longer hinder the movement of the Gospel message.  Perhaps God is allowing the church of America to begin to experience for the first time what it means to count the costs.

Many have argued over the years that our church rolls include a large number of unregenerate souls.  The events over the past couple of years, and the events that most of us can see coming in the future will work to change that.  No longer will the church be a place of social gathering, or an entertainment on Sunday morning.  The church will be gathering together in the midst of the storm crying out in worship to the only One that can take them safely to the other side.

The church will be filled with people who have counted the costs and have determined that Christ is worth losing everything for.

It will be filled with people on mission for God knowing that everything they do is for His glory, because the rewards will be fewer on this side.

Imagine a church like that.

As I see those around me weep because of the state of the land in which we live in, I have to admit that I am quietly celebrating.  I am quietly counting it a joy to live in the time in which I live.

God is going to do great things in this land.    I believe with every fiber of my being that the revival that we have so desperately been praying for is about ready to begin.  I believe that we will have the privilege to see acts of God in this land unlike anything that we would have ever have been able to see just 100 years ago.

It may look much different than anything we thought we were praying for, though.  The American church may no longer look as it does today, and the rolls may reflect the pilgrimage away from the church of many who are finally forced to count the cost of following Christ, but the church will be heathier for it.

Revival may not mean greater numbers, but a greater depth from those who are in fellowship.  It may not mean more churches, but more effective churches.  It may not mean bigger budgets, but more souls coming to Christ.

I am reminded of the old adage, be careful what you pray for.  God just might answer.

So what are we to do?  The same thing the church has always done in times of trouble, lean on God for everything we have, buckle down, and get to work reaching the World with the Gospel message.

Advertisements

Awesome

The term “awesome” gets thrown around often in my life.  I have been known to tell people of an awesome new show I am watching, or brag about something that my kid has done that was just awesome, or in regards to a spectacular play made in the sporting arena.  I have even eaten some awesome food.  Over the years I have gotten in the habit of using the word so often, and in reference to so many things, that it has become essentially meaningless.

About a week ago my son let me know that the word awesome was not allowed in one of the classes of the school he attends.  I have to admit, I was shocked to find this out.  Why would such a word be banned in class?  I can understand curse words.  I can understand words that could have racist meanings or origins.  I can even understand words with a toilet humor attached to them.  The word “awesome”, though, seems to be a strange word to ban.

In an attempt to wrap my brain around why such a word would be on a banned list I asked my son if he had been told why the word shouldn’t be used, and he said something that I have to admit rocked me.

‘Dad, we should only stand in awe of God and who He is.  Awesome is a word that should be reserved for God.’

I have to admit that I had never thought of things in this way, but the more I think about it, the more I understand it to be true.  God is awesome.

In Scripture we find the word awesome used 33 times in the Old Testament, and One time in the New Testament.  Each usage is pointing to God in some way or another. I have no desire to seem legalistic, or to assign sin to the use of this word to anything other than God, but talking to my son has opened my eyes to how I should be using this word.  As an act of worship, I will only use this word in response to God.  There is nothing on Earth that compares to Him.

God alone is awesome

Be Careful Little Eyes

Unless you live under a rock, you know that there is a movie coming out this weekend that is a pretty big deal.

It is a movie which sensationalizes sex outside of marriage.

This movie (and the book it is based on) has been given the term “Mommy Porn” and it is a title that seems to fit.  It is not the first movie of its kind, nor will it be the last.  the difference in this movie is the outpouring of support and the massive audiences that are already hyperventilating at the chance to watch it.  There is no question that this movie will be a massive box office success, and will rake in millions of dollars.

Although this movie will push nearly every boundary possible in terms of popular, mass marketed, theater films, it is simply a natural outflowing of where the movie industry has been heading for years.  Sadly, this will be only a single stop in the long road which will lead to the removal of all big screen taboos, and I expect a world in a few short years where anything goes on the big screen.

That this movie is targeted to woman (along with an upcoming sequel to a movie about a male stripper) is a huge sign that things are going to take a drastic turn quickly in terms of what is allowed in film.  Until recently, in terms of on screen sex, woman have been the voice of reason and restraint.  A world dominated by unsaved men would have had on screen porn years ago, but the female sensitivity in this area has restrained that.  In a world where woman and men are both beginning to share the same unrestrained sexual dysfunction, the voice of reason no longer exists.  I, for one, am not excited to see where this train takes us…

As the temptation to see this upcoming movie (or any movie of its kind) increases, please remember the simple advice of a popular children’s Sunday School song.  Although this song* is written for small children, the advice is no less valid for adults.  Don’t allow it’s simplicity to cause you to miss its message.

Note:  I have no idea who Cedarmont is, or what their theological stance is on any position, if they have one.  This is simply a link to a song sung by children.

Social Media: The Anti-Gospel?

Social_Media_Banner_update-01

Social media is an amazing gift, and I for one take full advantage of it.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I am one that can be found commenting on Facebook far more than the average person.  I enjoy the conversations, and the chance to connect with people I would not normally connect with.  Instead of making my friendships shallower, as some claim, Facebook has expanded my friendships and added a depth that may not have already existed.  I have also made friends with people from my church and neighborhood that I might not have made before, and even have friends around the country and world with people I have never met face to face.  These are people who I love, and would warmly welcome into my home if they ever passed through Kansas City.

There is one portion of social media, though, that greatly greaves my heart.  Sadly, it is also something that I see every single day.  Something that I think does a disservice to the Gospel message, and the Kingdom of God

Each day, as I log onto my account, I see multiple examples of harsh, mean spirited posts directed at others.  Most of the time these are directed at groupings of non-believers, or other Christians which hold views much different than the original poster.  Many times these posts could be filed in the realm of political ideology, but I have seen a vast array of subjects being used in this way, from parenting, to social issues, to theological issues.

As I read these posts, I do not necessarily disagree with the poster.  Many times in fact, the people I see on my friends list I agree with 100%, and if we met over lunch we would discuss the topic in detail, while giving high fives and performing chest bumps.  I love my brothers and sisters in Christ, and am excited to see them passionate about important things.  Many times, I also believe that theologically they are on the right side of the understanding.

The portion that bothers me, though, is that Facebook is not having coffee with friends.  Facebook is not sharing information during a small group.  Facebook is open, and public, and the entire world can see.

When I see a post praying for God to come quickly and purge the Liberal scum from the earth, I know that not only conservatives are reading this.

When I read that evil queers are taking over the world, there is a good chance that homosexuals are reading it.

When I see a post that declares that anyone who agrees with Obama is an idiot, I think of what the person who voted for Obama is thinking.

These types of posts fill my news feed on a daily bases, and many times come from sweet, loving, Godly people.  People I know would never walk up to a gay couple and tell them that they hope they are purged and sent to Hell soon.  People who are great friends with members of a different political party.

These posts, and the attitude that is behind them, is doing more than just creating Facebook arguments.  It is having the opposite impact on the world, than the impact we are supposed to have.  It is harming the churches Gospel witness and building barriers in people’s lives, between them and the Gospel.

A False Gospel

This barrier is first being placed by the fact that to all observable evidence to the non-believer, the Gospel we preach is not a Gospel of love and grace, but instead we are preaching a gospel against sin.  These posts work as a vehicle to try to pile shame upon those who we feel are not living correctly.  Many times non-Christians who we feel are not living under the direction of the Holy Spirit and Biblical teaching.  Although we would never say this, we are working to Christianize non-believers, all while ignoring their eternal soul.  When the conversation does blow-up and anger is already invading the conversation we might lay out a Gospel backhand for good measure.  Maybe.

Like Pharisees of old, we are trying to make sure that the outside of others is glistening while, while the inside still contains the bones of a dead man.

A Further Offense

The second barrier that is placed by these types of posts, is that we are building up an extra offense to the Gospel message before it is ever proclaimed.  Mean spirited, attacking posts, simply put anger in the hearts of the unbeliever towards the Gospel message.  I have run across many, many homosexuals through my life who can quote Deuteronomy 21:18-21, or 22:13-21 all while never having heard the Gospel.

Buy attacking, with great maliciousness their particular sin, we have only created a group who is further removed from the Gospel because they are creating a defense for their sin, before ever hearing what the solution to sin is.  They see Christians as people who are in attack mode, with their eyes square on their target.

We have helped them close their eyes and hearts to the Gospel, before we ever got around to sharing it (assuming that we ever make it that far).  We have also decreased the odds of anyone else being able to share with them as well.

Seasoned Grace

We know from 1 Peter 3:15 that we as Christians must “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you”, but for most non-believers, they see no hope.  In fact, the only difference they see between us and them, is a set of rules and regulations.

While being the social media, Biblical instruction manuals to the world we are in fact, inadvertently, preaching a false Gospel.  One of works.

We need to move away from mean-spirited comments and posts, and to be quite honest, maybe take a break from some of the controversial posts that cause fighting on the pages of social media.  When we do feel the need (or are lead) to post on a volatile subject such as abortion, or homosexuality, or politics we need to do so from a position of calm, not allowing our emotions to get involved.  We need to temper our comments with love, and grace, just as we would talk to someone from that camp face to face.

We need to let our speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, not a huge heaping spoonful of salt with a dash of grace.

Social media is an amazing gift, and one that we ought to enjoy.  The connections that can be made through it, and the contacts that can be kept, is on a level never seen before in history.  As a tool, if used well, we can spread the love of Christ and His Gospel in a way previous generations could only dream about.

Let us stop using this tool to drive people away from the cross.  Let us not use it to create an image of the church, and Gospel message that is contrary to the truth.  Let us not use it to attack sinners of a different flavor from the safety of our computers.

Instead, let us redeem this tool for the Glory of God and His purposes.

J. W. Willard

The Penny Bible

I attend classes at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City.  As a given the Bible is a standard text in all classes, and yet somehow this past week arrived on campus minus my copy.  I was going to study the Word of God, without bringing the Word of God with me.  As you can probably guess, that wouldn’t work so well.

It just so happens that our campus has a LifeWay store in the same building my class is in, so I grabbed some change out of the cup holder in my van and ran in to buy myself a copy.  After quickly searching through the 800 available copies I grabbed the cheapest one I could find and checked out.  My total:  $2.15.  I bought the Word of God, for the change in my car.

The cheapness isn’t what caught my attention though.

I realized, I forgot my Bible and I just ran in and grabbed a copy like no big deal.  For a few pennies I bought another copy without evening batting an eye.  On top of that, I will probably give it to my kids to use, not even thinking too much if they misplace it, or tear it up.

How blessed are we in America to be able to do this.  I own roughly 50 copies of the Bible.  I have almost every single modern English translation.  I have the Bible in Dutch, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin.  I have study bibles, and regular Bibles.  I have decorative Bibles and I have cheap ‘throw away’ Bibles.  Even with all of that I just ran in and grabbed another.

I have this, while people all over the world have no ability to even get a single copy.  Because of persecution Bibles are taken from people.  2,000 years after the Cross entire groups live without a translation in their language.  People die in order to attempt to get a single Bible, or even a small section of one.

This excess, while others have none made me realize how blessed I am to be an American.  With as much as there is wrong with this country, we are still so blessed to be able to have access to Scripture without fear.  We are blessed to be able to share the Gospel without suffering.

The problem with this is, I don’t like I should.  Many have died so I can read my Bible openly, and yet many times it sits unread.  Men and women have lost their life so that I might have the freedom to share the Gospel, and yet I am afraid to knock on the door across the street.

I realized this week, while shelling out the $2.15 for my Bible, that I have an obligation to those who have died for my freedoms, to use them.  I must be a good steward of what they have gained for me.

People all across this world would give anything to have a Bible, I can’t help them get one in many cases, but I can read mine.  I can share my faith.  It is my obligation.  Why squander what was given to me at such great cost?  I will read my Bible.  I will share the Gospel.  Will you join me?

J.W. Willard