Publication: Pastoral Letter, March 2004
Dear Friends in Christ,
Last month, I wrote to you on the subject of preparations. This month I am writing about “action.” The question before us is, what will we do when God reveals Himself to us? When does contemplation and meditation become procrastination? When does procrastination become rebellion and lead to destruction? At some point – hopefully, soon after God speaks_we must act.
God not only exists; He acts. He creates, delivers, judges, and shows mercy. God’s people must be a people of action. James 1:22 says “Be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” When God speaks, our choice is either act or be deceived. Continual hearing without action produces a state of hypnosis.
“Jesus told the apostles to go to Jerusalem and receive the Holy Spirit and then they would get into action. The Church needs a visitation from the Holy Spirit that will turn hearing and words into action.”
Rick Bundschuh wrote a book entitled, Passed Through Fire. He laments the lack of masculine strength in the Church by saying, “Church is a place for men of questionable manhood, not future heroes.” This is a strong statement.
Brother Yun, a leader in the Chinese House Church movement, wrote after visiting a traditional Protestant Church in Germany, “The church is a place for the pastor and elderly ladies.” Brother Yun endured severe hardship and persecution in China; he was stunned by the weakness of the Western churches.
I have witnessed in my lifetime the demise of Christian influence. The Bible was once a school textbook; now it is a banned book in schoolhouses across America.
A teacher at Lynn Lucas Middle School in Houston, Texas, threw a student’s Bible in the trash can and said, “This is garbage!” Christmas holiday is becoming “Winter Holiday.” One high school textbook devoted six lines to George Washington, and six-and-one-half pages to Marilyn Monroe.
Tomas Mann of Boston was a prime mover in originating state-controlled education. He was a Unitarian. Someone suggested that if you cross a Unitarian with a Jehovah Witness, you get someone who goes around knocking on doors for no apparent reason.
A recent headline in our local paper suggested that America was “One nation under secularism.” That is probably accurate. Secularism has become not only politically correct, but also legally controlling in the public arena. New York City Public Schools could display a Menorah, or Islamic Crescent, but no symbols of Christianity during Christmas, the very day that we celebrate Christ’s birth! These issues point to the sad lack of Christian influences in our nation.
In 1636, John Harvard established Harvard University, in part for religious education. Believe it or not, 123 of the first 126 colleges in the United States were established as religious institutions. While the Church has become a mere religious theatre, the secularists have stolen our public institutions. (I recommend David Limbaugh’s book, Persecution, for further study.)
A CASE OF DECEPTION
Jesus warns us against a spectator approach to church life. Yet, we have come to the place where meeting together is the goal rather than having as our goal the fulfillment of the mission. While we strive to have better meetings, others have focused on their mission to eradicate spiritual influence. We have been deceived by thinking that a good meeting takes the place of our Great Commission.
I recall an experience I had in high school: A teacher took a group of us to see a hypnotist, who was amazing. At one point, he asked for volunteers to come up and be hypnotized. Larry, a classmate, volunteered. In the course of his hypnosis, he was told that when a certain word would be used, after he had awakened, he would get out of his chair and go to the back of the room and kiss an imaginary “girl” (posthypnotic suggestion).
Larry was dismissed to his chair, and then the hypnotist used the code word, and Larry got up and walked to the back of the room, hugged and kissed a girl that wasn’t there at all. Larry was deceived. I have often felt that the Church in general is under hypnosis, believing that they are embracing a non-existent mission.
THE CASE FOR COURAGE
Acts 10:38 says that Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit and went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed of the devil. The text is in the book of Acts, not the book of “contemplation.”
When Joshua was ordained, he was told to be strong and courageous (see Deuteronomy 31). In Joshua 1, he was told by God three times to be strong and courageous. Then the people committed themselves to follow him; but they requested, “Be strong and courageous.”
The Bible is a book of true action heroes, from Abraham to the Apostles. The Bible is about action_not simply hearing and watching. Jesus told the apostles to go to Jerusalem and receive the Holy Spirit (see Luke 24:49) and then they would get into action. The Church needs a visitation from the Holy Spirit that will turn hearing and words into action.
I recently saw the movie, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. I was struck by the number of spiritual lessons. One lesson stands out: Righteousness must be defended by valiant people.
The Heavenly Man is a book about Brother Yun, the Chinese house church leader I mentioned earlier. In the course of his life, he became involved with the “Back to Jerusalem Movement.” This movement has sought to preach the Gospel all the way west, from China, through Islamic nations, all the way back to Jerusalem. Their preparation includes three things: How to suffer and die, how to witness for Christ, and how to escape when caught. That is a far cry from the Western Church.
In numerous places, the Bible reminds us that obedience is better than sacrifice. The sacrifices that we make are only acceptable to God if they are coupled with our mission. The Church must become more oriented to its mission, on a personal level. The mission is not about us, it’s about the cause.
THE CASE FOR DECIDING NOW
Contemplation must give way to action. Procrastination must give way to immediacy. We cannot drift on, and expect things to change. Doing the same things will yield the same sad results.
What must we do? This is the question that was asked on the Day of Pentecost. The answer is still the same. Repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit. Bear in mind that the question was asked by religious people.
Repentance means to turn around with godly sorrow. The Church needs to repent if we expect the world to do so. Baptism is a demonstration of death, burial, and resurrection. The Church needs to die to itself, just as we preach to unbelievers. We also need to believe Jesus now_not just believe that He was who He was. If we believe Him, we will act.
And we need to receive the power of the Holy Spirit who has come to make us witnesses worldwide. Interestingly, the Greek word for witness means, “martyr.” The early Church understood that, as do Christians today who live in hostile areas.
We must make ourselves available. Of course we are inadequate in ourselves, and we will make mistakes. But God will delight more in the errors of the courageous than the supposed “virtues” of the fearful.
God loved the world enough to send His Son, whom He knew would be crucified. Jesus loved the world enough to be crucified. The apostles embraced their mission to the extent that they were tortured and killed. So what does today’s “Christian Theatre” have to do with what Jesus and the apostles did? Very little. What does measuring a church by size, convenience, and comfort, have to do with the martyrs? Nothing.
We may not control what cities and nations do, but we can control our own choices. We can decide to act on our faith, carry out our mission, and leave the results to God.
I’d rather be the ship that sails and rides the billows free,
Than to be the ship that always fails to leave its port and go to sea,
I’d rather feel the sting of strife, where gales are born and tempests roar;
Than to settle down to useless life and rot in dry dock on the shore.
I’d rather fight some mighty wave with honor in supreme command; and fill at last a well-earned grave, than be the ship that never sailed. – (Author Unknown)
May God bless you and yours as you courageously move ahead in His purpose!
Scripture References: James 1:22; Deuteronomy 31; Luke 24:49