Saturday, December 24, 2011

Very early on Christmas Eve morning; still trying to adjust to the huge time change from my visit to China.  Can't sleep so watched a few WWII documentaries (among other things...).  One of the documentaries I watched was on the fall of France in 1940.  It took the Germans only five weeks to conquer the country; a country that they were not able to conquer during the whole of WWI.

The documentary presented a few explanations as to the speed of this conquest.

1. Misplaced defenses.  The French had spent tons of money and tons of time creating the Maginot line (named after the defense minister who initiated the concept).  This was a series of tunnels and pill boxes along the 85 mile French-German border.  The problem was, the Germans attacked through the Ardenne Forest and through Belgium - neither of which were protected by the Maginot Line.  In addition, the French placed their weakest and least experienced army divisions along the Belgium border and Ardenne forest.
2. Complacency. The French figured that the Maginot Line was impregnable. Although they judiciously maintained and practiced, the feeling was that the Germans could not defeat them.
3. Internal fighting.  The French government was in disarray.  There was a fight between factions within the cultural that created instability within the leadership of the county.
4. There was an attitude of defeatism within the population.  WWI, which had only been over for 20 years, loomed large in the French population's mind.  They did not want another long drawn out affair.  As soon as it became apparent that the Germans were overwhelming the French army, there was talk of capitulation and armistice. 

Does any of this cause you concern as you read it; concerns about the church?  Are our defenses misplaced? Are we fighting the right enemy?  Do we understand that our adversary is the Devil who is seeking to devour us?  Do we understand that the people are held captive by him and do his bidding are not our enemy?  Do we gently instruct as Paul taught Timothy (II Tim 2:25; read this verse, it is an incredible verse)?  Do we know that our enemy is wise and will attack us on many fronts?  Are we looking for our weak spots and moving to reinforce them through study, confession, repentance and reliance on God?

Are we complacent?  Are we just trolling along in our spiritual walk, thinking that nothing is going to harm us?  Do we understand that the enemy is still active and that he is just waiting for us to put our guard down so he can attack?

Are we putting our energies into fighting among ourselves instead of fighting the enemy?   When the world looks at the church, do they see in fighting instead of fighting against the enemy?

Have we given up?  Do we have a conqueror attitude (Rom 8:37, I John 4:4)?  Have we given up that God will work in us and through us?  Have we given up on God?

Lots of questions to think through.  Let's not let history repeat itself in the church.  I am challenged in a few of these areas, as it is very easy for me to let my guard down, very easy to cost along on the past; forgetting that Satan changes his schemes and I must stay diligent.  Think through some of these questions yourself and allow them to challenge you.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tomorrow morning I am leaving for a trip to China to check out a potential ministry partner for our missions team.  We are going to a place 2 hours outside of Kunming (if anybody knows where that it) - an ancient Yi Town.  As I am mentally preparing for this trip,  the thing that has been running over and over in my mind is the number of people that live in China.  1.3 billion people.  This is more than four times the size of the United States.

The thing that is striking me about this large number is that their history is not one of a Christian heritage, but of communism and atheism.   A history devoid of God and the story of Jesus.  A history of worshiping fire and other gods.  A history that by design, designed by the government and Satan, is meant to keep them away from discovering THE God of the universe.

Yet out of this is growing a church.  A massive amount of people are turning to Jesus.  The church is growing in spite of sometimes harsh and brutal treatment of believers.  A passion to know God and build his church is infecting the lives of millions of people - regardless of the cost. (In fact, the number of people accepting Christ is outpacing the number of church leaders that are developing, leaving somewhat of a leadership void.)

I am contrasting this with the state of the church in America - a country that has a rich history of Christianity.  Church attendance is declining.  Christianity is in decline and is tepid at best.  We seem to be more concerned about being grace filled and tolerant than standing on truth and we are loosing our effectiveness to be salt and light to a nation because no one sees any difference between those who are committed to Christ and those that aren't.

Another telling thing that is playing into my thoughts:  I was asked last week by some friends from Ukraine "why don't people in the American church read their Bibles and seek after God".  A very telling question about how, at least a corner of the world, views our form of Christianity.  I gave them this answer - we don't understand the value of having a relationship with God, we value other things more than we value God and therefore we don't pursue God.  It seems to me like, as a community of believers, we have been lulled into complacency; content to dabble in religion and really denying the power of it (hummmm....  see II Timothy 3 if you want to see what this says about our culture).

Bottom line - we have a job to do.  We have been charged by our Lord and Master to go and make disciples; people who are committed to obedience.  Pray for revival in our nation.  Pray that the church will begin to expand like the church in China is.