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Archive for July, 2011

Do you want the facts about church life? Well, George Barna will give them to you. I am a stats guy and I like Barna.org. I read a lot of data from Barna about the Church and “church-life” in America. I’m going to share Barna’s information and then make a comment or two along the way (in red). Again, all of this information can be found at barna.org. Please note these are results from a 20-year study from 1991 to 2011. The findings are astounding and shows why the Church is in trouble.

Religious Behavior
An examination of six religious behaviors tracked over the past 20 years among American adults shows that five of the six experienced statistically significant changes during that time frame.

  • Bible reading undertaken during the course of a typical week, other than passages read while attending church events, has declined by five percentage points. Currently an estimated 40% of adults read the Bible during a typical week. (4 out of 10 Americans are reading the Bible weekly. Seems like a high number to me. I wonder if 4 out of 10 church members read the Bible each week.)
  • Church volunteerism has dropped by eight percentage points since 1991. Presently, slightly less than one out of every five adults (19%) donates some of their time in a typical week to serving at a church. (Wow! Amazing statistic. Truly I believe this percentage is pretty accurate in most churches. About 20% of the people do the work. In fact in some churches I’d venture to say that about 10% of the people do the work of sharing the Gospel and working in some capacity in the church.)
  • Adult Sunday school attendance has also diminished by eight percentage points over the past two decades. On any given Sunday, about 15% of adults can be expected to show up in a Sunday school class. (We no longer have an appetite for the Word of God. You’ll see more of this in a moment.)
  • The most carefully watched church-related statistic is adult attendance. Since 1991, attendance has receded by nine percentage points, dropping from 49% in 1991 to 40% in 2011. (Ok, add another 20 years with the same decline and we’ll be at around 33%. Add another 40 years and we’ll be at about 25%. Now imagine 100 years from now. Statisticians tell us by 2145 at the rate we are going Christianity will be almost extinct in America.)
  • The most prolific change in religious behavior among those measured has been the increase in the percentage of adults categorized as unchurched. The Barna Group definition includes all adults who have not attended any religious events at a church, other than special ceremonies such as a wedding or funeral, during the prior six month period. In 1991, just one-quarter of adults (24%) were unchurched. That figure has ballooned by more than 50%, to 37% today. (This goes right along with the statistic above.)

The only behavior that did not experience any real change was the percentage of adults who attend a church of 600 or more people.

Religious Beliefs
The Barna summary included eight beliefs that have been tracked since 1991. Among those just three experienced statistically significant change.

  • The percentage of adults who can be classified as born again Christians, based on their belief that they will experience eternal salvation based on their commitment to Jesus Christ, personal confession of sins, and acceptance of Christ as their savior, has risen by five percentage points. In 1991, the national estimate was 35% of adults met those criteria. Currently, 40% of adults can be classified as born again. (Really? Then why is church attendance down? Could it be that people “profess” Christ, but don’t “possess” Him?)
  • When asked to choose one of several descriptions of God, the proportion who believe that God is “the all-knowing, all-powerful and perfect Creator of the universe who still rules the world today” currently stands at two-thirds of the public (67%). That represents a seven point drop from the 1991 level. (Even the devil and his demons believe in God.)
  • The biggest shift has been in people’s perceptions of the Bible. In 1991, 46% of adults strongly affirmed that “the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches.” That has slumped to just 38% who offer the same affirmation today. (This is the “big one” in my book. The Word of God is the standard by which we base our lives as believers in Christ. The Bible is being blasted today as a book of myths and old wife’s tales. Our universities are telling the students that it can’t be trusted and even in many seminaries, professors are teaching that the Bible is not totally accurate. We can only anticipate this trend to continue and therefore we will see a greater distrust in the Word of God as all-sufficient.)

Among the religious beliefs that have remained relatively constant over the past 20 years were the percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christian (84%); (Are you serious! 84% of Americans describe themselves as Christians!! Wow! Can you see how deceptive Satan is? If 84% of Americans were truly Christians, would our nation be in the condition it is?)those who say their religious faith is very important in their life today (56%); those who have made a “personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in my life today” (65%); the proportion who agree that Satan is not a living entity but merely a symbol of evil (56%); those who strongly believe that they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others who believe differently (25%). (Again, oh how deceptive he is!!)

Friends, we are in trouble as a nation because we have left God, the Church and stopped believing in the Bible as God’s Word. Please pray for revival and a spiritual awakening in this nation. It’s the only thing that will change America. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

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The Politics of Debt

Debt stalement continues after Obama, Boehner clash

I’ve been amazed at all the bantering back and forth about our national debt over the last several weeks. The posturing by our elected officials is absolutely amazing to me. And may I be the first to say that I have zero confidence in either political party or even independents for that matter. Truly, if you ask me (and I know you aren’t, but since you are reading…I’ll give you my opinion :)), our political system is broken beyond repair. We have a two-party system that gets people elected based on money. Plain and simple…the person who is able to raise the most money will stand the greatest chance of getting elected.

The problem with this system is that the politician is then “beholding” to those that got him/her elected. Not only that, the politician typically desires to make their office a “career” and so they seek to make decisions that will get them re-elected. This is a terrible system. Why? Because the politicians make decisions based on lobbyists desires

and for their own political careers. The solution. Serve one term only in whatever capacity you are elected, whether it be the House, Senate or President. That way you NEVER have to work for re-election and you can govern without worrying about the prospects of trying to get re-elected. Will this stop the corruption and the “money” abuses? No, probably not. However, I believe one-term politicians would have more guts and intestinal fortitude to potentially do the right thing.

Why am I on this “soap box” today? Because here we stand a week away from defaulting on our obligations. So, what is our option? The media says the only option is to raise the debt ceiling. Now I understand the ramifications to the markets and to the world financial market in general if we default, but let’s be honest here. What is the truth of the matter? AMERICA IS FLAT BROKE! Do you understand that? We are broke my dear people. We have a debt that is so massive that we will NEVER pay it off. EVER! I’m using capital letters in abundance because we need to get our head’s out of the sand and understand the dilemma at hand.

I think of it like this. Let’s say that I have a credit card with a bank (which I do). I have a credit card through the North Carolina State Employees Credit Union. The limit on my card is $1000. Let’s say that I run up the balance on the card to the limit…$1000. Now let’s say I go to the SECU branch manager and ask them to raise my credit limit. Why? Because I’ve run out of money and in order to pay my bills I need the SECU to give me more money. They need to raise my credit limit. Why? Because if they don’t, I’m going to default on my bills. Now let’s be very clear. The SECU is NOT going to raise my limit. They are going to tell me, “You did not manage your spending and you have maxed out your card and you’ll not get another penny.” Wouldn’t your bank or lending institution tell you the same? Sure they would. It’s common sense for the average man. But not with our government. We have the audacity to say that if we don’t raise the debt limit that we will have greater problems than if we don’t raise it.

When are we going to wake up and smell the coffee? We can not sustain this way of living as a nation. It is absolutely ludicrous to think that we can. Can you imagine what George Washington, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson would say if they could see us now?

I watched a video yesterday that was very eye-opening. You’ve got to have a strong stomach (not that it’s bloody or full of gore…it’s not) to watch it. Why? Because in three-minutes you will discover why we will never be able to pay off our debt, nor will we ever have politicians in our current system of government willing to do so.

If you are brave…take a look…

Debt Video-Mind Blowing-3 minutes long

Now, I don’t espouse all that this organization espouses…yet, it makes the point of the absolute debacle our “financial house” is in as a nation.

It used to be that men were elected to serve the nation and represent the people based on their character and honor. It used to be that we could trust the men we sent to Washington. Well, what was true 200 years ago is not (by and large) true today. What can fix it? I don’t know of anything. Seriously. I don’t think anything can be done to rectify the situation we are in today. We don’t have the courage as a nation to do the hard things and suffer.

We have raised at least 3 generations or about 46 million Americans on “hand-outs”

and welfare and there would be mutiny and killing in the streets if these checks stopped flowing. So, as a believer in Jesus Christ, I continue to lean on Him knowing that I live in a modern-day Babylon just as Daniel did in the Old Testament. God protects His own and He said He would never leave us nor forsake us. The Bible tells us: “I’ve never seen the righteous nor their seed forsaken or begging for bread.” So, I am confident in my Lord…but NOT the government. Does this mean we won’t suffer? No. We WILL suffer because we live in America and we will go as the nation goes. However, more than being a citizen of the United States, I’m a Christian and I have a heavenly Father who watches over me.

So, I will continue to seek to do all I can to bring people to Christ. Whether that be in Wilkes County, Weslaco, TX, Progreso, Mexico or Ethiopia, Africa. I will not cower in fear, but walk in the strength of the Lord. But, there is one thing I must do. I must train my children to be VERY, VERY strong to be able to endure what is coming in the next 25-30 years if the Lord tarries His coming.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jesus Christ

 

 

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Yesterday we looked at the tenets of Scripture concerning the teaching and training of our children. We discovered the problem we have in America of broken families, primarily because of absentee or unengaged fathers. So what can we do? Just leave all of this up to the mothers and the church youth pastors to fill the void?

Let me begin by saying, I understand we are ministering in a society today that is increasingly unfaithful in spiritual and physical relationships. There is a huge number of single-parent families and a complexity of step-relationships in our nation. Many men are itinerant figures at best in the home. There are potentially many women reading this post who are doing their very best to be father and mother in the home. I tell you dear lady, don’t lose hope. God will provide and he will take care of you and your children. You can see as a wonderful encouragement the example of Lois and Eunice, the grandmother and mother of Timothy and how they trained him without the father being engaged in his spiritual upbringing (See 2 Timothy 1:5-6, Acts 16:1).

Therefore, as churches, we don’t neglect you and your plight. We must come alongside and help. I try to provide a male influence in the lives of many young men and ladies in our church who do not have a father in the home. There are other men in the church, I help pastor, who do the same. Certainly, this is very difficult and there is much that could be said here. However, my purpose is not to address the exceptions, but rather the rule of Scripture in this matter of reaching and equipping the fathers. Again, this endeavor is also difficult and it takes much time and attention to draw the men to Christ. But, are we attempting to do so or have we just given up?

It seems many churches across America have accepted fatherlessness as the norm, and even the ideal in some cases. Today we have emasculated or gender-free Bibles and there is a growing movement toward egalitarian doctrine that is feminizing the Church. Yet, we cannot feminize the Church and keep the men and we cannot keep the children, if we do not keep the men. No
father equals no family, and no family eventually equals no faith. Winning and keeping men is essential to the community of faith and vital to the work of all mothers and the future salvation of our children. So, how can we shift our focus?

Understanding the need to grow our men and reach out to others in our community, as many of you know, we started a group called Iron Men. The Bible teaches in Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Under this premise, we began the ministry with only a handful of guys, but in less than a year we were averaging around 50 men each week. We continue to meet every Wednesday at 12-noon for lunch at a local Cowboy Church (a large building in the middle of our town with plenty of tables and chairs). I bring in lunch, and I put out a donation basket for those who wish to give and with what is given each week, the cost to the church per man, per week is only $1.

I have seen this ministry literally transform and change the lives of many men and their families. I could tell you story after
story about men who have been coming to these meetings getting sharpened each week. What kind of impact has it had on their families? I wish I could show you a video of these guys giving testimony to the changes they are seeing in their families because they have decided to allow Jesus Christ to be their Lord and their boss. It’s phenomenal!

This is a practical and tangible example of what I mean when I say we must begin to redirect our focus as churches. We must begin reaching men again, not to the exclusion of women, but the family rises and falls with the leadership, or the lack thereof, of men. The Scriptures and even secular studies show this to be true. As believers, we know it is God’s created order and his design for the men to lead. We must return to this design and recognize within the Church that our role is to partner with men and families to train and educate the young. As we understand our responsibility and our role as a Church in doing so, we will reach families in ways that we’re not currently doing.

Regarding our men’s group, I think of the relatively small investment. About $1 per man. In a year’s period of time the church will have about $3,000 invested in this ministry, which is just a “drop in the bucket” compared to many of our other ministries. Think of what your church is spending on youth ministry and children’s ministry. When will we begin to return to the ancient paths and refocus our efforts on the family?

I told the 45-year old youth pastor to do what I did several years ago. I said, “Change your title. Call yourself a Family Pastor.” He smiled and said, “I might just do that.” I hope he does.

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Monday I posted about the need to “Rethink Youth Ministry” and I know that has stirred some real lively discussions. Even while here in Nashville at the Fine Arts Summer Academy at Lipscomb University it has stirred some super conversations. Not because people here have read my blog, but because it was part of my talk on Sunday when I delivered my message about returning to the ancient paths.

I was speaking with a youth pastor (who is 45 years old and has four kids) and he asked me, “Kevin, but where do we need to focus our attention? How do we reach this generation of young people.” I said, “You reach them through the Dads.” The Gospel is something that permeates a culture family by family. The Scriptural model is for the father to do the “teaching” in all things, not just how to fish or hunt or check the oil in the car, but in all things.

In speaking with this co-laboring pastor friend I said, “Where did Jesus go to school?” He said, “Hmm…I guess He was taught at home.” Of course He was. Jesus didn’t go to Nazareth Elementary School. Public Education has only existed about 150 years. For almost 6,000 years children were taught in the home by the fathers. Yes…by the fathers. The Scriptures teach us that indeed…the Dads did the training and teaching of the children.

But, we’ve got away from this. We now outsource almost all “education” to the schools, coaches, teachers, and churches. Dads do little “educating” if any, today with their children, especially spiritually. So, the church feels they must step in and do it for them. (This is very dangerous for any pastors reading this… We will stand before God and answer for standing in the place of fathers when we have no spiritual mandate to do so.)

So, I asked the youth pastor, “If the job of raising children spiritually is given to the Fathers…why aren’t we seeking to go after the Fathers and begin with the head of the family instead of spending millions and zillions of dollars on youth ministry?” He said, “I’ve never thought about it. Good point.” I said, “It’s just Biblical.”

I know many dads don’t even come to church today or they are not involved in their children’s lives. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence. That is why we have so many women who have to teach, serve on our committees and do much of the work of the church. Many might say, “Why bother with ministering to the fathers?”

To begin to answer this question, we need to briefly go back and look at some history. I think most would agree we have seen the total breakdown and decimation of the moral fiber of this nation in the last 50 years. Most would agree the Church in America is in decline, in almost lock-step with the nation. Many would agree the family is broken in America as well. Why? Where does the blame lie? Should the blame lie with the children? Should we blame the mothers? Should we blame the fathers? Let’s return to Scripture. God told Abraham in Genesis 18:19, that he must “command his children and his household to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice.” In Psalm 78 the fathers are told to teach the commandments of God so the next generation might know them, even the children yet to be born. Fathers are to tell the commands to their children, so that “they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God.” (See Psalm 78:5-6)

Is this happening today? I think not. Therefore, according to Scripture, we have a father problem in our homes, churches and nation. Fathers have not been trained and equipped and the church is doing almost nothing about this problem. Dads today have forgotten or don’t even know how to pass on the commands of God to the next generation. Many lament and say we have a youth problem in America. I believe we have a family problem that stems from the fact that we have fathers that are not doing the job they have been commanded to do. The Church has stopped reaching fathers. Can you see that in your own church? Somehow over the years, those of us in the church have missed this. We’ve been doing ministry to the children and the youth and we have forgotten the fathers.

It has been said, “As the father goes, so goes the family. As the family goes, so goes the Church and as the Church goes, so goes a nation.” We all know or have at least heard 2 Chronicles 7:14 many times. “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” I recognize we often quote this passage out of context, because it is a promise to the nation of Israel, but the principle still applies. God’s people must turn from their “wicked ways.” Who leads in this? I know this is dangerous to say, in an ever increasing egalitarian society, but the fathers are commanded to lead, if we believe the Bible. It’s that simple.

Adam was created first by God and then Eve from Adam’s rib to be his “suitable helper.” Husbands are called to be the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church (See Ephesians 5:21-33). Please understand, the father and husband is to be a servant-leader who is willing to submit his own will to that of the Father and therefore be willing to die to himself. When he dies to himself, he is willing to give up his own life and die for his wife. Yet many fathers and husbands aren’t leading today. In many homes we see mixed-up roles where the mother is leading instead of the father. Yet, the ladies are only trying to fill the vacuum left by the men in the home and the church.

Review almost any research study that’s been done when it comes to the issue of the importance of the father’s role in the home and you will find: It is the religious practice of the father that most greatly determines the future attendance or absence from the church of the children (See barna.org).The fact that homes with dedicated and engaged fathers work best may be politically
incorrect, but they simply confirm what psychologists, criminologists, educationalists, and traditional Christians know. You cannot buck the biology of the created order.

We know a mother’s role will always remain primary in terms of intimacy, care, and nurture. It’s still true some of the toughest men I know still sport a tattoo dedicated to the love of his mother, without the slightest embarrassment or sentimentality. No father can replace that relationship. But it is equally true that when a child begins to move into that period of differentiation from the home and engagement with the world, he or she looks increasingly to the father for his role model. Where the father is indifferent, inadequate, or just plain absent, that task of differentiation and engagement is much harder. When children see that church is a “women and children” thing, they will respond accordingly, by not going to church or going much less. I’ve seen this most recently in doing mission work in Mexico. Most of the churches are filled with women and children, but no men or boys, primarily because the males feel religion is for women and children.

What do we do about this? Tomorrow, I plan to post Part 2 and we’ll discuss practical ways to redirect our focus toward the men. Knowing that if we can get the men…then we stand the greatest likelihood of reaching the entire family.

 

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I had the privilege yesterday of speaking to a large group of people at Lipscomb University at the Annie Moses Fine Arts Summer Academy. I spoke about “Returning the Ancient Paths–The ONLY Way to a Hopeful Future.” The message was well received. I never mentioned my book, but I did stand in the back beside of a small table with them and had the chance to sell about 15 copies. That’ll pay for a couple of meals for my large, 6 member brood! 🙂

I spoke with many, many people. Folks from as far away as California, Jamaica, Florida, Indiana, Oklahoma, Texas and even North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. What I heard was the basically the same. “We know we need to return to Scripture to raise the next generation, but how do we do that?” I said, “Well…I just happened to have written a book about it, would you like to see it.” They pick up a copy and say, “Oh, wow! This is what I need!” That confirms another reason the Lord guided me to write the book.

With that said and as the conversations continue, we talk about the absolute necessity of the family taking the responsibility of raising their children spiritually (particularly the Dads). The Bible is very clear the Fathers are to lead in the role of teaching, equiping, discipling and training the children (Ephesians 6:4, Psalm 78, Deut. 6:4-7). Everyone nods in agreement, because the Bible is so clear on this subject. Yet there are still two main questions that arise:

#1 What do we do about young people who come to our churches that have no mother and father actively involved in their lives?

#2 How do we get Fathers to even come to church, much less be involved in the spiritual leadership in their home (we can’t even get them to church)?

Great questions! Both are addressed in detail in my book. Click here to purchase at Amazon.com…

Let me address the first question now and I’ll address the second question in a later post.

To begin answering the first question, I can tell you there is a fairly straight forward, Biblical answer. When you have a young person who is dropped off at church with no family in tow, you simply show Christian hospitality and “adopt” that young person into your family. Paul took young Timothy under his wing and mentored him and we certainly see the example of our Lord doing so with the Apostles. But, I know what you are thinking. That’s messy! I don’t have time to take someone under my wing and “add” them to my family at church. I’ve go enough to do as it is. Yep! You sure do! But, that’s what Christians do. We walk the second mile don’t we.

My family has had the pleasure of “adopting” into our family several young adults through the years. We even bring them into our home after church for “Sunday dinner” and let them see what a Christian family looks like (not that ours is perfect mind you). It’s wonderful to get to see the transformation that takes place in a young person’s life when you make and investment into them like this. Yes, I know you can stick them in a youth group and assign a student pastor or youth pastor to them, but the problem with this is it’s simple not the Biblical pattern.

The church is a body. We are a living, breathing organism that is to help other parts of the body. We don’t cut off a body part and stick it in an adjacent room. If your toe is injured, you don’t remove it from the body and stick it in a room in a corner. No. You nurse it back to health (attached to the body). That’s what we are to do as a church. Why do we segregate our young people and stick them off in a corner of our building away from everyone else? Because it’s convenient? Because we don’t want to be troubled by them? Friends, that is separating the body. You’ll never find this in Scripture. The truth is you will find this model failing miserably in our churches. We have a 75-92% failure rate in getting our young adults to continue to follow Christ (even by their 20th birthday). We must begin to integrate and disciple within the body.

I know many churches are sending their “youth” off to camps and they come back excited and really fired up about their experience. Yet, we plug them back into dead homes (in many instances) and this “fire” will be quenched and snuffed out in less than a month (in most cases). If you know anything about youth ministry, you know I’m telling the truth. (I taught “youth” classes for 17 years and was a “youth pastor” for 2 years.) The answer is mentoring and discipleship and helping the body by keeping the body together, not separating and dividing. If you’d like to really have an “eye-opening experience,” check out “Divided-The Movie.” Click here to watch 55 minute documentary. I must tell you this documentary is not for the faint of heart. I will also say that I don’t necessarily espouse all that is portrayed by the documenatry or the group behind it, but for the most part, they are “spot on.”

We have a choice in our culture concerning our young adults. We can continue to put them through the 40-year experiment of our children’s and youth ministries and watch them fall by the wayside by their 20th birthday, or we can return to the ancient paths of Scripture and begin to integrate and model a mentoring relationship (Titus 2) for them. If we choose the former, we’re going ot lose the majority. If we choose the latter, we’ll raise up some “disciples” of Christ because we chose to roll up our sleeves and do the messy work of hospitable discipleship.

More on the men later…

Oh…here’s a picture of Clara in her “gala” event. She’s in the back on the risers.

Here she is singing…(that’s her on the right and Olivia Eller on the left)…

Aren't they cute!!

 

Finally…here’s a shot of Kandace working hard in her violin class…

She's in there...look hard!

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We live in a world today that is so subjective and transient, that there is almost nothing concrete in our lives any more. With 140 characters and a quick Tweet or Facebook update, we move on.

A quick text suffices for a conversation in our culture. We so quickly move through life and we seem to do so at the speed of light.

I arrived in Nashville, TN with my son Andrew yesterday to join my family at the Annie Moses Fine Arts Summer Academy…

 …where Katy, Kandace and Clara are participating this week and next. I have the privilege of speaking at the conference this Sunday morning at Lipscomb University. I’m tremendously excited about this opportunity.

Yesterday I was speaking with a lady right after I arrived about my book. She had heard about it and wanted a copy. She and her family desire to live for Jesus Christ. You read that last statement and many of you say, “Well, sure…I do too.” But, do we? Really? You see, in order to live for Jesus Christ we must be willing to live by His Word. What is His Word? Well, of course, it’s the Bible. You say, “Well duh! Of course I believe in ‘living’ by the Bible.” Do we really?

I don’t mean to play “cat and mouse” with you because I know as you read this blog post there are many other things that you could be doing. So, let me jump to the point of my conversation with this lady yesterday. She and her husband desire to be in a church where the family is NOT segregated and can worship together. You may say, “What’s the problem with that?” Well, the truth is, it’s not accepted in many of our churches today even though it is the Scriptural principle of worship.

In the Bible you will never see the body of Christ worshipping in a segregated, separated fashion. You never see the meeting of the believers taking place where the children or young adults (whom you may call “youth”) are absent. However, this lady, when bringing up to a “strategic planning committee” at her church that she would like for her children to come in and worship with her and her husband and not be made to go to Children’s Church. She was unequivocally shot down. When she inquired in greater detail as to the Biblical justification for this practice, she was dismissed as being a “trouble maker” and no answer was given by the leadership of the church.

So, here we are…to the point of this post. Do we really believe the Bible? Really? Certainly we say that it is the divinely inspired, inerrant Word of God, yet is it sufficient? Sufficient? Yes, sufficient. Is it sufficient to direct and guide us in all things and for all of life? Is the Bible bound by time? Is it only to be used in the context of “how it was written for that day?” Do we really believe that God was smart enough to divinely inspire the 40 authors of His Word to write in such a way that what was written in the first century could actually be applicable to the 21st century? Or is God dumb? Did He not know that we would be so technologically advanced and sooooo smart? Did He know that we would “outgrow” His Word and therefore, we’d begin to pick and choose what we believe and take as applicable to our day.

So I’ll ask the question again: “Is the Bible sufficient to give us direction and guidance for our day?” Can we turn to the pages of Scripture and build our lives on it and it alone? Do we need the Bible plus something else to give us guidance? Do we need the Bible AND Dr. Phil and Oprah to tell us how to raise our children or deal with conflict or do we just need Scripture? Do we need the Bible AND a psychologist or secular counselor to help us deal with depression and anxiety? Do we need the Bible AND the words of any other man or woman (created by God and formed in their mother’s wombs) to give guidance?

What am I saying? Am I saying that we do need any secular scholarship or guidance from any other source other than the Word of God? No. Absolutely not! But, this is what I’m saying: We must look to the Word of God as the supreme authority and use it as absolute over any and all other sources in our lives. Do you see that? I love John Piper’s take on the authority and sufficiency of Scripture:

“The Bible is the sun and the solar system of all we teach our children.  It will not be one among many books, it will be the central book, the all permeating book.  The other books are dark planets.  The Bible is the life-giving sun.  All other books will be read in the light of this book.  All books will be judged by this book.  All books will find their
meaning in the worldview built by this book, which means that this book will be known first and known better than all the other books.”

One last time:

Do you really believe the Bible to be sufficient and authoritative to address and give guidance in all subjects, circumstances and situations in life or do we think it is bound by time and we’ve outgrown it?

Do we really believe that Almighty God is wise enough and smart enough (since He is the Creator and we are simply the “created”) to know what we need in 2011 and that His Word can be trusted to give us that guidance in all circumstances?

If that’s the case, then we must become students of the Word of God and KNOW what it says. I told this dear lady toward the end of our conversation yesterday that Scripture is very clear about how the body of Christ is to function when we meet and that is as an intact family unit. Don’t believe me? Read the writings of Paul when he addresses the children in Ephesians 6:1. There is no question that the children were present when the letter to the Ephesians was being read to the body meeting there in Ephesus. There is no indication whatsoever that Jesus had Peter, James and John to haul off the children and do “children’s church” with them while He taught the adults on top of the mountain as He preached the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me…”

This lady and her husband ultimately left this church because she was not allowed to bring her children in the service with her. Can you imagine? I can. I’ve seen it happen and it’s happened to me and my family when visiting another church. We were asked to take our children to the nursery and children’s church. When we refused I thought perhaps the usher/greeter was going to haul me out and lash me with a wet noodle. The look on his face was one of disgust. Is that a Scriptural response? Of course not.

What we have done in our churches and in our culture is to primarily use the Bible to “proof text” the things we like and the things we find convenient. But, what we find inconvenient (like having children in the meeting) we ignore the principles of Scripture and do not see the sufficiency and authority them in guiding our church practice and our individual lives. God help us!

The next time someone asks you: “Do you believe the Bible?” Be prepared to answer with full confidence as Paul encouraged Timothy.

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 1 Timothy 3:14-16

Sola Scriptura!! (Scripture Alone!)

So, let the little children come…

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Faith

Faith. What is it? Hebrews 11 says, “Things hoped for yet unseen.” I’ve seen faith exhibited right before my eyes over the last two weeks by a FAITH-ful couple in our church.

There names are Jason and Katie Church.

Jason and Katie Church

Back in January, Jason felt the leading of the Holy Spirit to begin the process of leaving Lowe’s Companies, after having worked there for 12 years. Katie is working part-time as an administrative assistant at our local Pregnancy Care Center. She had worked at Lowe’s as well, but left that job to have more time at home and to begin a family.

After several months of prayer, Jason turned in his notice about 3 weeks ago and his last day was this past Friday. When he turned in his notice, he and Katie did not know what the Lord wanted them to do. Jason told me, “Kevin, I just know it’s time to leave and the Lord will show me what He wants me to do next in His time.” Wow! That’s faith!

Let me show you how the Lord works. While I was in Weslaco, Texas with our mission team, we discovered that the church who owns the mission house there was considering selling it. Our church is in the process of praying this through and I let the church know about the possibility on Sunday, July 3rd. The Mission House has the “light green” roof and the missionary house is in front of it at the lower part of the picture below…

There is a school behind the mission house at top of picture

To make a long story short. At the end of the service, Jason and Katie came forward to the front and knelt down in prayer, weeping. I prayed over them not knowing exactly what was going on, but I sensed as I was praying that the Lord might be placing within them the desire to go to Weslaco and serve as our missionaries.

You see, the church is praying about planting a church in Weslaco. The city has almost no protestant, Bible-believing churches…mainly Catholic churches only. There is a tremendous need there. So, without ever having been to Weslaco or even seeing the place they would live or knowing a single person there, Jason and Katie contacted me that Sunday afternoon and said, “Pastor Kevin, we believe we are supposed to be the missionaries to go do the work in Weslaco, TX of planting a church and to continue the work in Progreso, Mexico with our sister church El Laurel Mission Baptist Church.

Church we've started building in Progreso, MX

Wow! That’s FAITH! Can you imagine? Think about considering answering a desire the Lord places within you to move to a place you have never been to begin a work that you have never done with people you’ve never met! Sounds like Abraham leaving Ur to me.

This is the missionary home in front of the Mission House…

The Front House (as we call it)

My faith has been challenged in an amazing way. I have talked with Jason and Katie several times at length and I’ve told them how hot it is year-round and many negatives. Yet, Jason looks at me and says, “Kevin, it doesn’t matter…God has told us to go and go we must.” Wow! Can I say it again? What FAITH!!

So, our church is putting together the information about the purchase of the Mission House and the missionary house that goes with it and we’re seeking the Lord. We have an information meeting at church on Wednesday evening, July 27th and then if all goes well, we will seek to reach consensus on Sunday, August 14th. Would you pray with us and for us? Would you pray for Jason and Katie as well?

Faith. It’s a powerful force. Are you exhibiting faith in your life? Am I? What is it that the Lord wants you to trust Him in today or right now in this “season” of your life? It’s probably going to take a big dose of faith.

Jason and Katie…thank you for being found “full” of FAITH! (Faithful)

 

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