blogs about awakening
We Americans take for granted things that our ancestors didn’t even know about. Central heating, running water in our homes. Indoor showers and toilets. Electricity providing lights and entertainment. Telephones and, in more recent years, internet, email, texting and social media. Grocery stores, clothing stores, Sam’s Clubs and Costco, gas stations, barber and beauty shops, restaurants and dollar stores. Cars, trucks and airline flights to wherever. Accessible medical and dental care. The list goes on and on.
Beyond that, we here in America have assumed we are entitled to be protected 24/7/365 by our leaders in our cities, states and nation from all enemies foreign and domestic. That our laws and governments will be ever vigilant to preserve our liberties and allow us the quality of life to enjoy until we die.
So when a pandemic strikes and our government seems greatly conflicted and at odds with itself, we become anxious and then angry. We find ourselves thinking: “I deserve better!”
Really? Who says you deserve better?
“Well, I pay my taxes and vote and pay all the vendors that serve me. So I AM entitled to all these comforts of modern life!”
Friends, those of us who claim to be Christ-followers in America have been given a loving wakeup call from our Lord. Do you realize that a 70 year life is less than 26,000 days? But eternity goes on forever. We have put way too much stock in this temporary life on this planet and far too little on our eternal home in heaven.
Why haven’t we obeyed the command God gave us through Paul in Colossians 3:1-4, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
We have, little-by-little, become like the folks Paul grieves about in Philippians 3:18-21 as he compares them with true Christ-followers: “For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Ah, but you say, people that concentrate on heaven are essentially no earthly good. Listen to what C.S. Lewis said about that phony perspective:
“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither. It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in other matters. Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there is something wrong with you. You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more—food, games, work, fun, open air. In the same way, we shall never save civilization as long as civilization is our main object. We must learn to want something else even more. . . . Sadly, many of us are so tethered to this world and the things it offers that we scarcely take thought of the world to come. Yet it is precisely by reflecting often on the joys, beauties, and satisfactions of eternal life in the world to come that we find a hope that empowers us to live fully for Christ today.”
Even here in America, we may not only lose the comforts we feel we are entitled to, we may actually come to a time of persecution for our faith. Jesus predicted it for his followers in John 15:18-20, and Paul mentions it in 2 Timothy 3:12.
We need to trust that, despite all the temporary pain we experience, our God will protect us and provide for our basic needs of food and clothing until He takes us to His forever home in heaven.
It is counter-intuitive, but the pain He allows in our lives can actually drive us to find real life with Him! Because real life begins when we quit trying to live to protect ourselves and begin to daily surrender our lives completely to Him and, by faith, abide in His loving and powerful Presence.
How about this for a counter-intuitive perspective: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
Truth be told, for a long time I considered this a simply an overly optimistic, pat you on the back, pretend there’s really no problem, “shape up and quit complaining” sort of statement from the Apostle. But no, it’s a real command, a call to have joy in the midst of painful circumstances. Talk about counter-intuitive!
Folks, isn’t it tempting, when we are in pain, to begin to feel sorry for ourselves? “Lord, I have been obeying you and following you and praying my heart out, and You give me this problem! Why, Lord? It’s not fair! I deserve better!” Trust me, I’ve been there many more times than I am willing to admit.
So how can we have joy in the midst of painful trials? Looking at some parallel texts helps provide the answer. In Romans 5:2-5, Paul says, “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
And look at Philippians 3:10-11, “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
We could find many other passages like these that encourage us to persevere in our suffering just like Christ did “who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross . . .” (Hebrews 12:2)
So, is it just to grit our teeth and hang on in our misery? No, we are to have “joy” and “rejoice” in our pain. How is that possible?
Well, it is both impossible and possible at the same time! On one hand, in my flesh, I cannot do it. But in my new nature through the Holy Spirit’s power, I can! Here are the steps I seek to take to turn from self-pity to joy and rejoicing:
1. I say “thank you” to God for the trial. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice ALWAYS, pray without ceasing, give thanks in ALL circumstances.” It doesn’t say, “Feel thankful.” Feelings will come later as we choose to obey. Why can we say thanks in ALL circumstances? Because Romans 8:28 is still in the Bible. All things WILL work together for good to them who love God and are called according to His purposes. And a big part of that good is that our loving Heavenly Father is using pain in our lives to make us more like Him. You know what the athletes say, “No pain, no gain!” If it’s true in sports, it’s totally true in our spiritual lives. I have a lot of pride, self-confidence, selfishness etc. that God needs to burn out of me in love. C.S. Lewis put it this way, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
2. I put on the whole armor of God to fight against my real enemy Satan. I especially need that shield of faith to quench his fiery darts that he wants to come to my heart, especially that dart of discouragement. I meditate on scripture that offers encouragement to me. One that often helps me is His promise never to leave me nor forsake me. (Hebrews 13:5) I also need to pray with my mind and with my spirit. And encourage others to pray for me as well. It’s always amazing to me how much better things go when I am bathed in prayer. What a powerhouse it is!
3. I find the grace to endure the trial today, and choosing not to worry about tomorrow. I keep my eyes on Him who went through much worse of a trial out of love to purchase us with His blood from Satan’s dominion. Day by day, I make it and, in the words of C.S. Lewis, am often “surprised by joy” as I trust Him and feel His manifest presence comforting, leading, guiding and loving me.
The longer I walk with the Lord, the more I see how much of the Christian life goes totally against my natural instincts. Someone once told me: “If you want to figure out what God’s will is, think of what comes natural. Then think of the opposite of what comes natural. Then see if the Bible doesn’t suggest the opposite of natural is in fact God’s way.”
Let me give you just a few examples of where this is true:
--“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) (Rather than taking revenge or harboring bitterness.)
--“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38) (Rather than hording and not being willing to give even sacrificially if He so leads.)
--“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)
Allow me to comment in greater depth on this last passage.
First let me ask this: Do you want to follow Jesus or just admire Him from a distance? Because if you truly want to be a follower of Jesus, He asks us to do some truly amazing things here.
“Deny” in the Greek means that we really reject ourselves! And you know the end of the road for the person who takes up a cross: death by torture!
But the next verse (24) is even more amazing: in the first phrase we have the words “save” and “lose”; likewise we have those identical words in the second phrase, but in reverse order: “lose” and “save.” “Save” is from the Greek “sozo” which is the much-loved word for someone being saved from danger or destruction, but also saved from hell.
We see sozo a lot in Scripture, including in Romans 10:13, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” We ALL want to be saved, right? But Jesus is telling us that if our primary goal in life is to be saved or safe, we actually are going to “lose” our life. What does the word “lose” mean in the original? It is the Greek word “apolymi” which means to destroy or kill! So if our primary goal is to be saved, the opposite is going to happen. It likely also includes the person who thinks they can get to heaven on their own without God’s help: they will end up in eternal death.
But here is the clincher: Jesus goes onto say that if we lose (that means destroy or kill!) our lives for Jesus, we will end up saving our lives eternally. Does that hit you like it hits me? Jesus doesn’t want us to just dip our toes in the water, or “sprinkle a little Jesus” on our lives. He wants us to dive in completely without holding back or having any reservations!
We need to choose daily to let Him protect us. We must be totally willing to die today—even physically—if that would be His sovereign will, while it brings glory to Him and helps build His eternal Kingdom.
As a former trial judge, I was intrigued with the confirmation hearings on Judge Amy Coney Barrett. The more I learn of her background and character, the more impressed I am. Here is a great Wall Street Journal essay on her Christian worldview as she pursues her judicial career and family life in our increasingly secular culture.
But, beyond that, I believe that in her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee she did an excellent job of describing the difference between the role of a legislature and the role of a judge. Legislatures are the ones who MAKE the law, and judges are the ones who APPLY the law to specific cases. In America, appellate courts also exist to ensure laws passed by legislatures do not conflict with more fundamental laws, including the Constitution. A judge's personal beliefs should NEVER enter into his or her ruling in a given case. That's where we get the picture of the scales of justice held by a blindfolded jurist.
(Of course, we shouldn't forget the third area of government: the executive branch, whose role is to ENFORCE and IMPLEMENT laws passed by the legislature.)
It's helpful to ask: did our American forefathers simply create these three branches of government out of whole cloth? No, in large part, they got their direction from the Bible. Look at Isaiah 33:22, "For the Lord is our judge [judicial], the Lord is our lawgiver [legislative], the Lord is our king [executive]; it is he who will save us." For God's people of Israel, He represented all three branches of government.
While our perfect God can obviously represent all three branches of leadership, we sinful humans need these three functions to be in different entities: for there to be separation of powers. It is true that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Great mischief develops when one branch of government begins to usurp the role of another branch.
We have seen this most clearly in Roe v Wade, the notorious case in 1973 that, in one day, forced all 50 states to accept legal abortion as THE law. In deciding Roe, the Supreme Court acting like a super-legislature, interpreted the words of the 14th Amendment in ways that are truly mind-blowing.
Permit me to summarize their legal findings. The due process clause of the 14th Amendment (passed in 1868) says, "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that this due process clause REQUIRES a policy of abortion on demand for the entire nation, and that any law to the contrary passed by any legislature was unconstitutional. To which most thinking people say, "What???" One would think that if you can't deprive a person of his or her life without due process of law, abortion should NOT be legal. In my book on the subject, I even quote pro-abortion legal scholars who respond with similar incredulity. But the Supreme Court stated that the 14th Amendment only gives rights to those who are "persons" and, in their judicial wisdom, they concluded that the unborn child is NOT a "person" at least until that child is "viable" if not actually born.
However, the pregnant woman IS a person, and you cannot deprive her of her right to "liberty" without due process of law. And, guess what? The Supreme Court said that the woman's right to "liberty" as written in the 14th Amendment includes a woman's right to abortion! (Is there anyone who believes that the authors of the 14th Amendment when passed in 1868 had any sense "liberty" included abortion rights? Not likely!)
Yes, our Supreme Court, in one day acting like a super-legislature, struck down laws like those in Michigan which made abortion a crime. So much for courts merely interpreting the law looking at the actual meaning of the words of the Constitution when enacted!
To restore governmental balance in America, we need to return to having courts behave like courts should. To paraphrase Judge Barrett: our liberties are better preserved when we as a nation are ruled by laws, not a nation ruled by the passing whims of man.
A friend, Bill Federer who writes a daily email called American Minute, recently dealt with this issue of judicial power. In his piece, he quotes author of Democracy in America (1835) Alexis de Tocqueville who warned us saying:
--"The President, who exercises a limited power, may err without causing great mischief in the State.
--Congress may decide amiss without destroying the Union, because the electoral body in which Congress originates may cause it to retract its decision by changing its members.
--But if the Supreme Court is ever composed of imprudent men or bad citizens, the Union may be plunged into anarchy or civil war."
Many believe the American Civil War was at least, in part, caused by the Supreme Court's infamous Dred Scott decision in 1857 holding that slaves were not citizens, but property.
Abraham Lincoln alluded to this decision in his First Inaugural Address in 1861 in which he said: "The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made . . . the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of the eminent tribunal."
Friends, government is not everything, but it's not nothing either. We are commanded in Scripture to pray for those in authority. We often pray for our President, our Governor and others. But how about praying for the Justices of our Supreme Court and for lower court judges as well? Let's lift them up and ask that they will seek to properly perform their role for the good of our nation, so that we Christ-followers are able to live "peaceful lives in all godliness and holiness." (See I Timothy 2:1-4)
For whatever reason, in recent days, the sweet, melodious song from the 70s by the brother and sister team called The Carpenters has been swirling on my mind. The song? “Top of the World.”
Here are the lyrics:
"Such a feelin's comin' over me
There is wonder in 'most everything I see
Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes
And I won't be surprised if it's a dream
"Everything I want the world to be
Is now comin' true especially for me
And the reason is clear, it's because you are here
You're the nearest thing to heaven that I've seen
"I'm on the top of the world lookin' down on creation
And the only explanation I can find
Is the love that I've found ever since you've been around
Your love's put me at the top of the world
"Somethin' in the wind has learned my name
And it's tellin' me that things are not the same
In the leaves on the trees and the touch of the breeze
There's a pleasin' sense of happiness for me
"There is only one wish on my mind
When this day is through I hope that I will find
That tomorrow will be just the same for you and me
All I need will be mine if you are here"
Don’t we all dream for this sort of perfection, utopia, eternal bliss?
In some ways, it is totally right to have these aspirations. After all, we were created to live in Eden forever with God in eternal bliss. But, in the midst of utopia, we humans began to long for more, more, more. We wanted to be like God, so we took the bait offered us by Satan. Rather than trusting our Heavenly Father’s kindness, we chose poorly and mankind has suffered greatly ever since.
It is a truism that those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it. Well, we haven’t learned from our ancestors’ bad choices. We humans continue to look for life on our own rather than trusting God to daily meet our needs. Even we Christ-followers, grateful as we are for our free “ticket” to heaven when we die, we still are tempted to feel we need something more. “I need that achievement, that promotion, that vacation home, that marriage, that graduation, that next drink, that video game, that . . . . (you fill in the blank).”
Back to Karen Carpenter. The other half of The Carpenters was Karen’s older brother Richard. While starting small, they soon made it big, very big. They had it all: fame, riches, popularity. Karen’s singing voice is still considered by critics in our day one of the best female vocalists of all time.
But, despite all they had, it was never enough. Tragically, Karen had a succession of failed love relationships, including a marriage that she ended shortly after it began. Her self-image suffered from all this pain and she became anorexic. No counseling was sufficient to turn things around. Her weight dropped below 90 pounds and resulted in her dying of heart failure at the young age of 32.
Separately, Richard became dependent on prescription drugs that necessitated him going into treatment for a year. He is still alive, but says he misses his sister greatly.
Is the story of The Carpenters a unique one? By no means. Think of the tragic lives lived out by most of Hollywood’s stars and many sports stars and business and governmental leaders. The divorces, drug and alcohol addictions, depressions, suicides.
What is the answer?
I think of St Augustine’s profound truth which he learned the hard way after himself living so much of his early life for his own carnal desires: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
Some things in life are counter-intuitive. We think joy comes by doing whatever we want to do. The reality is that lasting joy surprisingly comes as we do what we should be doing from God’s point of view. As a juvenile court judge, I saw a microcosm of this truth played out almost daily. Kids would come before me who were totally out of control: not going to school, not obeying mom and dad at home etc. They came into my courtroom anything but joyful. I would threaten them with detention in our locked facility. They would inevitably plead with me for a second chance. Sometimes I would choose to extend some mercy and would say something like, “Ok, come back here in 3 weeks. But if you are still not doing what you are supposed to be doing, bring your toothbrush when you return, because you aren’t going home!” Often, in the intervening time they would clean up their act. When they returned, they almost always looked like different kids! They were almost giddy with joy. Why? Because they were doing the right thing and that brings joy!
The ultimate joy comes as we connect with our Heavenly Father and seek to obey His leading in our lives by His power. He will often allow trials in our lives (like the threatened and/or real pain I imposed on juveniles in my court) to get our attention and drive us back to Him.
God, please help us to seek you wholeheartedly and there to find your wonderful presence that is the ultimate place of joy.
Are you grieving over our nation?
Truth be known, I have spent parts of certain days recently feeling a great deal of heaviness about coronavirus and its impact on us as a nation. I'm sure some of that grief arises from self-pity--not being able to live my "normal" life.
But I believe that most of it relates to how God has wired me. I hate broken things! Since I was very young, I simply feel compelled to fix anything that doesn't work right. And, can we agree that America is badly broken?
I love our nation. While far from perfect, it has truly been a source of blessing to millions here and abroad. It has sent the Gospel to the farthest reaches of the globe and has ministered to the needs of hurting people virtually everywhere. The U.S. has stood against evil empires in other parts of the world. But now all is hanging in the balance. America seems broken almost beyond repair. I feel this hurt deeply; I so want it fixed!
People are getting sick, and many are dying from the virus. Who knows if and when "normal" will come back? Our national debt, that was already far too great, has now grown seemingly well beyond the place of no return. Our economy is in major free fall.
But, worst of all, we continue to have such internal division and strife in our land. Sadly, it is increasingly reminiscent of the time around the American Civil War in the 1860s.
None of us alive today lived during that grievous time in our nation's history. But just imagine how horrific it would feel to know that a total of 620,000 American young men in the prime of their lives would be killed in the Civil War! Talk about something broken needing repair! Imagine seeing your beloved nation split in two like that!
As I was praying recently about America, God reminded me of the words our dear President Abraham Lincoln penned in 1863 as he analyzed the reasons God had sovereignly allowed the Civil War to happen. While he could have pointed the finger of blame at those supporting slavery, he essentially said all Americans stand guilty of an even deeper sin. I feel very strongly that what he said then applies to America's divisive and sad situation today:
"And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
"And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
"It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness." (Abraham Lincoln, calling for a day of humiliation, fasting and prayer, April 30, 1863)
Just as our American ancestors did over 100 years ago, we too in our day have tragically forgotten God. Yes, we have the slogan "In God We Trust" written on our coins and dollar bills, but on all too few American hearts.
We have idols of technology, sports, leisure, money. We kill over 2,000 unborn babies "legally" every day in our land. We produce and consume pornography in great quantities. For many Christians, God is just one of their many interests, rather than the true center of their hearts and lives.
We could go on and on. But you get the point.
Friends, we need to do similarly to what Lincoln called for in 1863 and what God specifically calls us to do in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14,
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people [coronavirus?], if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
Will you pray we hear the message God is shouting to us? Before it is too late and God sends the U.S. to the dustbin of history along with the myriad of other nations in human history that did not heed God's warning?
Thank you for joining a growing group of American Christ-followers who are humbly taking this huge burden to God!
Why do we have abortion in America today?
Well, that’s simple, most people would answer. It’s because we have women with unwanted and/or unplanned pregnancies who are not now in a good position to give birth and raise a child, so they choose to end the pregnancy and go on with their lives.
In the face of that, many in the pro-life community are motivated to say, “You should have been smart like us and used birth control so you wouldn’t now have to take the life of that innocent unborn little boy or girl. But, because you weren’t smart, we will work to get the law to force you to have that unwanted child.”
Let me be so bold to suggest that the ultimate motivation of those who have abortions and that of many pro-lifers who oppose abortion but use birth control to restrict births is very similar. They both agree that sex is important, but that it’s totally acceptable to take deliberate steps to prevent the birth of a child. They simply disagree on the means of preventing that child from coming into our world. However, the result in both cases is really the same: no child is allowed to be born to grace our world and God’s Kingdom with his or her unique heart and life.
Remember how Jesus said hatred is the heart of murder, and lust is the heart of adultery? Well, loving sex and, by comparison, demeaning the value of a precious child created in the image of God is the heart of abortion. By that definition, while I have been pro-life all my life, I have had a pro-abortion attitude in the past, which I have repented of.
To end abortion in America, there is only one real answer: we Christ-followers need to lead by our godly example. We need to both believe and live the truth that bearing and raising a unique child is one of the greatest privileges God has given to us His people. Yes, raising a child is hard, expensive and time-consuming. Yes, it interferes with my career and my plans for my life.
But is the conception of a child some random, biological event? That’s not God’s perspective. See Psalm 139:13, where David is speaking to God: “For YOU formed my inward parts; YOU knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” Similar things are spoken concerning Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5), Job (Job 31:15) and the Apostle Paul (Galatians 1:15).
Imagine if every man and woman in America had this godly pro-child attitude! You could have an abortion clinic on every corner, and no one would ever use them!
Much more needs to be said on this issue, but the bottom line for Christ-followers is for Jesus to be LORD of EVERY area of our lives, including this area of our family size. And we will only hear His voice in this area if we who are married are REALLY willing to have as many children as He wishes. God doesn’t force us to get married. But if we do, there are certain expectations God has for our lives to bear His eternal fruit for His glory.
For much more on this issue, read our book “Sweeter by the Dozen: Making Jesus the Lord of our Family Size.”
Wow! Have you ever experienced anything like what we are going through now? Restaurants, movie theaters, sports facilities, schools, colleges, and our churches all closed! And it all has happened so quickly!
Fortunately, we can rely on the fact that this doesn't take our Sovereign Lord by surprise. Nor does it stop our prayers to Him, prayers that we know He hears.
Like many of you, we have been faithfully praying for revival and spiritual awakening for many years. There have been times I have been led to pray, "Lord, if your Church needs a wake up call--even if that call is painful--bring it on!" No way could I have foreseen this as a possible way for God to answer our prayers.
Now, I don't like pain any more than you do. But, we desperately need revival and spiritual awakening! And let's face it: we don't typically change our course in life unless we become uncomfortable with the way things are now.
You can see the same pattern throughout Scripture: when God's people lose their first love of God, God brings discipline in an attempt to bring them back. But if they don't respond to His discipline, while He is slow to anger, He will ultimately bring devastating judgment. Folks, He's clearly talking to our nation! But will we respond? I pray so!
I think God gets tired of our assuming that "real Christianity" is just putting our time in at church every week, throwing a few bucks in the offering plate, and otherwise just trying to be "nice" as we pursue what we selfishly think is really important in life.
My friends, Jesus gave His all for you and me. After we accept His free gift of salvation, He asks us to give ALL of ourselves to Him, to hold nothing back, to love Him with ALL our heart, soul, mind and strength. Not just "sprinkle a little Jesus" on top of the other interests in our lives that we consider of greater importance than Him and His Kingdom.
Since He put an end to our church attendance for awhile, as we sit in our homes, what will be our response? Like C.S. Lewis's comment at the top, It's high time to BE the real deal: our families, our relatives, our neighbors and our friends need to see Jesus Christ in and through us.
What will that take? Five things:
1. Daily reading the Word of God. Not just to check off the block, but first to ask God to show us, by His Spirit, what He wants to say to us. Then read it, alert to His word to us today.
2. Daily communicating in prayer with our Lord. Be IN His presence. As someone said, "Pray until you pray." Linger with Him, telling Him your heart, but also listening to His heart for you.
3. At least weekly engaging in life-on-life fellowship with other believers: "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:24-25). While you can't go to a church building, you can still meet with small groups of believers to help you and them deal with your blind spots. Feel free to meet as couples and/or families, but same gender gatherings can also help us be especially vulnerable and real. In many ways, this could be far more life-changing than merely going to a big church gathering and checking off the block: "Done!"
4. Being consistently filled with the Holy Spirit. Daily confess any known sin of pride, self-pity, fear, lack of faith, etc., and pray to be re-filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)
5. Being ready to give away your faith to those who don't know Him or have back-slidden and need to come back. Here is a helpful tool to sharing the Gospel. The fields are white unto harvest, but the laborers are few. Pray for more to go gather in the great harvest! And join them yourself!
If you are like us, you have become weary of the nonstop bad news that now blankets the airwaves and internet. Central to it all seems to be this coronavirus (COVID-19) that is closing schools, churches, and colleges, emptying sports stadiums, cancelling airline flights, and even closing the U.S. Capitol.
What is going on? It's tempting to begin to panic. We find ourselves looking around for comfort, for a light at the end of this seemingly endless tunnel.
A couple days ago, I was drawn again to the message of that old, but very popular song by Anne Murray "A Little Good News." Feel free to click on this link and listen for that key line, "We sure could use a little good news today." (Truth be known, watching this video the other day actually drove me to a few tears. God made us with hearts that long for the perfection of the Eden we lost and the Heaven that awaits us His children.)
But let me suggest to you that in spite of this crisis we face, we have LOTS of good news right now! No, I am not delusional as I say this. I base my belief on solid biblical grounds. Allow me to explain:
1. God is still sovereign over ALL things. Science and chance are NOT in charge. He knows what He is doing, and those of us who follow Him are not victims; we are MORE than conquerors. (Romans 8:37). He has promised to protect us. When you are tempted to get scared, read and meditate on Scripture, like Psalm 91:9-10, "Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge—no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent."
2. As we pray and obey, we believe that God can and will get good out of this pandemic. Why do I say this. Because now people are forced to face their own mortality. The death rate in this life is still 100 percent! But most people don't usually think about this much. The uncertainties that surround us are making people hungry for security, which often makes them ready to hear the life-giving truth of the Gospel! Let's share it!! Jesus put it this way, "Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die." (John 11:25-26) When we come to Christ in faith, our spirits begin eternal life. That is too good an offer to pass up!
Related to this, a couple of respected friends independently forwarded me this video to watch. It is truly outstanding!! Bottom line, it tells how a Jewish follower of Christ sent a prophetic word to our President, asking him to declare a National Day of Prayer for this coronavirus issue. In response, our President declared TODAY a National Day of Prayer!! I firmly believe we are going to see some amazing things happen all for God's glory!!!! LOTS of Good News!!
3. I also firmly believe this virus will do what we have been praying for (and Jesus prayed for in John 17:20-23): it will increase our unity as His followers! I pray we will finally give up our petty differences as His followers and show the world our love for each other which will have such powerful results! Look at John 13:35, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And also John 17:23, "I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."
4. Finally, I anticipate real revival and spiritual awakening will come from this pandemic. Look again at the oft-repeated words of 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence [or plague] among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
Friends, let's humble ourselves, pray, seek His presence, and really turn from our prayerlessness, love of comfort and stuff, lack of sharing our faith, self-centeredness, etc and be ALL IN with Jesus! Then just watch Him pour out His Spirit in power on our nation for His glory and the salvation of millions!!!
Let's do it, together!!
I recently watched a great video by Derek Prince about intercessory prayer. In it, this former Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge University in England, describes the incredible power we possess as Christ-followers when we pray for our government and our nation consistent with the will of God. He gave a specific illustration that he personally witnessed concerning prayer for Kenya in 1960. I encourage you to take the time to listen to his story and teaching.
As I was praying about the agenda for our recent prayer meeting, God brought to mind how England potentially avoided a Civil war in the early 1800s over the issue of slavery. You see, in the late 1700s and early 1800s England's economy was bolstered hugely by the slave trade carried on by a number of British business owners. Their employees would kidnap men and women in Africa, transport them to America and sell them, making a huge profit.
One of my heroes, William Wilberforce, a member of Parliament and a devout Christian, tried unsuccessfully for 17 years to have England outlaw the barbaric, yet very profitable slave trade. But providentially, through Wilberforce's writings and speeches and the prayers of many, the English people were touched deeply by the Second Great Awakening. As a result of the heart change that occurred, William was finally able to get the votes he needed to outlaw the slave trade. It happened in 1807, 18 years after he began his quest. The final vote in Parliament to end the slave trade was 283 to 16! God obviously moved in power, allowing this great controversy in England to be settled peacefully by a vote rather than by a greater conflict!
So, the Second Great Awakening that lasted for decades in England and America had a profound impact on both nations. But by 1840 in the U.S., things had pretty much reverted back to more normal times where people lost the great selflessness and courage that a fresh move of God brings. Charles Darwin's teaching of evolution during those days suggesting the superiority of certain types of people only added more fuel to the fires of racial conflict and seemingly providing cover for those advocating and practicing slavery.
But then came the great Revival of 1857 which impacted millions of Americans. People were praying in huge numbers all across our nation. Yet, in contrast with the Second Great Awakening that went on for decades, this revival was short lived: it was largely over in 1858.
Fast forward three short years to April 12, 1861: the beginning of the American Civil War that ultimately resulted in over 600,000 soldiers' deaths. To suggest that Americans at that time had lost track of God and earnest prayer is not idle conjecture on my part. Listen to what President Lincoln said in March of 1863 during the dark days of our Civil War in his call for a national day of fasting and prayer: "We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!"
Here's my point: what if the Revival of 1857 had continued and grown into a full-fledged Great Spiritual Awakening? What if, as a result of deep heart change, devoted Christ followers in both the North and the South continued to earnestly pray that God would show them what God expects of people whose God is the Lord that would lead them to acknowledge the evils of American slavery?
What if they saw Darwin's anti-scriptural craziness for what it is: lies from the pit of hell. That all men and women, boys and girls--regardless of skin tone--are wonderful creations of God, made in His image, descendants of Adam and Eve, and ought not to be owned by others but rather deserve to be loved as our dear neighbors consistent with Christ's command to love our neighbors as ourselves?
What if the vast majority of citizens in America became totally willing, for God's sake, to forgo their love of money like our British counterparts did earlier in the century, and thereby to give up anything that offends our Lord?
Let me ask this: could/would the Civil War have been avoided if our people genuinely and wholeheartedly were following the teachings of Jesus? For sure!! And was not this God's will for them? Absolutely!! And are not the earnest prayers of righteous people hugely powerful and effective when we pray according to God's will? Yes!!
Bottom line, I believe that the bloodiest war in our nation's history could have been entirely avoided if God's people had continued to be revived and were living wholeheartedly and selflessly for our Lord instead of falling back into their comfortable "Churchianity" where we "sprinkle a little Jesus" on the surface of our lives. And I further believe that fervent, united prayer is the essential catalyst to promote ongoing revival and spiritual awakening.
So, coming back to the present, as our nation today becomes more and more divided, is it stretching things too much to suggest that we could face growing national conflict that could get pretty messy as trends continue to accelerate in our land? Shouldn't we Christians realize how crucial are our prayers and relentless pursuit of God at this time for revival and awakening?
Recognizing where we are as a nation, but also acknowledging the mighty power of united prayer, we have increased the fervency of our prayer for our nation in recent prayer gatherings. God seems to be confirming in our hearts that our prayers ARE making a difference. Please join us!
left to right: William Wilberforce, Charles Darwin and President Abe Lincoln