What I Read Today;

2 Corinthians 4; John 3; Hosea 1-2; Proverbs 17-18; 2 Chronicles 33-34; Deuteronomy 1

The story of Josiah in 2 Chronicles has always amazed me.  God had showered the Jewish people with grace upon grace.  He promised Abraham that the number of his descendants would be more than the sands of the sea or the stars of the air.  God promised that he would rescue the people from Egyptian slavery.  He promised them the promised land.

Yet, here we find that the Word of God is found, sitting on a shelf, collecting dust in the very temple of God in Jerusalem?  How can this be?  God’s people had forgotten God’s Word?

We know from the rest of the book of Second Chronicles that King Josiah would lead a short-lived revival.  Sadly, within 20 years of Josiah’s passing, Babylon would invade Judah and carry much of its population into captivity.

How could the people who were so blessed by a gracious and mighty God fall away like this?  Simply put, they took God for granted.  They pushed God to the back of their minds and then to the far corners of their lives, and finally, they simply forgot what it was they were worshiping.

Throughout the years since Jesus’ death, we have witnessed the same phenomena over and over again.  Jesus becomes compartmentalized in our lives.  The church becomes something we do, not about someone we worship.  What we believe starts to become less about who we are and more about what we do for God.  As we drift further and further away from the Words of Scripture, our lives become engulfed by a society that doesn’t understand the values that God gives the Christian Church.

Much has been made about the decline of the church in the United States and Western Europe.  As the Church becomes more like the society that is self-centered and inwardly focused, we see less and less reliance on what God is trying to tell us, and it becomes more about what we can get from God.  What we see now is either a church focused on pointing out faults or a Church that acts like a self-help guru proclaiming God will bless you if you do certain things.

We seem to have forgotten that the Church is about proclaiming that Jesus Christ brings us salvation from Sin and Death. We forget that Jesus looks for a personnel relationship with each one of us.  An intimate relationship.  The church doesn’t seem to want to teach that Jesus calls each one of us to grow in the grace and knowledge of God.  Moreover, many in the extremes of the Church have forgotten Jesus’ message to love one another, to put others above ourselves, to show mercy and forgiveness.

When we consider this, should it really be any surprise when we witness rising levels of violence in our nation today?  Does it make you understand why we see the level of discourse decaying in our society and even now extending into the Church itself? We no longer view those we disagree with as children of God who have intrinsic value.  Instead, we see them as evil and seek to diminish their worth.

So what do we do in times like these?

History truly does show us the way.

Throughout his missionary journey’s, Pauls would enter into a community, preach the scriptures about the messiah, and proclaim the good news.  He would then focus on the growth of new believers through prayer and study.

When the reformers of the 1400s and 1500s sought to change the church from the works righteous church it had become, they focused on getting the Word of God into the hands of the people of God.  Versions of the Bible were taken out of Latin and Hebrew and put into the ordinary people’s languages. They sought to grow the church by helping God’s people to become closer to God on an individual basis and re-teaching the idea that we are saved by grace, not by works.

When John and Charles Wesley began the Methodist movement, it was centered around small groups who met to pray, study, and hold one another accountable in their spiritual walk.    Those small groups led to circuit riders crisscrossing the United States and led to the ultimate creation of the Methodist movement in the United States.  While Wesley was an incredible preacher and writer, his genius was the creation of these small societies where real spiritual growth could be cultivated.

The Church must get back to its roots.  We must go back to the idea that an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ is not a one day a week affair.  We must rebuild the concept that our walk with God is a 24/7 walk.  Our focus should not be on the pharisaic pointing out of an individual’s sins.  But helping individuals to find the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their lives and helping them to become closer to Jesus Christ each and every day of their lives.

By helping believers grow in their walk with God, the Church can be the force that leads us out of the cycle of hate that we are living in today.

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