I've been musing this last week as I've been overcoming the flu bug. I've been musing over the state of the Church in America. I've thought about the times of great growth in the Church's history and how the movement of Christianity has impacted our world. Look how the Church in China, even after many years of isolation and persecution, grew and developed believers willing to live and die for their faith in Jesus Christ. The underground Church did and continues to preach the Good News without the use of Bibles, study guides and video series to enlighten them. They've shared the love of Father God with others under tremendous pressures and consequences and the Church keeps growing. It is vital and alive. It doesn't get to meet two or three times a week to "fellowship" together and yet, it keeps growing. It's been tried in the fire and it keeps growing! We, the Church in America, on the other hand, have all the above mentioned things plus numerous others and we are shrinking and loosing our nation to unrighteousness. We're doing it all, the settings to entice, the music to satisfy and the programs that hit all the "right" elements and we keep shrinking! What has happened to the Church in America? Simply put, I believe we have strayed far away from God's vision of His Church (even with all our Bibles and all the versions) and have been seduced into believing the world's way is better. We look, talk and act like the world all the while professing to love one another as we judge and gossip about our fellow Church followers. That last statement was what I believe the Church has largely become - Church followers instead of Christ followers. We care more about what others think of our outward spiritual face than what Father God thinks of our inner spiritual heart. We've got to start, individually and collectively, getting back to God's directives for His Church and stop trying to do it our way. Most of us are not joined to a part of the Body that is so filled with love for one another in the Church that unbelievers are drawn to Christ. We don't even take good care of our own weak and broken and yet we expect others to see us as we want to be seen. Unfortunately, most unbelievers are more discerning than we expect and end up rejecting what we have to offer. How sad an indictment against us. Take a few moments in your day and muse on the words of A.W. Tozer, one of my favorite authors, from his book, RENEWED DAY BY DAY.
"If true religion consisted in outward practices, then it could be destroyed by laws forbidding those practices. But if the true worshiper is one who worships God in spirit and in truth, how can laws or jails or abuses or deprivations prevent the spiritual man from worshiping? Let a man set his heart only on doing the will of God and he is instantly free! No one can hinder him. It is only when we introduce our own will into our relation to God that we get into trouble. When we weave into the pattern of our lives threads of our own desires we instantly become subject to hindrances from the outside. The essence of spiritual worship is to love supremely, to trust confidently, to pray without ceasing and to seek to be Christlike and holy, doing all the good we can for Christ's sake."
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Eight years ago tonight, I sat with dear friends who had just learned of the death of their oldest child in a car accident. Their daughter was a beautiful, godly young woman with two teenage daughters and a husband with whom she served in ministry. A young woman at the full-bloom of her womanhood - gone. She was their only daughter and had helped them go on after the death of their oldest son years before in a car accident his senior year of high school. Their only remaining child, a son, had driven over five hours in his own grief to tell his parents of his sister's death. As my husband and I drove to their house that evening I kept asking God, "Why? Why?" My friend asked the same of me as I held her and we wept together. I had no answers and certainly wasn't going to make statements that tried to comfort or assume I knew of a higher plan. So, we just sat on her couch hugging and crying and all I could say over and over was how sorry I was. I didn't know if they could go on, or if they would even want to. It was a mother and father's worst nightmare, times two! If you're a parent you know what I mean. If you're not, you'll understand when you are. Well, my friends have gone on. They didn't stop trusting Father God or His love for them and they didn't stop reaching out to others in need. They are burning brighter for Him today with a sweetness of spirit that has been constant through their deep suffering. I see my two friends as "shining stars" in the Kingdom! I believe the fire they have endured has changed them into spectacular creations that shine His love - His glory is being revealed in them as promised in 1 Peter 4:12-13! What an awesome privilege to call them friends. They are the kind of stars I want as my role models, not Hollywood's version. I bet they are already listed in God's Hall of Fame! They are just ordinary people who have learned they can trust their Extraordinary God no matter what! I love you, friends!