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Why is Christianity declining in wealthy countries

 November 2009 

November was an extremely busy month for us. One of the things that has kept me busy has been getting the year 2 Quiet Time Diary written. At the end of the diaries we have 12 pages of instructions to help families walk with God. I have kept asking the Lord to help me to write what He wants.

At the end of the year 2 diary, which is not yet completed, I felt led to write on one of the parables Jesus gave and have decided to include this in this newsletter. Below is what I have written to go in the diary. I ask the question:

Why is Christianity declining in wealthy countries? It is my belief that perhaps the primary reason that Christianity is declining in wealthy countries is because so many Christians want heaven on earth now. We desire God's wonderful blessings instead of the Lord Himself.

In Luke 14:15-24 we have the parable of the excuse makers. In this parable Jesus basically said that the good things of life were keeping people from accepting the invitation to the Great Feast at the end of time.

Luke 14:15-24 says this:

15When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, "Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God." 16Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.' 18"But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.' 19"Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.' 20"Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.' 21"The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.' 22" 'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.' 23"Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. 24I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.' "

Some points to note in this parable:

1. The three excuses given for not attending the great feast were all good things: - owning a field, owning five yoke of oxen and getting married.

Owning land can be a good thing, as can owning oxen to pull a plough to work up land. Marriage can also be a wonderful thing. It was God's idea.

2. The three excuses were rather silly reasons for declining the invitation to attend the Great Feast. Whoever heard of buying land without first looking at it? Whoever heard of buying oxen without trying them out? (It would be like buying a second hand car without trying it out.) Getting married was also an absurd excuse, as the man had his whole life to spend with his wife.

3. The people who accepted the invitation to the Great Feast were the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame and people who had no real place to live.

Are wealthy Christians today, without being aware of it, making the same three excuses?

The first man said, "I have bought a field and I need to look at it." In New Zealand, many people seem to be more interested in owning land and houses than in getting to know God. Young people are getting married, but are avoiding having children so they can pay for expensive houses and live luxurious lifestyles.

Another man said, "I have bought five yoke of oxen and need to try them out." Yoke of oxen to pull a plough makes me think of such things as careers, business and education. Many men and women are more passionate about getting "fulfilled" in life through such things as a highly acclaimed career, an educational degree or a thriving business than they are in spending time getting to know Jesus.

The last man said, "I have got married and cannot come." It may seem strange that Jesus used marriage as an excuse for not attending the Great Feast as marriage is such a godly, good thing. In the Western World marriages and family life are under great stress. Marriages are breaking up everywhere and children are suffering great emotional damage. In America, statistics say that around fifty percent of Christian marriages are breaking up.

It is my belief that the reason for these tragic statistics are that people are putting marriage and other good things that God has given us ahead of Himself. Marriage becomes an idol when it is put ahead of getting to know the Lord and living in His ways. For Kathy and I, the joy of walking together with God far outweighs any other bliss that marriage might bring.

A theologian commenting on this parable says this: "As a rule, the road to hell is not paved with great crimes and scandals but with pure good things - things that acquire a false importance in our life, because they get in our light."

Christianity is in a great crisis in the Western World. As previously stated, Christian marriages are breaking up everywhere and as many as 90 percent of children from Christian homes are not going on to serve the Lord as adults.

This trend could be reversed if families everywhere were to start walking with God. Parents need to start praying and sharing with their children from a very young age so that spending time with God becomes second nature to them.

Above all we must make Jesus our deepest joy rather than making idols of all the good things He has given us.

As I write this newsletter I realise that it was less than two weeks to Christmas. Even though Christmas is a time to remember the birth of Jesus we have noticed that it is the most difficult time of the year for many families to keep walking with God. In New Zealand it is summer and our schools close for about 6 weeks. Years ago, even though we did our Quiet Times, we found that this was the most difficult time of the year to keep having a sharing time with our family.

However, Kathy and I came to realise that the most wonderful thing we could do for our family was to keep sharing together, especially during the holidays when our children had plenty of free time. We also try to not over indulge in such things as food, and the buying of expensive presents.

This year, we are trying something different. We have heard that some families instead of giving to each other, give to a worthy cause in a 3rd World country. With Joseph's wife, Rebecca, there are now 8 in our family. If we each give 7 presents, it totals 56 presents. In the past, many of the presents received were not that useful. Therefore, this year we have decided to support Tear Fund. Each of us will support one of their projects instead of giving a lot to each other. We will still give minor presents. Their website is http://www.giftforlife.co.nz/gift/

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