Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Posts tagged ‘revival’

The Rising: Has it Begun?

AWAKENINGWhen Bruce Springsteen wrote The Rising, he was thinking mostly about the first responders who ran heroically into peril after 9-11.  But he also sensed there was a resurrection quality to the anthem.  His song came to mind again today as I thought about the Church here in the USA.  After years of decline and discouragement, I have begun to suspect The Rising may well be underway in Christian America.

Millennials have reached their tipping point in regard to marriage.  Just a few months ago, we turned a corner: more of that generation are now married than single. Young Americans have historically shied away from the Church until they have married and begun think about babies.  A friend who is well-known for his research into the church scene sees evidence at the national level that the return of Millennials to Christ and his Kingdom is now beginning to build. They were simply delayed in the journey by their tardy embrace of matrimony.

In the face of so much hostility, the Gospel and followers of Christ are showing up everywhere. Christians have featured prominently in  medal ceremonies at the Olympics in Rio. Michael Phelps reported to ESPN that his high profile recovery and transformed attitude are rooted in his reading of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.  After taking Sundance by storm, The Birth of a Nation comes to the big screen this fall.  The writer/director/star of the film is Nate Parker, an outspoken follower of Jesus Christ.  The NFL and NBA are well known for athletes like Ben Roethlisberger, Kirk Cousins, and Stephen Curry, who confess Christ and the power of the Gospel.

No doubt, there’s a difference between a fashion and an awakening.  The Jesus Movement became a fad back in the late 1960’s and early 70’s.  Pop music celebrated The Spirit in the Sky and love for fellow man. Books and movies were electrified by tales of exorcism and theories from Revelation; but the world was much more inclined toward faith and biblical values back then. The breakthroughs happening today are in absolute defiance of an angry, secular culture.  Believers are beginning to boldly swim against the cultural tide.

There’s a familiar scene in 1 Kings 19 in which we find Elijah  fleeing for his life,  cowering in the wilderness.  He cries out in despair that he’s the last believer left in the land and Jezebel is determined to assassinate him.  God scoffs, and tells his prophet to man up and get back to work.  “I have reserved 7,000 souls who have not bowed down at the altar of Baal.”

After two decades of gloom and doom reports of rising atheism, irreligious young Americans, and declining churches, we who follow Christ in the USA may be a bit like Elijah in his throes of depression: we have forgotten there is always more here than meets the eye.  Yes, Europe has drifted into spiritual death; but Africa is exploding in revival. God may not be finished with America yet.  There is still time to follow the road not taken- the narrow one.

So let’s never stop praying for fire from Heaven.  But let’s not be so discouraged that we fail to see the first signs of spiritual springtime spreading across the land.  I’m looking all around for sparks to shelter and glowing embers that can be fanned into flames.  These may well be the Good Old Days.

Lift up the Cross!

 

No Excuse for Hate

I was having a perfectly wonderful conversation with the Lord a few days ago.  I had been reflecting on some scriptures about revival and spiritual awakening, and I was talking it through with Him.  Then in the middle of that very satisfying quiet time, something awkward and awful happened: I saw my own sin.

Quite unexpectedly the Holy Spirit lifted my spiritual sunglasses and revealed that I have been harboring enmity and bitterness in my life.  I realized that I hate the President of the United States.  In my heart, I suspect he is actually a lonely, frustrated and unhappy individual, but I feel no sympathy or even pity- only resentment.  It was a surprising and humiliating discovery.  I am a hater.

I had noticed that over the last four years I have become more passionate about politics than usual.  In fact, I tend to turn off the TV whenever the President appears.  Sometimes I toss a quick insult at him before flipping the switch, explaining it to myself as “concern for America.”   On numerous occasions, my wife has said, “Honey, you really hate the man.  That’s not healthy.”  But I have always excused my rants and bitterness: “I just hate what he’s doing to the country!”  Sometimes it almost felt like righteous indignation, but it was more complex than that.  I was harboring hatred for the man himself.

Needless to say, I am still concerned that President Obama is wrecking the republic and driving a wedge between Americans. But being unable to countenance someone’s image on TV suggests a great deal of fear.  No matter how malign an opponent’s policies may be; no matter how vast his political influence may be, am I justified in being fearful?  Of course not:  Scripture insists that we should not be afraid of men.  Believers must have confidence in Christ and reverence for his holy purposes.  What kind of spiritual warrior fears what men can do?

I have confessed this sin to the Lord, and  I am genuinely ashamed.  Hatred among the saints is an affront to the Almighty.  In the pulpit, I always attempt to project this transcendental image of ever rising above politics.  But I still worry about what I have privately conveyed to those who know me best.  Most likely, I  have implied that hate is okay when you’re talking about politics.  Of course, that’s not true.

I will need to pray about this for a while, because I’m sure this sin is deeply rooted by now.  It will not be easily removed, but I will be diligent.  I will ask God to help me. In the meantime, I will speak more compassionately about the President and will read his autobiography in hopes of better understanding him.  I will continue support his political opponents and strongly oppose many of his policies and priorities, but I will strive to love him as an individual.  And I will pray for him, something I should have been doing already.

Someone said, “Well, you don’t have to actually love him,” but I do.  Jesus commands us to love enemies as well as friends.  President Obama is a political foe, but he’s still a human being I am commanded to love.  Even if he were violently persecuting the Church, we would be obligated to love him.

Getting too passionate about politics does more than enable me to hate certain people.  It also suggests that I believe what our country really needs is more conservative politicians.  Ha!  What our nation really needs is spiritual renewal and a Christian awakening.  Nothing else can save us.  But that will only come when we in the church stop talking about politics, sports or the bad economy 24/7 and begin to talk to God about our sins and His Vision for our land.

But this is not a rebuke  to the Church by any means.  This is a confession.  There is no excuse for hatred, not even patriotism.

Lift up the Cross!

The Return of the “M” Word

For a quarter of a century, Americans and other “enlightened” people have avoided words like “moral” and “morality.”  We were lectured that those words were insensitive and restrictive.  We were urged not to try and be the Morality Police.  Suddenly, the world began chasing after “Values” for a while.  First there was “values clarification,” helping kids escape from the limitations of morality.  And later we evolved to “values free”education.  Schools decided it wasn’t their job to teach character or responsibility anyhow!

And now, we have riots in England by mainstream young people who have plenty to eat, lots of leisure time, but no foundations for moral living.  In America, we can watch security video of flash mobs robbing  7-11 or Victoria’s Secret stores!  Now we have liberal  publications like The Economist, wailing in despair.  “It turns out that if sufficient numbers of criminals want to create havoc on the streets, they can,” an editorial concluded after the rioting.  “In the absence of internal moral restraints, external ones can only do so much.”  In other words, a civilized nation can’t hire enough policemen or build enough prisons if most citizens aren’t already controlled by morals from within.

Writing for the Wall Street Journal* last Saturday, a British rabbi  described  the moral decay [his words, not mine] which led to the loss of control in his nation.  He described a generation engulfed by “a tsunami of wishful thinking that you can have sex without the responsibility of marriage; children without the responsibility of of parenthood; etc., etc.”  Then he referenced a series of events that “remoralized” America and Great Britain early in the 1800’s.  Then as now, people were moving to the city, respect for authority was receding, the church was declining, unwed pregnancies were climbing, and every village was too familiar with drunkenness and fighting.  One historic event changed all that almost overnight!

The rabbi doesn’t name the historic event, but it was the 2nd Great Awakening!  Christian evangelists crossed the American states and the nation of Britain on horseback, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Worship reached a fever pitch in those English-speaking nations, and the moral fiber of those countries was rebuilt and restored.   The rabbi is calling for another event of those proportions.  May you and I join him in praying for revival in the land, and an awakening among the churches of Jesus Christ.

You will know when the cry for revival is about to reach critical mass.  You’ll know because you and so many others like you will be seeking the Lord, praying in repentance, crying out for fresh wind and fresh fire.  One of the first signs will be a slight uptick in church attendance.  The press won’t report this, but you might notice it in your town, your part of the country.  You’ll notice that Christians are talking about their spiritual lives in public once again.  And soon afterwards, you’ll see the forces of darkness being driven out; powers and principalities of evil being overturned.

Here at Providence, we’re in the midst of 40 days of prayer and fasting leading up to the 10th Anniversary of 9-11.  Nineteen radical Muslims shook our nation with four commercial jets and a handful of box cutters.  Now it’s time for the Church to shake the very gates of Hell.  Join us!

And by all means, lift up the cross!

* Wall Street Journal; August 20, 2011; “Reversing the Moral Decay Behind the London Riots” by Lord Sacks.

True 2 the Gospel

In his new book, Dancing in the Glory of Monsters, author Jason K. Stearns recounts the true story of a pygmy who was brought to the USA from the Central Congo in 1904.  The poor man, Ota Benga,  was displayed in a monkey house at the Bronx Zoo. Every day some 40,000 guests visited the exhibit, which also featured an orangutan in order to highlight the similarities between the small black man and the large ape.  When some Americans objected to the inhumanity and insensitivity of this humiliating spectacle, the influential New York Times responded with an arrogant editorial.  According to the editors, “Pygmies are very low on the human scale…The idea that men are all much alike except as they have had or lacked opportunities for getting an education out of books is now far out of date.”

This sorry crime could be committed only because the diverse minds of science, American culture, and the church all came together as willing accomplices.   The elites of science and culture seized this opportunity to affirm Darwin’s theory of evolution.  Through the power of evolution and the ingenuity of liberal social policy, the dream of  a Super Race of human beings seemed much closer to becoming a reality.  (Adolph Hitler would soon champion this idea.) Sadly, the church was involved because Mr. Benga had been transported to the States by an American missionary returning from Africa.

The story of the pygmy in the monkey cage came to mind again this week as I read about the latest efforts of many Christians to win the respect of the culture.  Why do we behave as though every decree from the New York Times is somehow timeless and true?  Why are we so hell-bent on changing what we believe or how we operate simply because the lost world sees things differently?  Shouldn’t we expect unspiritual minds to operate differently from transformed ones?  Nevertheless, the race to fashion a trendy, more relevant church continues.

  • The doctrine of Hell is under fire from prominent church leaders who insist it is an affront and a stumbling block to thinking people in the secular realm.  How can they put their trust in a God who seems so vindictive and unmerciful?
  • Other authors and pastors argue that the theology of the cross must be adapted.  Educated men and women in our 21st Century culture are horrified at the idea of a God who set up a system of justice so barbaric that his son must be executed on a cross to advance some religious or philosophical ideal.
  • Needless to say, the authority of God’s Word is also under attack.  “Sensitive” Christians warn us that we tend to take the Bible much too seriously.  Why insist that it must be accurate in matters of history, science or mathematics when the spiritual message is all that really matters?  Why argue with scientists or historians when the Bible was written to  describe the Kingdom of Heaven rather than the processes of life on Earth?

There’s a reason Paul once wrote, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation.” (Romans 1:16.)  He wrote those words because many in the Roman Church were apparently embarassed by the lack of sophistication of the Gospel.”  Thinking Romans were fairly certain that all roads lead to God.  The Gospel describes two roads: the broad highway to destruction and the narrow path of Jesus Christ.  Sophisticated pagans had a history of indiscriminate sexual adventure, while the Gospel encourages followers of Christ to flee sexual immorality.  Rome celebrated a god named Bacchus who lived for drunkeness and debauchery.  The Church celebrates a Savior who died to extend God’s grace and call human beings to holiness.  And amazingly, the Gospel that Paul refused to glamorize is still alive and well while the Roman Empire has been dead for centuries.

The fads and fashions of any age are fleeting at best and destructive at worst.  They are destined to fade.  Why would a believer suppose that the timeless Gospel should be updated in the interest of conventional wisdom that will be discarded as foolishness in twenty years or less?

Yes, the appeal to be accepted is powerful!  Apparently, the rush that comes from being embraced by the mainstream media, the entertainment industry, and scholars from well-known universities is absolutely euphoric.  But none of that emotional bling compares to Eternal Life.  Just one day in Heaven will make all that earthly glory look like faded tinsel from Chistmas 1965!  Only the pure and undiluted Gospel will ever get anyone to Heaven.  Let’s refuse to exchange the Gospel of Jesus Christ to win 15 minutes of acclaim in the eyes of a dying world.  The power of conventional wisdom will only lead me to a funeral.  The undiluted Gospel of Christ will get me into the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

I”ll take the pure Gospel every time.

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