We’ve lost the Rainbow and we’ll lose more.

We know that things are constantly changing around us – but sometimes as Christians we have a difficult time adjusting and letting some things go.  At the same time, we’ve allowed some things to be outright stolen from us.

God very distinctly placed a “bow” (rainbow) in the sky for Noah and his family as a promise to never again flood the entire earth.  This was a very specific and clear sign from the Almighty God to mankind.  The rainbow is a sign of God’s promise to man. Of course now the rainbow is a clearly recognizable sign of something very different.  The Christians have allowed this Godly symbol to be commandeered by the Homosexual movement.  Ironically a church that puts up a rainbow flag now is making a very different statement than just fifty years ago.

Growing up our church always considered itself an ‘Independent, Fundamental Baptist’ Church.  Today we find that the average American, upon hearing the term ‘Fundamentalist’ immediately thinks about extremist Islamist’s.  The average evangelical today upon hearing the term ‘Fundamentalist’ thinks of the fringe edge of Independent, Baptist churches such as Westboro Baptist and their “God hates______” campaigns or the Fundamental Baptist churches mired in sex scandals.  Quite honestly, even though my stand has never changed I am reluctant to use the term ‘Fundamentalist’ anymore.

Missions and Mission agencies have become more social gospel in nature and less about sharing the gospel.  Witnessing has become proselytizing.  God’s Word has become nothing more than an “ancient manuscript”.  Christians (by name)  have become simply the opposite of Muslims.  Words and titles don’t mean what they used to mean.  Things have changed.

BUT!  Jesus is the same Yesterday, Today and Forever.  The Truth of the Bible has never changed.  There is still only One Way – through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  Things may be changing in our culture – but God’s Word and His Truth never changes!!

things_change

 

 

 

What will the Church look like in 2040?

untitledI attended a conference this week which concluded with this question put to the panel: What will the church look like in 2050?  I felt that the panel did a great job explaining our current challenges and a look ahead to maybe 2015 – but they did not give any indications of what to expect 35 years from now.

I felt that it was a questions worth addressing – though we’ll narrow it down to a 25 year time frame.  I have included statistics that we know and trends we are witnessing and I concluded with some specific predictions that I make:

Statistics:

1)      Aging population – The youngest Baby Boomers are turning fifty years old in 2014 and many are beginning to retire.  The Boomers are the age group that give the greatest dollar amount and percentage of their income to charitable organizations.  As they begin to fall into ‘fixed incomes’ the church should expect to see giving decline – as is currently the trend. http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/173447-how-the-coming-boomer-crisis-will-impact-your-church.html

2)      We are in a post-Christian culture where the knowledge of God and the Bible is clearly waning.

3)      Churches, in general, are following the decline of culture and are not standing in contrast to this erosion.

4)      We see a large amount of mail-line protestant churches closing each year.

5)      Mega Churches with celebrity Pastors are the growing trend in church culture.

6)      Technology is and will continue to advance quickly.

7)      The Church is under attack from culture (hate speech) and from Government (through regulations).

 

The effect upon our churches:

1)      Giving is down and will continue to decrease.  The younger generations have not been taught to give (tithe). They also have grownup under the idea that all charitable donations and giving are equal (according to the IRS).  Therefore, the money they give to their children’s school fundraiser, the donation to the Red Cross when the natural disaster strikes and the dollars they give to your church are all equal.

2)      The culture – both in and out of church – is now in a new paradigm:  Children always come first.  Above all else! This is reflected in the areas of:

a.        soccer practice for my ten year old is now more important than a church service

b.       if my children are not happy and content at church we will go somewhere else or

stop going to church all together

c.       Volunteering in my children’s ministries is more important to me than sitting in

a service.

d.      I will provide whatever religious education I think they need at home.

3)      People do not see the need for foreign missions.  Why?  Television and the Internet have made the world a much smaller place and we are now regularly told that everyone, everywhere is the same.  Economies around the world are becoming more equal and therefore a church in Arkansas, United States does not see why they need to send money to another church in Bogotá, Columbia.  The buildings look similar, the vehicles look similar, both churches have websites, both have email, both are using audio and video equipment.  Literally, our churches are beginning to wonder why we are sending them money and they are not sending us money.

4)      People live in debt.  The Government is drowning in debt.  The world economy is in crisis because of debt.  Big businesses are re-organizing because of debt.  So why is the pastor so adamant that the church is always in the black?

5)      People question everything they hear at church.  The Pastor will be checked by Google – maybe after the service is over – but most likely right during the service by way of their mobile device.  Pastor’s need to defend the churches position against Wikipedia almost every week.  The Church has lost its trust and is looked at skeptically.

6)      The church (like any other business and individual) is being regulated to death – literally to the extinction of churches that cannot keep up with the regulations imposed upon them.  Building expansions are red tape nightmares.  Regulations are making it more difficult to have children’s ministries, transport people to events, hire and fire employees, maintain facilities, prepare and serve meals, compensate the Pastor and staff, etc.

 

How will churches cope and adjust over the next 25 years?

1)      The growing trend of multi-site churches with celebrity Pastors has not yet shown what will transpire when these Pastor’s retire or are replaced.  We have seen that the mega churches of the past 50 years have greatly struggled when the founder/leader has moved off the scene.

2)      Technology has and will continue to greatly change the way we minister.  Twenty five years ago a local independent church found that half of the children attended public schools and the other half attended local Christian schools.  Today we see that half still attend public schools and the other half are home/cyber schooled and very few go to Christian school anymore.  I believe we will find the same thing happen to our local churches.  Many will begin to have church at home.  Not watching Charles Stanley or John Hagee like some have done for years – but churches will begin to have more effective live streaming and interactive services that you can attend without leaving your home.  If the growing trend today is to attend a church where the Pastor is being shown to you live streamed from another locations, than why not sit at home and have him live streamed? ** Notice the continued affect this will have on giving/tithing.

3)      Churches will find such a struggle between decreased giving and increased regulations – combined with the ease and relatively low price of advanced technology – that the church will become less corporate and more home based.  Churches will not be able to afford facilities, salaries, insurances, etc.  The home church movement will be the ‘trend’ of the day.

4)      More Pastors will become bi-vocational.  They will work a full time job during the week and meet as a small group in the home of a parishioner on Sundays.

5)      Churches that are culturally accepted in 2040 will be, by and large, churches with a weak message and are even heavier on entertainment and social gospel.  Churches with a strong stand upon the Bible and morals will be considered too radical by society and will be forced ‘underground’ (like in so many other countries today).

6) The great need (growing now and even greater in 2040) will be helping the hurting.  With the decline of God and morality in culture – relationships, children, marriages, health and more will be in greater peril with more people contemplating drastic measures such as suicide, drugs, or crime.  Helping hurting people will be the key ministry of 2040.

 

Our prayers are out of balance

thQSLFE3X6Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss ...- James 4:3

We are in an era when few people are truly experiencing the power of God in their prayer lives.  Few are having regular, consistent answers to their prayers.  The midweek prayer service at most churches is either the smallest service or it has been removed altogether.  Why?  Why are most Christians finding their prayer lives less powerful than God intended them to be.

When Christ walked with the Disciples they clearly heard His prayer life and finally asked Him one day “Lord, teach us to pray”.  What follows is a short outline of how to pray directly from Jesus Christ and most often referred to as the ‘Lord’s Prayer’.  Following are the elements covered in this lesson:

1) Our Father which are in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  The outline of the Lord’s Prayer begins with adoration – a focus on Who God is.  The focus must always be on the Who.  God wants us to know Him.  Too often we put more faith in the act of prayer than in the God of prayer.

2)Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.  Praise and glory to the Almighty God.  A focus on the promise of God’s coming Kingdom upon earth.

3)Give us this day our daily bread.  Prayer includes a request for our needs.

4)And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  Prayer should also always include a confession and admission of sin.  Keeping a clean slate between ourselves and God is paramount to an effective prayer life.

5)And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  Prayer should include a request for protection – after all He is the Great Shepherd and our prayer should mimic the Psalmist …though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me…

6)For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, Amen. The prayer begins with adoration, honor and praise and concludes in the same manner.

Perhaps our prayers are not being answered or have the power that they should have because they are out of balance:  heavy on the asking and very weak on the praise and adoration.

 

Worshiping God AND Idols!

II Kings 17:33  They feared the LORD, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence.

I have often preached how the nation of Israel in the Old Testament would leave their faith in God and begin to worship the idols of the nations around them.  While that was often the case, the above verse reveals something much more likely to occur in our lives.  We attempt to worship God AND idols.  We think we can somehow do both.

We worship God on Sundays.  We go to church and read His precious Word.  We tell others we are a Christian and we try our best to serve Him.  Then, somehow in our own humanistic wisdom, we begin to value something more than God.  We begin to place more faith in our 401k or in the stock market.  We begin to make hobbies or relationships more important than our walk with God.  We find that we are spending more time meditating on things other than God.  We find we are falling into the same pattern described in II Kings 17:33: they feared the Lord, and served their own gods…

either_or

 

The Right Question is – “Who?”

Why

As we face the obstacles and trials of life we so often are left wondering why things are happening to us or how long they may last.  As a pastor many have asked me ‘Why?” the current crisis is happening to them.  Why did they get cancer?  Why did their spouse die? Why do they seem to be constantly battling the same problems?  The question we always ask is ‘Why?’

God’s plan is far different than ours.  We learn from the Word of God that God is not in the business of answering the why’s of life but rather God always points us to WHO He is! We aren’t asking the right question.  The question of who doesn’t seem to be the right one to us, but it is to God!

When the biblical patriarch Job was dealing with the atrocities that came into his life – his friends sat with him and the dialogue involved finding out why this had happened.  His friends basically concluded that it had to have been sin in Job’s life that brought on this great crisis.  Of course, they were wrong.  When God finally answered Job, God directed Job to Who He was.  We have no record of God ever telling Job why the problems had come upon him – but rather – God made sure Job realized Who had made him, Who controlled the universe, Who had formed everything that was made and Who it was that Job was to worship.  The right question was WHO? and not WHY?

Following are some verses regarding this Biblical thought:

Job 38:1-11 (KJV)
1  Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
2  Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
3  Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.
4  Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
5  Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
6  Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
7  When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
8  Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?
9  When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it,
10  And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors,
11  And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?

 

Isaiah 44:24 (KJV)
24  Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;
Isaiah 45:6 (KJV)
6  That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else
Isaiah 51:15 (KJV)
15  But I am the LORD thy God, that divided the sea, whose waves roared: The LORD of hosts is his name.
Ezekiel 7:4 (KJV)
4  And mine eye shall not spare thee, neither will I have pity: but I will recompense thy ways upon thee, and thine abominations shall be in the midst of thee: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

 

It is a choice!

choice

Love.  On this Valentine’s Day I thought it was important to once again look at the subject of Love.  While much can be said on the subject, Love ultimately boils down to a Choice!  One may have been initially attracted or enamored to their spouse but in order to have a relationship that survives over the long haul – it becomes a choice.  I choose to love and therefore I choose to be faithful and to work on my relationship.  I choose to forgive and forget.  I choose to trust and put in the necessary time and effort in order for my relationship to survive.

The obstacles that come our way in life are often overcome by making a determined choice.  I choose not be let my anger lead to bitterness.  I choose to forgive when my human nature wants to lash out.  I choose not to allow the stress of this world dwell in my spirit and take my joy.

I choose to follow Christ and turn from my sin.  I choose the straight and narrow over wide path of destruction.

When my life spirals out of control – it is also often because of a choice.  I choose to allow sin in my life.  I choose to stay in my despair.  I choose to dwell in my bitterness or dismay.

It is a choice!

 

 

Why did God make Hell?

heaven_or_hell-1280x800

by Pastor Wes Gunther

Taking a look at any poll on the subject of Heaven and Hell quickly tells us that the vast majority of people believe in a Heaven (or at least an after life) but very few actually believe in a Hell.  It is often stated today that “a loving God would not send anyone to Hell”.  Hell sounds horrific, and it is.  Hell seems out of character for a God of multiple chances and a God who would die Himself to save His people.  However, the Bible clearly teaches the existence of eternal torment.  So, why did God make Hell?

1. Hell was made for Lucifer and his angels.  (Matthew 25:41)  God made Hell for the eternal torment of Lucifer, the fallen archangel now known as Satan and for his angels that fell with him.  They, in pride, defied the Almighty God and were cast out of Heaven and will find their ultimate destiny in Hell.  Hell was not made for Man.

2. Hell is the result of Justice.  Hell is the result of mankind’s rebellion against God.  Man was made perfect and placed into the Garden of Eden.  He had one simple command: “Of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, thou may not eat”.  Adam and Eve defied God’s command and followed the temptation and advice of Satan, thus following Satan and rebelling against God.  A sin nature has passed down upon all men because of Adam’s sin and we are now “of our father, the Devil”.  Sin is the reason for punishment. A Just God cannot tolerate sin.  A Just God must punish sin.

3. God died Himself to save mankind from Hell.  God Loved Adam and Eve and God still Loves us!  Therefore, God Himself came to earth in the form of a man, lived a perfect life, and died in order to save mankind.  Saved from what?  Saved from the effect of sin, the hold of death, and an eternity in Hell.  God is the one who provided a way of escape from Hell.

4. Hell is the contrast to Holiness.  God is Holy.  Our culture has lost sight of the Holiness and reverence of an Almighty God.  The Holiness of God is the opposite of sin.  God cannot tolerate sin.  The Glory of Heaven is contrasted with the awfulness of Hell.

5. Without Hell, a life in Christ would be less significant.  If there was no Hell, a life in Jesus Christ would have little apparent value.  Why should I be a Christian?  Why do I need to be Saved?  If I just ceased to exist when I died than putting my faith in Jesus Christ would not be significant.  But, because there is a Hell and life is fragile, I better put my life in Christ in order to save my soul from eternal damnation.

6. God gave man the ultimate Choice – Choose Him or Choose Hell.  God gave man the ultimate choice.  They can either choose His free gift and live with Him in a utopian state forever, or they can choose their sin and follow Satan for eternity.  It’s one or the other – no middle ground.  Our culture today wants options.  They want multiple choice – A, B, C, or D.   God has only given us two.  If we choose His way – Heaven.  If we reject His way – Hell.

Underestimating False Information

by Pastor Wes Gunther

misinformation

During World War II the British were very effective at using ‘Black Propaganda’ which is better know today as Disinformation – or False Information.  During the War the British began at least two radio stations which both claimed to be broadcasting from Germany. One was geared toward the German citizens and included much information on how Hitler had gone soft and how his government was full of scandal and immorality. The second station targeted the German forces and fed them disinformation on German defeats and casualties – designed of course to lower morale in their military.

Do we think it’s possible that Satan would deploy such tactics?  Could Satan possibly be advanced enough to understand the influence of disinformation?  Of course he understands it and uses it.  Satan is wise and cunning in his attacks.  In the Garden of Eden he immediately took the commandment of God and re-worded it, embellished it, and added a few lies.  ”Did God say?”  ”You’ll be as gods.”   How is Satan using misinformation today?

1.  False Religions.  Today there are over 4200 religions per a quick internet search.  The truth of God is shrouded in the midst of lies.  No wonder people are turned off to religion of any kind.  No wonder people are so skeptical of the truth.

2. Doctrinal Disputes.  In order for a lie to be effective it must contain some elements of truth.  Doctrinal disputes rage in Christianity.  Clearly Satan is, at the very least, reaping the benefits of the confusion and misinformation that is taught and argued over.  Is the truth in Premillennialsim, Postmillennialsim, Amillennialism, or something else?  Is it Free Will or Pre-ordained?  Eternal Security or is it possible to lose one’s Salvation? Denominations have been formed, split, new ones formed, and split again over these and other arguments.

I am not saying that one side is somehow under ‘Satanic influence’ and therefore the other side is Godly.  I am saying that Satan is still feeding good, educated, well intentioned people misinformation.

3. Plethora of Bible Translations.  A quick internet search reveals that there are at least 450 English translations of the Bible.  Again, let me make myself very clear, I think the vast, vast majority of the scholars that have put together new translations have done so with the very best of intentions.  I believe each one saw a need and attempted to address it.  However, by doing so, we now have a high degree of confusion among many Christians (and non-Christians) that are attempting to read or study the Word of God. There are also many arguments, church splits and denominational differences over the Bible text issue alone.  I think the only one who is getting a kick out of all of this is Satan. If you want everyone to get frustrated and give up on the plan – than give everyone a different set of blueprints.  Not vastly different, just different enough to confuse everyone.

4. Worship Styles.  Churches are automatically defined today by their worship style.  Is it traditional or contemporary?  Do you sing hymns or do you have a praise band?  What – you have both??  The traditional churches think the more contemporary churches have let the world influence them too much.  The contemporary churches think the traditional churches are losing touch with the generation that they are supposed to be winning for Christ.

Mark 9:40 For he that is not against us is on our part.  Let us focus on the lost that need Jesus Christ in their lives.  We’ll let God decide if we are going to sing with electric guitars in Heaven or not and by then the whole Pre-, Post-, Amillennial issue will be a non issue anyway.

How do I surrender to God?

i-surrender-white-flag

It seems so easy to just tell people “Surrender you will to God” but how exactly does one do that?  What does it mean to ‘surrender’?  I have wrestled with and studied this topic this week and came to these conclusion from Scripture:

1. Surrender is a choice. When General Robert E. Lee of the Confederate States of America surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant of the United States of America at Appomattox on April 9, 1865 it was a monumental moment in the history of this great country.  This was not an event taken lightly or carelessly.  When the Confederate Army realized that their fight was futile they had no choice but to surrender.  The fight was over and the armies went home.

When we surrender to God it is a significant moment.  We realize that we are “not our own … ye are bought with a price”.  When we stop fighting and just rest in that which God has for us – it is then we find the “peace that passeth all understanding”.

2. Surrender is accepting where I am and what God has done with me. We often look at the subject of the ‘Will of God’ when looking to where God may be directing us.  Often, I believe, we need to understand that the Will of God is accepting right where we are at currently.  Contentment with what God has for me today.  In the book of Genesis we find the patriarch Joseph who learned to be content living almost his entire life in Egypt and serving much of that time in either prison or slavery.  Yet, he was perfectly in God’s Will for his life. Surrender is letting God dictate my circumstances and giving up that control.

4. Surrender is ultimately Humility in action.  If I can honestly “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God” than we are humbling our control and our will to His ultimate Will for our lives.  This really takes the pressure and stress off of our lives when we realize that we are His and we are created for His Glory!  We must be able to say as the hymn writer said years ago My Life is Yours to Control!

5. Surrender is a daily action.  There is a daily battle to want to take control back. Daily we must be surrendering to His will.  We may want to complain, argue, or get angry at the circumstances or changes that have come into my life – yet we must once again surrender to His will and to what He has in store for me.

* Caution:  There is a need to draw some caution here to the fact that we are discussing surrendering to God’s Will in my life in the areas that are out of my control.  Suffering a loss?  Dealing with a disease?  In the midst of a crisis?  Then allow God to control that situation.  However – if we have sinned and put ourselves in a difficult situation – than we need to beg for the mercy of God to assist us in spite of ourselves and pray for His forgiveness for the mess I have created.  As an example: There is a big difference between suffering the loss of a spouse (out of our control) and having lost our job due to negligence or poor work habits (within our control).

 

 

 

 

Consumed with Compassion

compassion3

 

Our church began 2014 by introducing our theme for the new year: Consumed with Compassion!  The Word of God tells us: And of some have compassion, making a difference.

Looking at the story of the Good Samaritan we see several things:

1). Compassion takes a Vision (Luke 10:33).  The Good Samaritan “saw” the need.  He did not look the other way.  We must have eyes that are open to people’s needs.

2). Compassion takes Effort (Luke 10:34).  The Good Samaritan “went” to him.  The needs of people in our society are great.  It takes more than just seeing their need, we must also take the time and effort to go to where they are.

3). Compassion makes our Hands Dirty (Luke 10:34).  The Good Samaritan “bound” up his wounds and poured oil and wine on the injured to help him.  Often the compassionate work we do gets our hands dirty either literally or figuratively.  It takes going to difficult situations and help difficult people.

4). Compassion takes Time (Luke 10:34-35).  The Good Samaritan put him on his own beast, took him to the inn and then “took care of him”.  The Word of God also tells us that he stayed the night and did not leave until the “morrow”.  Personal Sacrifice is the cost of compassion.

5). Compassion demand Follow up (Luke 10:35).  The Good Samaritan vowed to come back that way again and see if there were any further needs that he could meet.  He did not help and leave forever, but rather helped and than came back to help some more if need be.

Let’s be Consumed with Compassion!