Why Faith Fades

Romans 10:17  So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.


Such a powerful insight from Scripture. I wanted to jot down one thought regarding faith after hearing a message from Ernie Hinson this morning. Ernie is one of our teachers at a Bible study I have been attending for over twenty years. Since attending, over twenty-three of our members have gone on to their eternal home in heaven. A good many of the teachers through the years, including Ernie, are retired ministers. I mention this as I am constantly reminded of the wisdom that most often only comes through age and experience. This morning,Ernie challenged us to examine our faith and ask ourselves a simple question… “What is faith and where does it come from?” Most are familiar with the most often referenced verses concerned with faith… Heb. 11:1-2, 6; Gal. 3:11, etc. Ernie approached the question and answer from the OT in reference to King Josiah (2 Chr. 34). Josiah is commended as one who sought the God of his ancestors and instituted a purge of the idolatry in Judah. As Josiah grew and matured, both his faith and his resultant actions reflected the impact of a deeper understanding of the Word of God. More revelation, more faith action. So, I came away from the lesson with this simple insight: Little investment in the Word often will result in the fading of one’s faith. More Word, more faith.


Orlando… An Itch Demanding to be Scratched

This blog post is a revision of an earlier post (2014) in order to update some thoughts in light of events that have transpired in the last two years. Of course all should be aware that the U.S. Supreme Court (SOTUS), acting completely outside the role envisioned by our founders, ruled that marriage would now be defined by whatever societal trend that happens to rule the day. Therefore, marriage will sooner than later be whatever man wants it to be. Of course, this development is just more fruit from the same tree. Unbiblical divorce; fornication; abortion; homosexual behavior; eradication of gender distinctions; and “gay-marriage” are now orthodox behaviors promoted by virtually every institution in our society. In this revision, a view down the road is taken as it relates to the church.

If there were one plea that Western Christianity has made to the culture in the last thirty plus years, I believe it would be, “Please like me!” The chief commodity of the church has been “relevance”. Likability and relatability fuel the furnace of purpose. I have seen so many church advertisements whose message is, “We’re not like those other churches.” I am still trying to figure out who those “other” churches are. Is my church one of them? I digress.

2 Timothy 4:3  For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

The Apostle Paul warns his son, Timothy, that in the last days people will demand their itching ears be scratched (my interpretation). An itch screams out for relief. I had an itch on the top of my foot recently and I had to eventually take my shoe off and scratch that thing! What relief! My foot was screaming, “Scratch me!” This is exactly what the spirit of immorality does. Except this spirit’s cry is, “accept me!” The spirit of immorality and the behaviors associated with it desires above all else to be seen as orthodox…what is commonly accepted. With regard to the behaviors mentioned above, this long-sought and highly prized acceptance is well on the way to being realized. Some of these behaviors are addressed below. This craving of acceptance has nowhere been more powerfully manifested than with the issue of homosexual behavior. The purpose of this blog is not the make the case against such behavior. To me, it is a settled question that only those of spurious scholarship and progressive agendas would question. What I want to address, however, is what I, and I suspect many more, see as the positioning of those who promote, teach, preach and otherwise expound on the issue from a Biblical perspective in the worst imaginable light. “Haters, Hate-mongers, Homophobes, Fundamentalists, etc.”  Such labeling by institutional spokesman from government, education, media, etc. has simply become a normal descriptive.

With the recent horrific mass slaughter at a gay night spot in Orlando, the pressure on churches to preach an “acceptable” message regarding homosexual behavior will increase dramatically. The Islamist views regarding homosexual behavior and the orthodox teaching of the Church over the past 2000 years will be routinely put forth as one in the same. Connecting each group will become normative. Although this blending of all opposition to homosexual behavior into one pot has been going on for some time, brace for a dramatic escalation. Soon, any negative expression regarding homosexual behavior will be unacceptable. Yes, the pressure on the Church to be either silent or “accepting” on this issue will be enormous.  But alas, truth remains true.

Heaven’s gate will remain closed to those who practice (1Jo. 3:9) homosexuality. Of course, heaven’s gate will remain closed to all who practice sin (1Co. 6:9-10). Our mandate remains the same… not to call names, make fun, bully or reject, but rather to speak the truth in love and pray that all who are caught up in sexual sin come to a revelation of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

We have indeed arrived at the day when what has been outcast is now orthodox. There will be terrible times in the last days. Paul in  writing to Timothy (2Ti. 3:1) charges him to take special note of the times. Times that have arrived and are still ahead. As Barnes notes (no pun intended), “times of danger, or persecution, and of trial.” I have heard others teach that such reference can be described as “tight times”… as in times where evil seems to have us in a corner… pressing, overwhelming, suffocating. In spite of this, Paul tells us to “continue in what” we have learned. It’s as if he says, “Look at how I have handled this and do likewise (v. 10).” This is easier said than done. To know the times we live in and not give in to the temptation to be reconciled to defeat is hard.

I have been assisting with teaching a bible study attended by mostly elderly folks for about twenty years. I take turns with other pastors from various denominations along with other lay persons in presenting teachings each Tuesday morning. At one point, most of those attending were my seniors by twenty-plus years. My time with these men (and a few women) has been a great blessing. I have learned so much from them just listening to their life experiences. Most are from the “greatest generation.” Joe (now passed) was thirty-eight when WWII started, the “old man” on his Navy destroyer. Sam was a teenager when captured by the Germans after his bomber was shot down over Germany on his very first mission. Orbie (now passed) was wounded twice in the Battle of the Bulge. Jack (now passed) described his joy at the troop train he was on in Germany stopping and the officers announcing the end of the war in Europe. These are just a few of the many “stories” I have had the honor of spending time with on most Tuesday mornings. And not only the “war stories.” Pastor Dan has shared many of the highs and lows of pastoring in the UMC while Earl has lent insight into his life growing up in Chattanooga, his time representing the dairy business and so on.  I mention these men because I have seen them often shake their heads in sadness over the times we are now living in. They have witnessed first-hand the stunning transformation of a society. Indeed they have seen the outcast become orthodox.

Outcast: One that has been excluded from a society or system, a pariah.

Orthodox: adhering to what is commonly accepted

All of us who are Christians were outcasts. We were excluded from fellowship with God because of sin. Once excluded but now included by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. God has always hated what kept us separated from Him… sin. One reason God hates sin is that it damages fellowship with His highest and most precious creation… us. Sin destroys life and God is all about life. God really hates sin.

Another way to look at sin is that it is behavior that ultimately destroys. God knows this but we sometimes too easily forget.  God hates what destroys us. There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end therein is death (Pr. 14:12; 16:25). The bible teaches us that we should hate what God hates. To fear the Lord is to hate evil (Pr. 8:13a). Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil (Ro. 12:9a). Hate is a word easily understood. There is little variation in its meaning or application. Hate is extreme, defined in the NT as “to utterly despise.” One can’t hate a little bit. To utterly despise, however, can’t even begin to capture how much God hates sin. Just as nothing in our inventory of expression or experience can truly describe God’s love for us. His emotions are so far beyond us.

If God so hates sin and wants us, as much as we are able, to hate sin, we truly find ourselves in “tight times.” In the span of less than four decades, we have seen behavior that has historically been outcast become orthodox. What has universally been unacceptable become not only acceptable but celebrated. Indeed, many “call evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20). It is easy to understand how those who have witnessed such a massive shift in national character could become downcast. Not only are they witnesses to this incredible moral decay, they are subjected to ridicule and isolation should they not “go along.” In more and more cases, those that hate sin have become labeled “haters.”

Although there are many issues that illustrate the outcast becoming orthodox, here are three. Each one represent fruit from the same tree, immorality.

From Outcast to Orthodox

Fornication: Sexual intercourse outside of marriage is now not only “accepted” in our society, it is the preferred approach to pre-married behavior. The most recent Gallup poll reports 60% of Americans approve of pre-marital sex. In 1969, the number was 33%.  Only 28% of those over 65 approve (imagine what the % would be for those over 80!). It would be difficult to find a television show or movie that does not present fornication as normal and acceptable. Indeed, we have reached the place where, “everyone’s doing it.”

1 Corinthians 6:9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral (fornicators) nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders

Abortion: What do we do with all these “unwanted” babies! Duke Nukem (of video game fame) was ahead of his time when he said, “Kill’em all!” 55,000,000 and counting. A heretofore unknown Texas politician recently became the darling of the national media after making an extended, impassioned speech before in the Texas statehouse in favor of unrestricted abortion. Though a tidal wave of medical/scientific understanding has reinforced the notion that life in the womb should be protected, the 1973 opinion of seven ill-advised Supreme Court justices still holds sway.

PRO 6:16 There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,

PRO 24:11 Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. 12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?

Homosexuality: Just this week (2014), Disney announced contributions to The Boy Scouts of America would be suspended due to their disallowance of homosexual men as leaders within scouting (this position has since been reversed by the Scouts). The simple quotation of 1 Co. 6:9 resulted in an extremely popular TV show being suspended until the backlash from the network’s customers forced its reinstatement. The President has for some time refused to allow the enforcement by the Federal Government of any law regarding the non-recognition of same-sex marriage. As I write this, it is fair to say that virtually every institution in American society (Education, Government, Business, Media, Entertainment, etc.) supports the proposition that homosexual behavior is acceptable.  Much of the momentum for the advancement of the homosexual agenda is found in America’s clergy. A recent poll of Millennials (under age 34) found that a third of those who had abandoned their Christian faith did so due to the negative teaching in the Church regarding homosexuality. Indeed, to contend that homosexual behavior is sinful today is to be way outside of the mainstream.

These are just three examples of how society has changed in “the blink of an eye.” The havoc such changes have brought to our culture become more evident with each passing day, month and year. Behavior that a very short time ago was “outcast” has become “orthodox.” But again, the Apostle Paul gives good advice. Keep praying, preaching, teaching, witnessing and believing God that there is still hope.

The Value of the Presence Reaffirmed


Recently during a Sunday morning service at our church I was reminded of the value of the prophetic Presence of God. Paul writes in the first epistle to the Corinthian Church (1Co. 1:4-7;5:4) that the Spirit of Jesus will be with us in manifest expression until his return in the flesh. This promise and all of its implications can easily be forgotten if we do not focus our expectations on its fulfillment every time we gather. I call these manifestations prophetic expressions of the Presence of Jesus. Of course, Paul rightly labels them “spiritual gifts” and exhorts us to “eagerly desire” their operation in our gatherings (1Co. 12:1; 14:1). Following are some thoughts concerning the importance of the Presence. 


“In Part” is the Best Part: The tide is rising. There is an awakening within the church. “Relevant” teaching about God will not satisfy the need to experience God. Slick multi-media productions that cater to the senses can no longer substitute for a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. Supernatural encounter with a supernatural God is the ascending commodity. Eloquent, persuasive speech must give way to divine manifestation. Nothing short of this will do. Knowledge has puffed its last puff and the balloon is leaking. Inspiration is the only answer. Short of the final revelation of Christ, prophecy is the highest form of inspiration…the real deal. Though we prophesy in part, it’s a part we cannot do without. Prophecy “in part” is better than “no part”. Prophecy is when God is involved. It’s HIM, not us. If whatever we are doing is not prophetic, then it is futile…an empty, profitless, passing fancy. This is why the Apostle Paul counsels us to love one another and eagerly desire to be prophetic. The most loving thing we can do for one another is to be prophetic. When we are prophetic, we have something from God for the situation at hand. Again, not something about God…something from God! The best way to truly get something from God is to get with God. It is in HIS presence that we become prophetic.

The Provision of His Presence: The presence of God is EVERYTHING. Though seemingly an elementary notion, its profundity causes many, if not most, in the church to miss its absolute necessity. All of Adam and Eve’s penalties were summed up in their banishment from God’s presence. Soon after, we learn of Cain. Cain was horrified not at having murdered his brother, but at the consequence of murdering his brother. He didn’t even apologize for the murder, but was distraught chiefly over one thing…his eviction from the “presence” of the Lord. His punishment was the inevitable restless wandering assigned to those outside the presence of the Lord. He was now condemned to a wavering disappearance the rest of his life. Wavering is the first step in giving ground. Many churches in America have been giving ground for over one hundred years now. Undoubtedly, we have been doing good things for God but edging ever so closer to dependence upon ourselves rather than the Presence. Could it be we have been outside of the Presence of God for lo these many years? The Presence of God promises great provision for the intercessor, worshipper, minister and saint. Presence based prayer is desperately needed. It is time to stop touring the universe with our petitions and pray the very heart of the Father! The Presence of God provides the church with the essential dynamics for effective intercession. The days of beating the air with our prayers are over. Through effective training and practice, our prayers will emerge from our time in His Presence.

This is the Best Food I Have Ever Eaten!

healthybreadYes… I am guilty. My wife, children and others have often accused me of assigning, “the best food I have ever tasted”  award to whatever happens to be in my mouth at any given time. It is true. Guilty as charged. It is also true of another food… God’s Word. Reading through the book of Isaiah this morning, I find myself thinking, “This is the best book in the Bible!” Of course, it’s not. It can’t be. For tomorrow I will surely think the same of another book of Scripture. The impossible question for me is, “What is your favorite book in the Bible?” I used to think I knew and have certainly had “favorites.” But they keep changing. Why is this? We should all know the answer. The Word of God is alive! The words we read are animated in a way like no other .

Hebrews 4:12  For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

God the Holy Spirit was not only the author who committed the Words to print, but he is the God who animates their present life-giving vitality. Just like natural food, the Word we read is immediate nutrition. And just as the body processes the food it takes in and addresses an immediate need, the Word we consume addresses an immediate and present need. It may be encouragement…or hope… or understanding…or conviction. Whatever it is, it is exactly what we need for the exact moment we need it. And that’s why it’s the best thing we ever ate!

What Happens When ‘Pastor Video’ Stumbles

mars-hill-90991Following are some of my thoughts  arising from Christianity Today’s coverage of the disbandment of Mars Hill Church following multiple personal and professional challenges faced by its founding pastor, Mark Driscoll. My comments are not at all about Driscoll but rather the model of church he and others have so successfully introduced over the past twenty-five years. Although there are different presentations, the basic premise involves the multiple church locations anchored by the teaching/preaching ministry of one individual who, by necessity, is a very gifted, charismatic preacher. The temptation to extend the effectiveness of one individual’s ability to gather, inspire and otherwise positively impact peoples’ lives is very powerful. Yes, almost irresistible. Mars Hill Church, with its, at one point, fifteen satellite locations was a notable example of the potential of such a model of ministry. Western Christians do indeed love multi-site anything… it’s so comforting to know one is part of something big, popular and powerful.  I like to call such a model a “micro-denomination.” Mars Hill had all the trappings and bona fides of any successful enterprise… fast growth, hip expressions of high-tech everything. Great speakers, emerging conferences with all the benefits following. With these things in mind, note the following quote from an article written by Morgan Lee of Christianity Today on 10/31/2014:

“Rather than remaining a centralized multi-site church with video-led teaching distributed to multiple locations, the best future for each of our existing local churches is for them to become autonomous self-governed entities,” Dave Bruskas, primary teaching pastor, announced today to the Mars Hill family. “This means that each of our locations has an opportunity to become a new church, rooted in the best of what Mars Hill has been in the past, and independently led and run by its own local elder teams.”

This quote gives new meaning to “going back the future.” I recommend everyone read the full article for all of its insightful lessons about church organization and leadership. For me, reading between the lines, it is a cautionary tale that should put the fear of God in pastors, future pastors and anyone interested in planting a church.

One Consequence of a Bad Worldview

Sometimes it is necessary to step back and take a broader view of the world and how it is changing. One of the courses we plan to teach students during the !mpact courses involves one’s “worldview.” Below is a portion of a paper (in Italics) presented by a former Vice Chairman of the CIA addressing some massive changes taking place in Western culture from what I would attribute directly to a secularized worldview. When God’s point of view is replaced by others’, destruction soon follows. Following is just one of many consequences of ignoring the counsel of Scripture about life.


Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.


INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING FOR CEO’s By HERBERT MEYER This is a paper presented several weeks ago by Herb Meyer at a Davos, Switzerland meeting which was attended by most of the CEO’s from all the major international corporations — a very good summary of today’s key trends and a perspective one seldom sees. Herbert E. Meyer served during the Reagan Administration as Special Assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence and Vice Chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council. In these positions, he managed production of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimates and other top- secret projections for the President and his national security advisers. Meyer is widely credited with being the first senior U.S. Government official to forecast the Soviet Union’s collapse, for which he later was awarded the U.S. National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, the intelligence community’s highest honor. Formerly an associate editor of FORTUNE, he is also the author of several books.  WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON? A GLOBAL INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING FOR CEO’s By HERBERT MEYER FOUR MAJOR TRANSFORMATIONS

(The following is point number 3 from a paper submitted by Mr. Meyer which addresses a major shift in population demographics resulting from low birthrates of Western nations.)

3. Shifting Demographics of Western Civilization. Most countries in the Western world have stopped breeding.  For a civilization obsessed with sex, this is remarkable.  Maintaining a steady population requires a birthrate of 2.1.   In Western Europe, the birthrate currently stands at 1.5, or 30 percent below replacement.  In30 years there will be 70 to 80 million fewer Europeans than there are today.  The current birthrate in Germany is 1.3. Italy and Spain are even lower at 1.2.  At that rate, the working age population declines by30 percent in 20 years, which has a huge impact on the economy.  When you don’t have the young workers to replace the older ones, you have to import them. The European countries are currently importing Moslems.  Today, the Moslems comprise 10 percent of France and Germany, and the percentage is rising rapidly because they have higher birthrates. However, the Moslem populations are not being integrated into the cultures of their host countries, which is a political catastrophe.  One reason Germany and France don’t support the Iraq war is they fear their Moslem populations will explode on them.  By 2020, more than half of all births in the Netherlands will be non-European. The huge design flaw in the post-modern secular state is that you need a traditional religious society birthrate to sustain it.  The Europeans simply don’t wish to have children, so they are dying.  In Japan, the birthrate is 1.3.  As a result, Japan will lose up to 60 million people over the next 30 years.  Because Japan has a very different society than Europe, they refuse to import workers.  Instead, they are just shutting down.  Japan has already closed 2,000 schools, and is closing them down at the rate of 300 per year.  Japan is also aging very rapidly by 2020; one out of every five Japanese will be at least 70 years old. Nobody has any idea about how to run an economy with those demographics. Europe and Japan, which comprise two of the world’s major economic engines, aren’t merely in recession, they’re shutting down.  This will have a huge impact on the world economy, and it is already beginning to happen.  Why are the birthrates so low?  There is a direct correlation between abandonment of traditional religious society and a drop in birthrate and Christianity in Europe is becoming irrelevant. The second reason is economic – when the birthrate drops below replacement, the population ages.  With fewer working people to support more retired people, it puts a crushing tax burden on the smaller group of working age people.  As a result, young people delay marriage and having a family.  Once this trend starts, the downward spiral only gets worse.  These countries have abandoned all the traditions they formerly held in regard to having families and raising children. The U.S. birthrate is 2.0, just below replacement. & nabs; we have an increase in population because of immigration.  When broken down by ethnicity, the Anglo birthrate is 1.6 (same as France) while the Hispanic birthrate is 2.7.  In the U.S., the baby boomers are starting to retire in massive numbers.  This will push the elder dependency ratio from 19 to 38 over the next 10 to 15 years.  This is not as bad as Europe, but still represents the same kind of trend. Western civilization seems to have forgotten what every primitive society understands-you need kids to have a healthy society.  Children are huge consumers.  Then they grow up to become taxpayers.  That’s how a society works, but the postmodern secular state seems to have forgotten that.  If U.S. birthrates of the past 20 to 30 years had been the same as post-World War II, there would be no Social Security or Medicare problems. The world’s most effective birth control device is money.  As society creates a middle class and women move into the workforce, birthrates drop.  Having large families is incompatible with middle class living. The quickest way to drop the birthrate is through rapid economic development.  After World War II, the U.S. instituted a $600 tax credit per child.  The idea was to enable mom and dad to have four children without being troubled by taxes.  This led to a baby boom of 22 million kids, which was a huge consumer market. That turned into a huge tax base.  However, to match that incentive in today’s dollars would cost $12,000 per child.

Oh the Psalms!

EPH 5:18  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,

20  always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

These two verses speak volumes to our times. So much of the wisdom of God can be found here. One thing I would point out is the reference to “psalms.”  During my personal devotions, I read and listen to the Bible. I have been doing this for many years. For me, hearing and seeing the Word has a really cool affect. For past few days I have been in the Psalms. Oh the Psalms! That they would be upon our lips in everyday conversation and in our hearts as we face life’s challenges. Subjectively speaking, I know of no other book in the Bible that better helps one find context in life. I say “subjectively” because all of the Bible does the same thing as the Holy Spirit ministers to those reading it. However, for “all-in-one” impact of encouragement, hope, understanding and eternal perspective, my vote for today is the Psalms. I just love God’s Word!