Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Separation of Church and State

II Kings 12.2
Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him. 

There is a lot of confusion today over the issue of the Separation of Church and State. It was not that our founding fathers wanted the new nation to be free from the influence of the church, on the contrary. They just did not want to have a State Religion established. That is what they left England over.

Look where we are: The church and public schools used to share the same building,  now the public schools do not even let the church in.

The founding fathers would be appalled at where we are in this relationship today. It is so far from their intention! 

A little history lesson is in order:
Children's and Young People's Civic Groups have had Christian Influence

in 1844 Twenty-two-year-old George Williams, a farmer-turned-department store worker, was troubled by what he saw. He joined 11 friends to organize the first Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), a refuge of Bible study and prayer for young men seeking escape from the hazards of life on the streets.

Boy Scout Oath (or Promise)
On my honor I will do my best 
To do my duty to God and my country 
and to obey the Scout Law; 
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, 
mentally awake, and morally straight.

Girl Scouts Promise:
 On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

Little League Promise: 
I trust in God 
I love my country 
And will respect its laws 
I will play fair 
And strive to win 
But win or lose 
I will always do my best.

Young Jehoash was blessed to have Jehoiada as his counselor. This priest was the husband of the woman who saved his life. Jehoiada gave the child king God's Word and taught him how to obey it. The secret of success in any venture for God is to honor His Word (Joshua 1.8)

As long as Jehoiada was alive, serving as his counselor, Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD. The influence of this priest resulted in a reign which the LORD was acknowledged and obeyed.

The influence of the church in America has been huge, beyond imagination. It  has effected the nation in many ways.

1. The Moral Influence The Church Has on The Nation.

Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people. 

The Ten Commandments:
Marital Law
Family Structure
Property Rights
Sanctity of Human Life
The work week (Sabbath)

By keeping these laws we have had a blessing on this nation like no other since Israel during David's reign. We have inherited the promise: Deuteronomy 6:2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 

The moral guidelines the United States has had have come from the Word of God and it being lived out in the lives of God's people. The salt and light has been extremely noticeable.  

2. The Spiritual Influence The Church Has on The Nation.

We are instructed: 1 Timothy 2:1-4 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 

In this present time of terror threats and national decline, the church ought to be first and foremost leading the way spiritually. Washington, DC and Albany do not have the true solutions for our problems. The answer is in the Word of God. Calling out to Him in repentance and looking to His Word for guidance.

We are in contact with heaven. Through our influence the nation ought to know there is a God in heaven.

I heard Jim Cymbala say, "We are trying to get prayer back in the schools when it is hardly in the church these days."

We should lead the way in prayer for our leaders. We should effect the government with our prayers.

3. The Ethical Influence The Church Has on the Government.

Why is the term "Coverup" so distasteful to Americans? What makes it so abhorrent? It is because we have been lied to, we have been deceived, the truth kept from us. What defines falsehood- the Bible!

What does the President place his hand upon when he is sworn in? The Bible
Oath of Office

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. So Help me God.

We expect our leaders to be held to a high standard. Even unbelievers expect that. Where did this standard come from?  Why are we different from China? From Middle Eastern nations? Who wrote the rule of law we live under?

The church has set the ethical standard based on God's Word for our nation. 
Labor Day itself is an expression of human rights.

We pray for America this Labor Day Weekend. How it has changed in just a generation! How it has slid into such a place spiritually in the past 50 years.

But the need of the hour is for us as followers of Christ to pray for our nation, the world and that His kingdom would come. 

The haunting question of the hour in this land of the free and the brave, in this land of liberty and justice for all is this, the Word of Jesus: Luke 18:7-8 And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” 


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Doing What is Right In The Eyes of The LORD

II Kings 10.30 The LORD said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in My eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” 

One of the most troubling verses in the Word of God is the last verse of Judges.  Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.  NKJV

People without the Word of God planted deeply in their lives, without fellowship with other believers end up doing what is right in their own eyes, as they see fit.
I need the Word of God given to me each day and with other believers. I need to pray by myself each day and with groups throughout the week. Pastor Johnson told me after our prayer group this week, "You know I get up early and pray each day, but there is something about coming together with a group of believing men and praying together that is very special."

The collective conscience of the church is needed. What gets to my heart may be different from someone else's.

Many who have a knowledge of the Truth but are not followers of the LORD are doing what is right in their own eyes.

Judges 21:25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. 

Jehu was commended at this point for "doing well in accomplishing what was right in the eyes of the LORD." He had obeyed the LORD in the mission God gave him to do.

1. God is Looking Down From Heaven.
2 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the LORD go throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 

What an encouragement to know that the LORD is looking down from heaven. From His position of being high and lifted up, exalted above all the earth, He looks down. He sees everything.

Not only that but He strengthens those whose heart is fully committed to Him.
He speaks through His Word.
He comes to our hearts and overflows us with His Spirit.
He leads us.
*encourage Romans 15:5-6 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
*make bold Acts 4:29 Now, LORD, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 
*prevail Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. 
*sustain Mark 13.13 All men will hate you because of Me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. 
Hebrews 4.13

2. It Is Possible to Please the LORD.

1 Thessalonians 4:1 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 

Hebrews 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 

We can have friendship with Jesus, be a friend of God!
James 2:23-24 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. 

It is possible only by maintaining a walk with Him. It is not complicated:
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6.8
Isaiah 35:8 And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. 

It is not complicated to understand but it is not easy to live.

I Peter 3.17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 
John 16.33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

3. We Will Be Rewarded One Day.

For serving
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25.21

For remaining Faithful 
Hebrews 10:35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 

For overcoming temptation
James 1:12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the LORD has promised to those who love Him. 

Watch out for these things:
Mark 4.19 
1-the worries of this life, 
2-the deceitfulness of wealth 
3-and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Watch out for these temptations!

We close with Paul the apostle's last words:
II Timothy 4.6-8
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the LORD, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I Believe in the Church

Matthew 16.13-20

This is the first time the word church was used in the Bible. 

It is interesting and noteworthy that Jesus spoke very little of church government. That would be the apostles work after the church began to form and Paul would lay out for us detailed structure in his letters he sent to the churches and pastors, all under the direction of the Holy Spirit. He was not concerned so much about the organization of the church in this statement.

Jesus did not speak of denominations although He knew there would come about.

He didn't speak of the various doctrinal distinctives which denominations would be formed around.

Nothing Jesus said had anything to so with buildings. The church for the first two hundred or so years met in homes. The place where the church is growing the most rapidly in the world still does!

He didn't even discuss how the church would be financed at this moment.

What was He talking about?

Jesus' main focus after He died and rose again was the need of the Baptism of the Spirit in His disciples and how that would energize them and enable and empower them to be His witnesses. It is in  bringing souls into the Kingdom of God that the church is built. 1 Peter 2:4-5 "As you come to Him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." The building of the church is the adding of living stones to the Body of Christ, the true Temple of God. All these other things we mentioned must cooperate with that.

The main thing He said in regard to the church was this statement we just read. He didn't go into details. He just said it would be done. He said He would do it. He said that the strongest opposition of hell would not be able to stop this building of His church. 

China and Cuba are examples of that today. I am old enough to remember the missionaries from China who had to come back to the US after Mao's Revolution and the rise of what we used to call Red China. There were about a million believers in China when all the missionaries were expelled. No round eyed people could stay. Some were accused of being spies and imprisoned before the finally got out as city after city fell to the Communists. Failure was the word. Sadness also described the feelings of the church during the 50's, 60's and 70's. Then President Nixon reached out to China. He opened up relations with them. In the 80's as tourists began to go back we found not only did the church survive under persecution it actually grew astronomically. I am an eyewitness that the church there is stronger than ever there and that Jesus' Promise is true!

It is amazing how God used Medical Missions in China (and many other places). Hudson Taylor, Billy Graham's father-in-law, Nelson Bell, and Sandy Mucci's father, Dr. Howard Hamlin, were all medical doctors. Dr. Hamlin was set to go when the doors closed due to the the takeover of the Communists. He went to Africa instead and was used in a great way by the LORD there. Jesus built His Church there by these men in the 19th and 20 centuries. Today He is doing through Dr. Kent Brantly.
This week he said,  "I am growing stronger every day, and I thank God for His mercy as I have wrestled with this terrible disease," Brantly wrote in a letter from his hospital room. "One thing I have learned is that following God often leads to unexpected places. My wife Amber and I, along with our two children, did not move to Liberia for the specific purpose of fighting Ebola. We went to Liberia because we believe God called us to serve Him at ELWA  (Eternal Love Winning Africa) Hospital."

So these words of Jesus were not just to handle the opposition although that is included. They were words of encouragement and truth which would come to the disciples again and again.

These words of Jesus to Peter and to His disciples and us are words of comfort, assurance and permanence.

1. It is a Comfort.

I know we get criticized and some of it is warranted by those who have abused the name of God and the church. But most of it is just ignorant. Charlatans are in the minority. Most folks are servants with a heart for God. The influence of the church in the world is beyond our imagination. There are visible influences and much more invisible ones. Salt and Light.
Billy Graham's response  at the Press Conference in the Coliseum. 

*If you were to put a syringe into the world today and pull from it the influence of Christian missions, the world would implode of its own moral weight. There's hardly a senior leader in all of Africa who wasn't taught to read by a missionary. I believe in the church."- Jay Kesler

*Last year millions of kids around the world were treated to with Christmas gifts because of millions of Christians who put together shoeboxes and sent them to Samaritan's Purse. They got things like soap, tooth brushes, tooth paste, pencils. There was great joy throughout the earth all because of the church.

*The generosity of the church is overwhelming. It understands how to store up treasures in heaven. People in the church give to people they will never meet on this earth... I remember the little Dominican lady calling out to that bus full of pastors in January of 2000 in La Romana, "Thank you for sending us missionaries who told us about Jesus Christ." But we were representing you, the church.

Every day hundreds of thousands of children  are fed by the church and have been for years.
I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all Your works and consider all Your mighty deeds. Psalm  77.11-12

The concern for the lost, those outside the ark of safety, drives the church to its knees and out into the marketplace to tell the Good News.

I believe in the church because I need the church. Anyone who thinks Christian faith and life is so simple and easy that it can be a do-it-yourself at home job is either incredibly naive or insufferably conceited or both.

As we fight the good fight of the faith (I Timothy 6.12), we are comforted by the words of Jesus about His Church. 
The good fight- battling against the devil, not with other believers
-non essentials

We are in a  good fight. It is not to push our agenda but to follow His. It is battle for souls, our own and those of others. It is battle for truth and eternity. It is fight against the evil one. The gates of hell will not prevail against it!

I will build My Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
2.It is a Blessed Assurance.

There have been times in my lifetime when I thought, "How are we going to make it?" I have fallen back on this promise of Jesus. It is unconditional. It is a strong statement. It is encompassing. It is true in China, Cuba, Russia and the turbulence in the Middle East today. It is true in South America and Africa. I am assured that Jesus is building His Church  even when I don't understand what is going on. Even in Europe there is a wave of the Holy Spirit. True that Islam is creating havoc but the church is on the march.

I believe in the church.
It provides a moral compass. God's Word is clear on all the issues that the culture in trying to muddle. 

It provides a loving community and if that is not happening that church needs to repent. It has lost its first love!
Ephesus: Revelation 2:4-5 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 

I am always encouraged when I see the loving one another. Deeds speak louder than words. Loving deeds done in Jesus' Name are a wonderful thing.
1-They glorify God. Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven. 
2-They help people emotionally, physically and spiritually.
3-They answer the critics and skeptics without a word.
4-They are eternal. They help build the church.

I believe in the church because...
3.It is Permanent. 

Governments have come and gone. There has been empires which have risen and fallen. The Church of Jesus continues.

I believe in the church because it is the only institution that deals with eternity.
Our work can seem disparaging at times. That is often because we are bombarded by temporal earthly pursuits. Values held by unbelievers are not eternal ones. Unfortunately so many believers in our country are looking for heaven on earth that they forget this is not heaven and that there is one to come.

Not only is the church the only institution that deals with eternity, it is the only institution on earth that is eternal.  Marriage even isn't. It is "until death parts us."

The service clubs and social organizations, as good as they are now, are not in the same league as the church. All of the things people can pour their time into are below, far below time given for the church.

Ephesians 3.10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,

Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to Him  who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. 
2 Thessalonians 2:1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters...

It is interesting to see the different groups which make up the church: the liturgical, the independents and the middle of the road ones like ours. Every nation on earth has the church in it. The gospel continues to got out to the whole world.

One day we will be gathered together in one place- that place Jesus is preparing for us.

I believe in the church because it gives dignity to mankind
C. S. Lewis helps us deal with this issue. He gives us a kind of fraction. He says, "Think of a man 100 years old. You draw a line and then you put below the line the combined dynasties of China 5,000 years. Man lives to be 100 years, society 5,000. Society must be 50 times more important than a man; therefore, men are expendable. You can use them up for society's purposes." This is basically the argument that must be used by every politician, every great mover of people. C. S. Lewis says, "Suppose it doesn't work this way. Suppose man doesn't live to be 100, but suppose he's eternal." It's a little hard to write eternity in a number. We'll have to take something more limited for our limited minds. We'll take a billion. A man lives a billion years; the combined dynasties of China 5,000 years. What do we conclude? Man is infinitely more important than society.

Finally the church has produced lasting, selfless contributions to humanity. Hospitals, orphanages, schools have been built in third world countries in the past. Clean water and crops are in places there was none because of the church.

The church is alive and well. 
It will withstand the gates of hell.
It is Christ's new creation
It will stand forever.