Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
2 Thess, the sequel to Paul’s first letter continues to praise the Thessalonians church for its testimony. While they are still being tested and persecuted by the culture and the Judaizers, their faith has remained steadfast. In Church history, when then Church experienced troubles [outside, not conflict within] it grew, the book of Acts is a wonderful example of how the Church comes together in unity and strength when adversity abound. The Corinthian Church is a prime example of what internal conflict looks like, but that’s another blog. Twice in this book Paul commends the Church for its faith and resolve to live godly before the world. This is most interesting, because they were not content to just make it through whatever ordeal was at hand, but their perseverance was causing the Gospel to be spread to other regions. This is significant because mankind is prone to focus on themselves and their problems rather than take the high road. Paul assures the Church that while they have been faithful; God will repay those who have dealt with them in a persecuted way. This leads to the 2nd chapter where Paul discusses the Return of Christ. This is a hot topic in our American Churches today. Everyone is talking about how bad it is everywhere; yet the facts are the Gospel is spreading into regions of the Lost world it has never been able to do before. For example; the ISIS and the Syrian conflict right now is doing great testimony for the Gospel; most people don’t look at it that way – but the fact that in Muslim countries, believers are willing to die for their faith rather than recant to Muslim speaks volumes to those that are looking for HOPE in this chaotic, apostatized world. We Americans should take notice of what REAL persecution looks like, instead of complaining about our inconveniences of comfort!
In America right now from pulpits and book publishers there is a myriad of sermons and books about the impending disaster of the End of the World. I believe American Churches are so focused about the possible end times and return of Jesus, that they have forgotten that millions are still waiting to hear that Jesus came the first time. This became a hot topic with the Thessalonians church, for some had said that the Return had happened already. There was a group that were so enamored with the Return, they quit their jobs and were waiting for the End to happen. I have read enough prophecy books and scripture to understand that, if “we” the Church are talking about the Return of Jesus and the world is talking about it as well; then it’s not even close. Matt 24 tells us that everything will be “normal” when Jesus comes. People missed Jesus the first time because of ignorance; people will miss Him the second time because of apathy and apostasy. while the Church is in a state of apathy and apostasy [In America] that is not necessarily true everywhere. Thousands are coming to Christ around the world! Not because of the All-gifted American churches; but because of God’s work in the world. [See Nik Ripken’s book Insanity of Obedience] If we are so focused on Christ’s return, we miss the work of being salt and light in the world. Just because the American Church is in apostasy, doesn’t mean God is done!
Paul outlines some specifics with the Return of Jesus; while I believe He, Jesus can come at anytime; I also find the long-suffering and compassion of God greater than we think. The task of proclaiming the Gospel and making disciples is greater today than in times past – yes I believe that things are pretty messed up; really out of control. But even though all looks so bleak – we must focus on the “journey of faith” instead of trying to hurry and escape from all the turmoil. Countless times scripture tells the believer that his life will be difficult and he will be persecuted, even killed for the Faith in Jesus. SO why are we surprised that today we are in difficult times? The Gospel is being preached, thousands are responding in faith at the risk of losing their lives – John 11:25-26; even though we die – we will live! The Resurrection is true! Besides Jim Elliot said “He is no fool who loses what he cannot keep, to gain that which he can never lose! The End of the World will come; if that is the near future, what manner of disciples should we then be? Oh, that He [Jesus] would find us faithful when He comes!
Some things never change
Ecclesiastes 3:15 “That which is has been already and that which will be has already been for God seeks that which has passed by.” I just finished the Winter bible study in Jeremiah. It is a sad book, and quite understandable why Jeremiah is called the “Weeping prophet.” Oh, how far Israel and Judah had fallen from the LORD! Jeremiah is tasked with bringing the warning of impending judgment from God on the city of Zion and Jerusalem. The people of Judah and Benjamin are all that remain after the Assyrians took Samaria and the Northern Kingdom and disbursed them to the four winds of the known world. The kings of Judah refused to acknowledge that God was behind the discipline and judgment. The Northern kingdom fell along with Samaria in 722 BC. God uses the gentile kings to bring judgment on HIS PEOPLE. Something we must remember that the prophets preached and prophesied against the “Church of the Old Testament.” I wonder why is it that God can get Gentile nations to do His will, but cannot get HIS own people to be faithful? I cannot imagine what it would be like to hear God say – Do not pray for these people, I will not hear or answer your prayers.
I’ll be doing a conference for the next two weekends, one in Hawaii and the other in Fort Worth. Both conferences have to do with renewal and revival of the Church. Looking at the Church today, especially in America, must cause God to lament. It seems that the “local church” is only good for one complete generation – the founding people. Sometimes it may extend to a second or third generation. Church planting was and I guess still is in some areas of United States the tactic to curb the dying churches. However, that alone cannot be expected to remedy the growing number of closed churches across all denominations. We could blame the people in the church, the pastor, the community or even the culture for apathy and decline in the church. But the real reason is not new – the Church is a spiritual entity and should be handled and treated like the spiritual body it is supposed to be.
Now I realize that not all churches are a product of God in their formation. Many churches have been formed out of spite for other people. Sometimes that is good and necessary, but not always. My work has been with pastoring and church revitalization situations. Trust me it wasn’t my idea! It is difficult and demoralizing at times to try and convince the Church that they are not in tune with God. Change has to happen in the church – but the change I’m talking about is the change in the Church people! Many times the changes that are tried consist of changes music, pews to chairs, lights on stage and dark in the audience, café and atriums and dress down clothing. However, what I see in this attempt is to draw the world into the church – to get attenders that are comfortable – Oh, I forgot you can carry you Big Gulp into the service.
How did we get this so far way from the awe and reverence of God? No way would a high priest go into the Holy of Holies with some of the attire we wear into the sanctuary. My thought – the World has dictated to the CHURCH what is acceptable and what is now in our church services. Sometimes I feel like I’ve just gone to a youth rally instead of Church! We as the Church body of Christ should take out lead from Christ Jesus – Be Holy as I am Holy! Holiness in character, action, behavior and thought. How we do something can be just as important as why we do something.
Now, I have rambled – my thought for today is the origin of why America is in the condition it is in – Judges 2:11-15 explains what happened then, and what is happening now to us. The people of God – turned from God and served Baals [other gods]; the forsook the LORD [rejected HIM] they provoked the LORD to anger and the anger of the LORD burned against them so that HE was not with them, but actually against them – so that they were severely distressed. Israel and American churches [believers] have left God and served humanism. I mentioned the problems we have today in the CHURCH is a spiritual problem. REPENT and RETURN was Jeremiah’s message – they refused and God let Nebuchadnezzar to take them captivity. What will America do? Refuse until it is too late? Or is it already to late for the Winds of Revival to blow?
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Tagged as AMerican Churches, holliness, Israel and Baal, repent and return, revival, spiritual body