The Rebirth of the Church in Uzbekistan

rebirthI shared a bit of history with you last week.  It is important if you are going to understand the church & the culture of Uzbekistan.  Back in the middle ages the church in Europe had become corrupt, immoral and heretical, much like many churches in the mainline denominations today in America.  True Believers in God’s Word sought to reform the church bringing about the protestant reformation.  But while European Christianity struggled, the Nestorian Church in central Asia was blossoming.  Indeed, this place of Uzbekistan and surrounding countries were the flower of Christianity in those years.  It was a vibrant church, deep in faith & bringing enlightenment in the areas of medicine, education, astronomy, and business.  The math they learned from India, was adopted by the Muslims and later became known as the Arabic numerals.  It was India and the Nestorian Christians who advanced this.   Islamic leaders like Timur “the Great” (mentioned in my last blog) took all of this knowledge and wisdom from the Nestorians & then laid siege to them.  Timur was one of the chief despots who was responsible for the complete destruction of Christianity in Central Asia (from India to Moscow & eastward into China). He was the “ISIS” of his day. Christianity was literally wiped from the annuls of history until 20th century archeology discovered the evidence of this great Christian movement.            Now fast forward to the late 1990’s when Korean missionaries came to this land and planted the seeds of Christianity after the collapse of the USSR.  A new generation of Christians has emerged in Uzbekistan, discipled in the faith, nurtured by the spirit of God.  Then the Atheistic government discovered what the Korean’s were doing & had all the missionaries deported.  But it was too late.  You can still see & experience the impact of Korea in the culture, (I ate in a Korean restaurant last night).  But more importantly you see the fruits of their labors in a fledgling church.           Imagine the heavy hearts of these new believers as their leaders, their fathers & mothers in the faith, were taken from them, exported (not back to Korea) but to other countries in Central Asia were they continued their evangelism and church planting.  This is one of the greatest missionary efforts of our age.           One might think that the church in Uzbekistan struggled after that, but it did not.  They rose to the challenge.  They took the leadership reigns and organized themselves into a tremendous underground movement connected with other underground churches in the world.  They meet in houses throughout the country, intentionally keeping each “church” small in order to avoid detection from the government.  It is better to have hundreds of small house churches than to have larger churches that could easily be found and disbanded by the government.           The believers that I have met have all had skirmishes with the police, being arrested, imprisoned, beaten, or humiliated and released after some time.  But God’s spirit has given them courage and they are not afraid.  The authorities realize they are not afraid and can’t figure out why.  As a result, arrests are fewer and the beatings have pretty much stopped. Indeed, many of the police are curious as to what makes these followers of Jesus so committed to their faith.  But there is always that threat of arrest & the followers of quite aware of it.  They are very cautious and take great measures to keep their schools of faith & training hidden.  They continue to share their faith energetically, knowing that each time they might be compromised.  They smile about it.  “God is in charge”.           Therefore, it is not surprising to me that they never let me meet with one of the house churches.  They kept me away, and I met with the leaders in their homes for training and encouragement.  To be with them is an experience like I have never had before.  We reclined at a low table with pillows and cushions. There is always great food, and hot tea or coffee.  It is so relaxing, not like a formal teaching setting with chairs and a lectern. I would share, someone would translate and we would dialogue back and forth.           Their faith is genuine and their love for each other is so evident in all that they say and do.  It is like a big loving family has gathered together for fellowship in the midst of learning.  It was like the early church of Acts, reclining at a table.  We were breaking bread in a small room with the joy of Christ in their faces & the love of Christ in their voices.  I was touched and ministered to in a profound way. I came to share, but they gave me far more than I could ever impart to them.            They have the heart of Christ in their church.  They have the passion for the great commission in their minds.  They are reaching out to surrounding countries. They are strategizing and in a very organized way, they are bringing the Faith back to Uzbekistan after 500 years of silence. It is power-filled.  It is humbling to be with them and yet I felt like I was a part of their family.          Now it is on to Iraq.  – Love and Blessings, Pastor Mike


“The Problem of Pain”

C. S. Lewis on "the God We Think Will Satisfy" us, found in his book The Problem of Pain26435: "What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, "What does it matter so long as they are contented?" We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heavena senile benevolence who, as they say, "liked to see young people enjoying themselves," and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, "a good time was had by all." That sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Why didn’t God create the world that way? If you have had any experience in this world at all, you know that that is not the way things operate. And if you have been paying attention, you will realize that the world is not that way because of evil. There is a dark force in the world that that somehow plagues us. You know it is true, because, just like me, you’ve had to do battle with it. Some people have a better track record than others, at least on the surface it seems that way. But in the secret places of our hearts and lives, we find that this darkness always has a way of winning the day. That is it did, until Jesus came to in order to deliver us from that very evil. I didn’t get a chance to finish my sermon yesterday (I know, so what’s new?) So I thought I would wrap it up with my conclusion that I never reached. The most important verses in Titus 3 are 4 through 7. Here is Titus 3:4-7 in the New American Standard Version. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Notice in Vs. 4, how He came after us. As I said yesterday, we may not always be faithful to Him, but He is always faithful to us. It is just a part of His nature, His Holiness and Righteousness. It is just the way God is, He loves you and me, the crowning point of His creation. He will go to any length in order to enjoy our company for all eternity. Even if it means sacrificing His Son on our behalf. Then beginning in vs. 5 Paul gives us one of the best summations of the "Gospel" in 3 brief verses. In the Greek, it is just one long sentence describing how we are saved from the darkness, and enter into the light. It is clear that there is nothing good enough in us to merit salvation, so God delivers it to us as a gift. Out of His own deep love for us, He pours out His mercy upon us. It is described as a "washing", a deep cleansing if you will, deep enough to penetrate to most darkened soul. And what does God use for His cleanser? "Regeneration" & "Renewing" these two are mixed together in the most potent way by the Holy Spirit of God. And the Spirit pours it out generously over our lives. Remember in Psalm 23 where David says, "Thou annointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over". That is what the Father is doing to us. Pouring His cleansing power generously over our lives so that we will have His power in full strength, not only to be saved from past sins, but to be protected from any future darkness that might try to creep back into our lives. Jesus Christ made this possible when He took it upon Himself to take the punishment for our evil. Hence forth, He is our Savior, the one who pulled us out of the pit of Hell itself. Notice in these verses, the Father, Son & Holy Spirit all play a part in our cleansing that saves us from the darkness. As a result we stand, not condemned, but justified before God Himself. That means we have been vindicated and now find ourselves acceptable in His sight. And not just acceptable, but part of His Forever Family. And what is the result of all this? We become "Heirs" to His Kingdom and His Glory. The darkness, death, and the devil himself, no longer have control over us. In Christ, with the Armor of God, we have the power over him. His desire is to take us home to be with Him for all eternity. Jesus told His followers that He is building a place for them. Can you even begin to imagine that, our Holy Father, building a new Heaven and a brand new pristine world, that He wants to share with us for all eternity. It doesn’t get any better than that folks. John Wesley’s comments on verses 57 are concise and penetrating. "In this important passage the apostle presents us with a delightful view of our redemption. Herein we have, (1) The cause of it; not our works or righteousness, but ‘the kindness and love of God our Savior.’ (2) The effects; which are, (a) Justification; ‘being justified,’ pardoned and accepted through the alone merits of Christ, not from any desert in us, but according to his own mercy, ‘by his grace,’His free, unmerited goodness: (b) Sanctification, expressed by the laver of regeneration, (that is, baptism, the thing signified, as well as the outward sign), and the renewal of the Holy Ghost; which purifies the soul, as water cleanses the body, and renews it in the whole image of God.(3) The consummation of allthat we might become heirs of eternal life, and live now in the joyful hope of it. Meditate on those verses and Wesley’s analysis. It is profound! It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a nutshell, the Readers Digest version, the Cliff Notes if you will. Sunday, I shared with you that we were all a part of the "League of the Guilty". God is in the business of changing that in our lives. He indeed is Re-making us in ways that we never dreamed. This coming Sunday I want to take you into that dream. I want you to Re-think your world view! Come Sunday, and dare to Re-think, to catch a glimpse of God’s dream for you and the ones you love.
Mike-e1342678172131-150x150Veritas pro Christo et ecclesia,
Pastor Mike
 


“Regrets? I’ve had a few”

You might recognize those words from one of Frank Sinatra’s hits,
“I did it my way”. I’ve always disliked that song. I thought it was egotistical, an affront to the Face of God, and just plain arrogant.

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I'll say it clear,
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain.

I've lived a life that's full.
I've traveled each and every highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets, I've had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

If you are like me, you have had some regrets in your life. I have had more than a few, and more than I care to admit. There are a couple of things that I have learned about regrets in life:
First of all, you cannot go back in time and fix it. It is far too late for that. The decisions that you made back then, that felt so good and right at the time, turn out to be something that you will never fully recover from. You can seek forgiveness, and that will help with the healing. But some choices we make, we are bound to live with and that can remain a very hurtful part of your life, for the rest of your days on this earth. It is true in relationships, careers, moral choices, and the list can go on and on.
Secondly, I have discovered that the biggest hurts of all come from the ones you love the most. I have counseled many people in the course of my career, and it is unbelievable how much pain we cause for the ones that mean the most to us. Why is this so true? Why do we hurt the ones we love so deeply? The answer to those questions vary from hurt to hurt. Most of the time it comes from our childish immaturity. We want it our way. And we are willing to do just about anything to have it our way.
As I look at my life, the end is very near. Every day now, I hear of people dying of this or that, who are far younger than I am. And as I perform my duties as a pastor, laying them to rest, I can’t help but contemplate my own life. Because of my great insecurity, I always turn to the things that I messed up. The things I could have done differently or at the very least, better. You see, unlike the song, my regrets are “far too numerous to mention”. I could write a book about my own failures and lack of accomplishment. Too often, I see myself before God, feeling ashamed, trying to hide my face from the One who sees everything.

It is much more difficult to see my successes. They seem so small, so few, and so far in-between. That is what happens to us when we just have to do it our way. It is the oldest trick in God’s book, having it our way. It comes from the pride of the serpent, feeding Eve the great lie of life, “You can have it all, your way.” You get to be God.

It reminds me of a story I once heard:
A young, enterprising store clerk convinced his boss that a ten-cent sale would be a great way to reduce the overflowing inventory. The boss agreed, and the sale was a tremendous success.
This gave the young man an idea: He would open his own store stocking nickel and dime merchandise! So the young man approached his boss and asked him to invest in his idea for a portion of the profits.
The boss said no. He thought the idea was ridiculous, and told the young man, "Honestly, where would you find enough merchandise to sell for a mere nickel or dime?"
The determined young clerk went ahead with his plans anyway.
And eventually, F.W. Woolworth had stores all over the country!
Later, his former boss said with regret, "As far as I can figure out, every word I used to turn Woolworth down cost me about a million dollars."

Do you have some things in your past that you regret? Perhaps it's losing contact with someone you love or holding a grudge. Or losing a relationship that meant all the world to you. Or being unforgiving. The good news of Jesus Christ is that every day is a new day for His followers! His blood has cleansed us from all of our sins and Jesus gives us the amazing opportunity to start anew every day! That's the power of His Amazing Grace!

Thank God for the cleansing power of the cross to erase all your sins.
And then you ask Him to help you with any past regrets you might have.
By His grace you can start anew one day at a time It won’t feel that way at first, but if you are persistent, it can happen. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” --2 Corinthians 5:17 Perdonare Per Diem  - Pastor Mike



got Evil?

The World’s Last best Hope June 15, 2015 After last week’s blog and Sunday’s sermon (Posted on our Website) many people were asking me for a list of books that they could read to educate themselves. Here is a list of what I have been reading. E. Benjamin Andrews - 6 Vol. History of America – the best I’ve read Mark David Ledbetter -America’s Forgotten History – excellent volume Charles Murray - American Exceptionalism – Why we have been great David Horowitz – The Black Book of the American Left – If you want to understand the progressive left, this is the author you want to read. He was raised and communist and a crucial cog in the radical 60’s but after the war ended and he saw what communism did to millions, he had “second thoughts” – and began to turn to the right. Today he is one of the best authorities on the progressive left, their many names and their goals. Ravi Zacharius - The Real Faith of Atheism – One of the best apologists (defender of the faith) of our day. Rodney Stark – A great historian – multiple books covers a lot of history. Dinesh D’Souza- America, Imagine a world without her. A contemporary immigrant who sees clearly the Jim Demint & J. David Woodard Why We Whisper- restoring our right to say it’s Wrong. – Addresses why so many are frightened to tell the truth. Oswald Chambers Christian Disciplines David Marshall The Truth behind the New Atheism William J Bennet America The Last Best Hope Peter Kreeft and Ronald K Tacelli Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions Kindle Edition Norman L. Geisler The Big Book of Christian Apologetics got_evil_postcard-r7f841dc7d2ff47a1a0096fe26aceecda_vgbaq_8byvr_324 Norman L. Geisler Christian Apologetics I know the list seems overwhelming, but just get started with one. Pick one that seems of interest to you. With the multi-volume books you might just choose ones that are related to the 20th century forward. This progressive socialism was evident in President Wilson a WWI isolationist forced into war. With all of this bad news about the trouble America is in, many are people are asking “why all this evil”? “Why does God allow this to happen to us”? If we are the world’s last best hope, then why would God let us fall? The reason is very simple. You have to get your mind out of this world. The World’s best hope has always been and will always be God the Creator. In these terrible last days, He is our Last Best Hope. God is not the author of Evil. (1 Corinthians 10:13) In fact evil is not something objective that you can collect and put in a can or jar. Evil is the absence of good. God is good. Jesus told us the only God was good. To the degree that God and His Light is absent, then evil & it’s darkness claims the void. Did you ever wonder why God seemed so close in church, and then a bit more, maybe quite a bit more, distant out in the world. In worship, where we are exalting God, His heavenly creatures are with us, joining in that exaltation. There is little room for a void, unless you are suppressing God’s presence. To the degree that you do that, the less you will receive from God out of worship. The question naturally arises “Why did God allow temptation to be there in the first place?” First of all, God tempts no one. (James 1:13,14) But He does allow us to undergo testing. That is why the one tree – the tree of the “knowledge of good and evil” was created in the garden. God wanted us to choose obedience & in that obedience we would have found the difference between good and evil. But in choosing dis-obedience, we discovered the difference from the side of darkness, defeat & death. So we hid from God. We’ve been running from Him ever since. But like the Good Shepherd that He is, He has been chasing us down ever since, to bring us back to Himself. When God created us, He wanted us to be a much higher level, and so He gave us great intelligence and the ability to choose between right and wrong. In the Garden they chose poorly, and as a result sin came into the world and God would no longer be fully present. As a result of our actions, we created a void, as it were, and Satan took advantage of that filling the void with sin ad darkness. The more the world went into darkness, the worse life became. Immorality and crime increased. It is only a matter of time until God says, “Enough! I’ve had Enough!” And then destruction follows. Read history and you will see it is true. Just as cold is the absence of heat and darkness is the absence of light, so evil is the absence of good. Knowing this, there are many believers who want to go into the heart of the darkness in order to shine the Light of God. It might cost them everything, but they cannot ignore the call of God in their lives to let His Light shine in those terrible places, whether it is in an American Ghetto or a Mid-Eastern place torn apart by the forces of evil. Eventually God’s Light will overcome all the darkness of this world, when He comes back to establish His Kingdom. The key to His return is to finish the great task He has given us. When the Gospel is preached over the entire world, and everyone hears about the love of God (whether they accept it or not) He will come back to us. Come quickly Lord (Maranatha) was the call of the early church. May it become our passion today. Coram Deo, Pastor Mike


Racism Alive and Well

As our country grows more racially diverse each day, we see that racism is still a very difficult problem. It is a signal to all of us aaa-racism-ruinshow deeply sin is imbedded in our hearts and lives. A part of becoming new in Christ  (2 Cor. 5:17) involves allowing the Holy Spirit to root out the very depths of our prejudices and bias against people groups.

Recently several cases of blatant racism have been reported by the news media. There is Bundy, a cattle rancher locked in a dispute with the US Bureau of Land Management over land rights. In an interview, he takes the opportunity to reveal that there is a deep evil lingering in the depths of his heart as he makes outrageous claims about blacks. Then there is Donald Sterling, owner of a basketball franchise, who, apparently unknown to him, has a private conversation in his own home taped and released. It went viral. Again we see the darkness of racial evil dwelling in the soul. Shaquille O’Neal, a retired basketball superstar, after castigating Sterling on his racist comments, recently took to Twitter to mock the appearance of Jahmel Binion, who suffers from a rare disorder called ectodermal dysplasia. Thousands called out his obvious hypocrisy in condemning Sterling’s racism while mocking a disability. De-humanization comes in all shapes, colors and Sizes. Then a publically elected official, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., described Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the only African-American judge on the Supreme Court, as an “Uncle Tom”. He implied that it was OK for him to say it because he is black himself. All of this is just the very tip of the racist ice-burg. This should not be  shocking to us. Evil is alive and well all over the world. What is hard to believe is that after the last century where untold millions upon millions were slaughtered at the hands of atheistic socialism known as communism, there are still millions adherents to that system which promises utopia and true equality, but never comes close to delivering it. It is one of the most racist and biased forms of government ever imagined.   They are willing to tear down nations and destroy as many as necessary to achieve their satanic inspired visions. They are blind to the lessons of history. As true followers of Christ, we need to be at the forefront of these conversations that are happening in our work places, neighborhoods, friendships and families. The Good News of Jesus Christ demands that we confess our sins, dig out the very roots of evil & prejudice in our hearts, and then offer true reconciliation that only can come through the Spirit of God.   Coram Deo – Pastor Mike    

ZDKM9