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The Folly of Egocentricity

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                                                                       black hole - Hubble Telescope image 

                                                  

                They think the whole world revolves around them! 
                                      
EZEKIEL 38:12 NLT



Rabbi Hillel asked a good question in Ethics of the Fathers:
     “If I am only for myself, who am I?”
     Selfishness runs counter to My will, and isolates you from others.

The earth is not the center of the universe—the Eternal One is.
     Earthly-mindedness is limiting and worrisome.
     Go about your business, ignoring Mine, and you will go spiritually bankrupt.

The sun is not the center of the universe—the Son of God is. 
     The Light of the World illuminates the Way to the Truth of Life.
     The Sun of Righteousness holds everything together, including you.

The north star is not the center of the universe—the Bright Morning Star is. 
     The Creator of the cosmos directs the traffic patterns of the galaxies.
     The Star-Maker inspires hope in the darkest night of your soul.

You are not the center of the universe—I am. 
     Self-centeredness is laughable and sinful.
     Egocentricity breeds lust, impurity, greed, idolatry, anger, and slander.
     Egomaniacs eventually self-destruct—they love themselves to death. 
     Arrogant enough to take a do-it-yourself approach to life?
     Self-righteous to the point of taking center stage and claiming holiness?
     Convinced you are strong enough to handle any problem you may face?
     Smart enough to figure out all the enigmas of the world?
     Bragging you have it made, the world wrapped around your finger?

Christ-centeredness alone is eternally significant.
     Find a nobler purpose—honoring your Savior in all you do.
     Enjoy greater pleasure—celebrating the joy of His company.
     Experience higher power—surviving difficulties by His grace.
     Celebrate greater purity—thinking your Master’s thoughts.

Live His way—beyond yourself.

                                             

                                  (c) Pastor Johnny R. Almond 
                           Day 288,  Gentle Whispers from Eternity 

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A Benediction for Today

According to Wikipedia, a benediction “is a short invocation for divine help, blessing, and guidance.” From the earliest, Christians adopted benedictions into their worship, particularly at the end of a service. Such benedictions have been regularly practiced ever since. Perhaps the best known biblical benediction is the one at the end of the tiny book of Jude, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25). Only three times in the New Testament is praise offered to God “who is able” - Romans 16:25, Ephesians 3:20, and here, where Jude offers praise to God who is able to “keep you from stumbling.” Further, Jude offers praise to God who can “present you faultless” before Him and finally, Jude gives praise to God who can present us “with exceeding joy.” Jude’s benediction offers divine help, blessing and guidance. Ernest Shurtleff was a student at Andover Seminary near Boston. He wrote a prayer to be sung at the conclusion of commencement, as fellow students promoted, moved on, commenced. The third verse seems especially appropriate for today - for divine help, blessing and guidance:
“Lead on, O King Eternal, we follow, not with fears;
For gladness breaks like morning where’er thy face appears;
Thy cross is lifted o’er us; we journey in its light:
The crown awaits the conquest; lead on, O God of might.”

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Free book offer: Christ Is All!

"No one can be robbed of his delights whose joy is Christ. Eternal is his gladness who rejoices in an eternal good."
—Augustine of Hippo (354–430), printed on page 32 of Words Old and New: or, Gems From the Christian Authorship of All Ages, by Horatius Bonar
 
     Phil Miglioratti (the curator, coordinator, and administrator of The #ReimagineFORUM) and I have a friend named David Bryant who has served the Lord as an ordained minister and in other ways for over fifty years. Phil has written this endorsement of him:
 
David Bryant is a pioneer of the late 20th century prayer movement.  His work with America's National Prayer Committee awakened congregations across the nation to recognize the priority of prayer in every ministry and activity. His leadership gave rebirth to "concerts" of prayer, opening the way for the cityreaching movement that called the Body of Christ across a community or city to pray in harmony. David's transition to a "Christ is All" message has challenged pastors, prayer champions and church leaders to re-place Christ as foundational and central to the worship, fellowship, discipleship, stewardship, leadership, citizenship of every believer, every congregation. David's tireless, authentically humble, service has been an amazing grace to the Church.
 
     For many years his ministry was known as Concerts of Prayer International, but for almost twenty years it has been known as PROCLAIM HOPE!. One can learn about it at its main website, which is here: http://www.proclaimhope.com/.
 
     Among the books David has written is one entitled Christ Is All!. Its title is a quotation of Colossians 3:11 with an added exclamation point.
 
Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
--Colossians 3:11 (NIV)
 
     One can learn about this book here: https://davidbryantbooks.com/.
 
     The original version of Christ Is All! has the subtitle A Joyful Manifesto on the Supremacy of God's Son. It was published in hardback, and is available for free in an e-book format here http://readcia.com/ and in an audiobook format here https://proclaimhope.org/audiovideo/christ-is-all-audio-book/.
 
     The revised version of Christ Is All! has the subtitle Join in the Joyful Awakening to the Supremacy of God's Son. It is a condensed version of the original. The original version is 476 pages long--the condensed version is only 176 pages. It is not available in an e-book format nor in an audiobook format, but it is available in paperback.
 
     One can download free resources related to both versions (such as a discussion guide for small groups) here https://christisallbook.com/.
 
     In his ministry—and especially in this book—David seeks to awaken others to "ALL" who Christ is. Being a believer in the importance of his mission, I have purchased and am giving copies of the revised version of Christ Is All! to people who tell me they want and intend to read it.
 
     If you would like to read it, and if you would read it if I gave you a copy of it, you are welcome to request one from me by e-mail, providing your name and a mailing address. Please mention that you learned of this offer from The #ReimagineFORUM @ Pray.Network. My primary e-mail address is: crosspurposed@yahoo.com.
 
     I charge neither for the book nor for its shipment. I want nothing in return for it. At present, I have a few dozen copies available. Although I prefer to ship domestically (within the United States), I am willing to consider shipping internationally.
 
     If you would like to get an idea of what the book is like other than by reading what David, I, and others have said about it, I suggest you examine a few of his articles which he has published on the blog of this website of his ministry: https://christnow.com/.
 
     David and I hope that through Christ Is All!, readers will gain a greater, grander, vision of our Lord, and thereby be inspired and invigorated to live in, through, and for Him. It is a book of hope and joy in Jesus.
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Praying for Afghanistan

 

 

Dear all,

We are meeting on zoom on Thursday night 9pm Sydney time, only for 45 min to 1 hr. Let me know if you wish to join us to email you the zoom link

 

Prayer focus

Taliban is only a symptom but we are going to pray over all the tribes in Afghanistan and bind the strongman in every tribe (Muslim or not) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_groups_in_Afghanistan

We are going to pray over the highplaces, rivers and dams to destroy all satanic alters that was built there. We are going to destroy in the spirit the Taliban Government Structure in Jesus name. Amen

The Holy Spirit will guide us on the night how to pray more and what to pray for to deliver Afghanistan from the hand of Anti-Christ.

 

This call is for people who understand spiritual warfare and they are called to pray.

It is the Holy Spirit who will guide us to have the strategy how to pray and what to pray for with the God’s Army.

Please read Ps 91 everyday and put on the Armor of God

 

Exodus 14:15-16

 

God bless

Lilian

 

Lilian Schmid

Prayer Strategist and Coordinator

+61412766917

lilianschmid@prayerstrategy.org

https://prayerstrategy.org/

Sydney – Australia

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Asking God to Hear Our Prayer

Do we have to ask God to hear our prayer, or does He automatically hear? When Nehemiah was preparing to go before the King to request permission to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of the city, he prayed, “O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant” (Nehemiah 1:11). Furthermore, Daniel prayed, “Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications” (Daniel 9:17). Finally, David prayed, “Incline Your ear to me, and hear my speech” (Psalm 17:6). Unfortunately, most of us just begin our prayer as though God is already listening, with nothing else to do except wait for our communication. While God is eager to hear from us, He does have a few other things to do. I once heard a new believer begin his prayer, “God, this is John. Remember me? If so, please hear this.” I know what the Bible also says, for instance in 1 John 5:14: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” So maybe we don’t need to ask God to hear us. Perhaps to be heard by God, all we need is just to pray according to His will. How do you pray? Think about it.

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PTAP: Hajj - Day 1

Hajj 2021 - Day 1

Sacred Act 1: Ihram (cleaning, preparation day

Pilgrims must enter into the state of Ihram (purity) which involves ritual washing and then wearing white, plain garments. These garments indicate that all pilgrims are equal. Following this cleansing, pilgrims are officially on the Hajj. As they cross the pilgrimage boundary, the men will shout the Talbiyah, a Muslim prayer: “Here I am at Thy service O Lord, here I am. Here I am at Thy service and Thou hast no partners. Thine alone is All Praise and All Bounty, and Thine alone is The Sovereignty. Thou hast no partners.” During this day of cleansing, pilgrims visit the the Grand Mosque in which the Ka'aba is located. The Ka'aba is a black building in the center of the Mosque that is considered to be the Bayt Allah (“House of God”), the most sacred site in Islam. It is equivalent to the Holy of Holies in the Jewish Tabernacle and Temple. After leaving the Grand Mosque, many pilgrims will walk to the tent city of Mina to spend the night.

Key Scriptures to Pray

“But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.” Hebrews 9:11-14

Going before the Father

  • Pray Muslims would know that only the Lord Jesus Christ provides the “purification for sins” that they desire. Pray for their spiritual journey to include dreams and visions of Jesus.

  • As Muslims walk into the Grand Mosque and see the Ka’aba, they feel like they are entering the most holy place on earth. Hebrews 9:11-14 says the Lord Jesus entered the “Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption”.

  • Pray that pilgrims would know that only in Jesus can they have an unblemished conscience and eternal redemption.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xZZx9Qeujc&t=1s

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A Prayer that Hasn’t Changed

I have been compiling a collection of prayer quotes from lesser-known authors. As I was preparing to donate my collection of five hundred books on prayer to the Southwestern Baptist Seminary Library, I got to wondering who all these authors were. A few were recognizable, but most were unknown, at least to me. I decided to scan all the books before releasing them, to see what I, or some previous owner, had underlined or highlighted, thus my collection of quotes. One of my favorite quotes is from a book published in 1954 entitled, “The Practice and Power of Prayer” by John Sutherland Bonnell, whose name I did not immediately recognize. A bit of Google research reminded me that he was the twenty-six-year pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, whose Sunday sermons were regularly reported in the New York newspapers. The quote: “The secret of the victorious march of the Early Church across the Roman world is found in its belief in and practice of prayer . . . These early Christians were spiritual conductors, and God manifested himself mightily in their lives . . . The need of the hour in our churches is more prayer . . . that they may become a pulsating, dynamic, spiritual power.” The quote could have come from any pastor, of any church, in any denomination, in any location, in any day. The need of the hour in today’s churches is still “prayer, that produces a pulsating, dynamic spiritual power.” The need of the hour in our churches is still “more prayer . . . that they may become a pulsating, dynamic, spiritual power.” After all, “The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect” (James 5:16, HCSB).

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"I have been reminded of your sincere faith,

which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice?

I am persuaded, now lives in you also" (II Timothy 1:5 NIV)

If Timothy's grandmother Lois had not been faithful in passing on her faith to her daughter Eunice and grandson Timothy, we would not have the books I and II Timothy in the Bible today. Their example is an excellent generational example of the importance of passing on the faith to future generations. Lois is our forerunner who modeled grand mothering for us.

Isn't it interesting, nowhere in the Bible does it say that the church has the primary responsibility to pass on our faith to the next generation? It clarifies that parents and grandparents are the principal conduits to instruct their children and grandchildren about God and his love for them.

Today, many parents are not passing on the values and faith with which they were raised.

With the pressure on families today, grandchildren need our hugs, reassurance, and wisdom more than ever. It is also imperative for us to communicate to our grandchildren that we love them and accept them, even though we may disagree with their behavior. In today's broken world, Satan's purpose is to destroy the family. Therefore, we must pray God will give the mothers and fathers of our dear grandchildren godly wisdom in the monumental task of teaching and guiding our grandchildren in the ways of the Lord.

 

Therefore, grandparents have a crucial role to fill if faith is to be found on earth when he comes back for his own. In the Bible, we read about many people God used in the autumn season of life for life's most significant work. According to God's Word, God wants grandparents to focus on passing a godly legacy to the next generation. The demonstrations of our faithful walk with the Lord and our prayers for our grandchildren are effective ways to pass on our faith to the next generation.

 

In Proverbs 27:19, we read, "As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person" (NLT). What does the reflection of our "real person" reflect? When we are committed to read and meditate on God's Word, we will replicate a life transformed into his image. As we invest in our walk with the Lord, we are spiritually investing in the lives of our grandchildren by modeling a godly example. As spiritual role models, we can demonstrate the reality of walking with God through both the storms and sunny days of our lives.

Do your grandchildren see authenticity and sincerity about you in your relationship with God? What a blessing it would be for me to hear my grandchildren say, "I want to have a relationship with the Lord like my grandmother modeled for me." I hope I can say in the years to come, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children and grandchildren are walking in the truth" (3 John 1:4).

Ask yourself:

  • What kind of memories will my grandchildren have of me when I pass away?
  • Is my walk with the Lord what do I want to be reflected in my grandchildren's lives?
  • Do I want my grandchildren to imitate my spiritual life?
  • Will they want my Jesus?

Prayer

Dear Lord, forgive me when I have not taken the time to read your Word or modeled the life of a godly grandparent.

Help me to take the time to read and meditate on your Word every day so that I will reflect your face in the heart of my grandchildren.

Help me to be a godly example, teaching my grandchildren to live lives of truth

with integrity, authenticity, and seriousness.

Help me give sound, wise, wholesome counsel and guidance,

encouraging my grandchildren to know and follow Christ wholeheartedly.

In Jesus' name, Amen.

 

By Lillian Penner, Prayer Director for Christian Grandparenting Network,

lpenner@christiangrandparenting.net

 

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HONORING THE INTERCESSORS

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The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts we consider less honorable, we treat with greater honor. 
1 Corinthians 12:23

I just hung up the phone tonight with someone like you: a His Inscriptions reader who is a dear friend and part of a vast community of prophets and prayer warriors who love the Lord.

At the Lord's leading, she blessed me deeply with a simple prayer that was powerful and effective to break an unseen attack of the enemy. And I am so grateful! 

Perhaps it is more my heart than the Lord's that I write this, but I feel compelled to write a thank you to the "hidden ones;" the parts of Christ's Body that are often forgotten. 

You are the indispensable warriors on the front lines who pay a price daily to cultivate the Presence of the Lord in your homes, churches, and nations. Some of you have taken huge "hits" from the enemy and have not been released to explain why; your assignments are often top secret and cannot be shared.

You set the stage for God to come and manifest Himself in the earth; your lives are an open gateway to glory! 

Like my friend tonight, you are available to pray and intercede on a moment's notice when the enemy comes in too close. Some of you will occasionally stay up all night to blanket those in ministry with your prayers. Others intercede in practical ways, offering assistance, support, or kind words and deeds to encourage those around you.

(One of you, after reading my post on God's heavenly prayer room, even took the time to send me a scented handmade candle to bless my prayer times. So thoughtful and appreciated!) 

You are the "spies" like Joshua and Caleb who have pioneered missions, staked claims in new territories, and stood fast for the ground already gained. You've returned from heaven's courts with fresh strategies for battle. Some people have listened to you and received their victories. Some haven't, and you have wept over losses that could have been averted. 

You are the servant-nurturers who have perceived - often before anyone else - that someone was wounded and needed care. Other parts of the Body have you to thank for their own ministries, yet rarely do you receive thanks! Amazingly, you do not need or seek it; you work for the Lord.

You are the prophets of your own lives and of the nations you live in, receiving Divine intel daily and taking the world's news to the Lord so that disasters may be averted.

You choose to believe against hope that things will be okay in the end, because you partner with the Great Intercessor who is before God's throne!

You are lovers of God and of men. You are well hidden on earth, but well known in heaven!

You are so loved and cherished by the Lord. I know because I've seen His heart for you! Your transactions with God in prayer are holy; even angels wonder at the intimate relationship you cultivate with your Father! 

Moment by moment, day by day, in every situation and sometimes at great cost yourselves, you honor the Lord by holding up the arms of those He's called you to support.

As darkness increases on the earth, it sometimes seems to you that you're on a "night watch" in the Spirit. You know the enemy's strategy is both to outnumber and surround you in the dark, striking multiple blows. But you are filled with light! 

It is the wisdom of God and keen strategy, not strength, that will win the coming battles. Intercessors and watchmen, seers and prayer warriors are extremely important to the Body right now. 

When the Lord says He upholds all things "by the Word of His power" (Hebrews 1:3), you understand that Word must at times come through YOUR mouths!


I just want to say thank you. I think the Lord does, too.

I believe you are a very special breed of people whose lives are deeper, richer, and more powerful than the world will ever know.

It takes one to know one.

​Jesus knows. 


~Deborah
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Just Listen

I know of people who don’t pray because they say they don’t know how. They fear saying the wrong things to God. While I do not have that specific problem in prayer, I do understand, and I have some advice. It comes from the minor prophet, Zephaniah. “Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD; for the day of the Lord is at hand” (Zephaniah 1:7). Rather than say you can’t pray, why not simply acknowledge God’s presence and then listen. Admit that prayer is not just you talking to God, but rather it is a two-way communication. Don’t just take my word for it. Missionary Frank Laubach said, “Prayer at its highest is a two-way conversation. Then again, “For me the most important part is listening to God’s replies. . . The trouble with nearly everybody who prays is that he says ‘Amen’ and runs away before God has a chance to reply. Listening to God is far more important than giving Him our ideas.” Devotional writer Oswald Chambers asked, “Are you learning to say things after listening to God, or are you saying things and trying to make God’s word fit in?” Mother Teresa said, “God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” So, with that biblical passage and these quotes, I rest my case. Prayer is two-way communication. If you think you can’t talk with God, just listen.

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PRAYING FOR LOVE

I fear the greatest reason for the hostility being expressed in politics, social media and nearly every area of society is the absence of love. We who know the Lord and believe the Bible can know something more complex about love than most people. There were several words for love in the original language of the New Testament. The one I want to focus on is agape, the word explained in 1 Corthians 13. This kind of love is not easy to produce in our lives, especially in these days. In Matthew 24:12 Jesus prophesied that the time will come when the love of many will grow cold because of the wickedness around us. There is an urgency in our time for God’s people to pray for God to work supernaturally to set our lives on fire with His love. Let me give you an idea of the characteristics of the love that we need to pray for God to produce in us. 

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus said the greatest commandment in the law was to love God with all our hearts. The second was to love our neighbor as ourselves. This was not a command, as some of us have said, to love ourselves. Loving ourselves is assumed in these words. And this cannot be a command to always like or feel good about others. I often don’t like myself. This is a command to treat others like we treat ourselves.

Love your enemy.

Let’s get right to the most difficult thing Jesus said about love. He told us to love our enemies. This again does not tell us to approve of the words or actions of our enemy. But we can pray for God to give grace to those we fear or whose behavior we hate? We need to struggle with this one. I think you may see most clearly here that the Love the Bible calls for demands that we humble ourselves and cry out for God to work in our hearts and minds.

Love is patient.

1 Corinthians 13 says a host of things about agape love. This kind of love is patient and kind. Are you kind to people you come in contact with? Are you patient with those closest to you at work or at home?

Love does not envy or boast.

Again, 1 Corinthians 13 says the kind of love God produces in us is not self centered. With it we will not focus on ourselves. We sometimes think being humble means continually admitting how lowly we are. That attitude is just as self focused as boasting. Love is so focused on others that we seldom notice ourselves.

Love is not arrogant or rude.

Have you called political figures that you dislike or fear by bitter or mean spirited names? Do you make or laugh at jokes that would hurt or embarrass others? Pray for God to change your attitudes to His love. Those people are made in the image of God. Mocking or speaking evil of them dishonors God.

Can you see the point of view of people you do not agree with? Are you working at it? Do you pray for it? Sometimes this is the key to persuading them. Even if it does not persuade, it is right. It is what God requires. 

Love does not insist on its own way.

Love is willing to compromise. This is a foundation of our type of government. It is getting more and more difficult for this to be public policy. But we believe God can change people when we pray, when He is at work in their lives. We can allow others to be wrong on many issues that those who believe in forcing people to change cannot.

Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing or revenge.

Love does not rejoice in evil. Love knows, even when our minds cannot, that repaying wrong only increases evil in society.

Love is powerful.

1 Corinthians 13 begins with these words,

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Of course this largely speaks to our position before God. That is more serious than how effective we are in the eyes of people. But these words can also apply to our effectiveness in this world. It often seems that strong greed works better at being successful and strong hate is more effective in changing people than love. But that is only in the short term. In the long run love carries with it the power of God Himself. I want to pray for God to produce it in me, in us, even when we are overwhelmed by what is happening around us.

http://thinkinginthespirit.blogspot.com/

http://theanchorofthesoul.blogspot.com/

http://watchinginprayer.blogspot.com/

http://writingprayerfully.blogspot.com/

Website

http://daveswatch.com/

YouTube

https://goo.gl/PyzU

Amazon Author's Page

https://www.amazon.com/David-Young/e/B008C7VLAQ/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

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THE DANGER OF FALSEHOOD

God's people need to learn to fear and hate lies.

We live in days of great deception. Believers need to know how seriously God takes falsehood and deception. We seem to think some little lies are okay. They are not. It no longer seems to be a big deal to post a list of things on social media about a politician or public figure you fear or dislike, some of which you cannot verify. Falsehoods are demonic. In John 8:44-46 Jesus spoke pointedly about this to the religious leaders of His day

 “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Years ago my wife and I went with a group on a mission trip. Some of us arrived in the destination country without our luggage. A man among us was fluent in the language of that country. He went up to the airline counter and spoke to the frustrated person working there. He came back and told us that he told the person a lie to get them to hurry up and find our bags. Later he told about lying to the people of the church where he was working to get them to respond to God. That gave me the creeps. Do you think God approves of that sort of thing? Do you think it would help to bring about God’s will?

The weekend after the attack on the U.S. Capitol a respected Christian leader wrote a blog on how wrong the attack was. Someone replied saying he had heard from a friend who lives in D.C. who said, “Don’t believe what you see on T.V. There was no riot. There was no attack. There was no break in.” To believe that, you have to believe the conspiracy included every news outlet, conservative, liberal, and extremist. It would have to include every person in congress including Trump supporters. It would have to include the families of both police and insurgents who were injured or killed in the break in. It would even have to include insurrectionists who were already posting selfies of themselves in the capitol building.

Many of us are guilty of repeating things we read on social media. If we had stopped to think about many of them we would know they were lies. The Soviets said, truth was whatever they said it was. Are we moving in that direction? In these days believers need to know that we do not determine truth by whether it is spoken by a politician that we support or one we oppose. Our witness to the world is at stake here, not to mention the next generation of Americans. Even more serious is our standing with a holy God. Lies are of the devil and we need to run from them. This does not mean that we should stop opposing or endorsing political views. But we will defeat our purposes and alienate ourselves from God if we condone falsehoods in any form. I have addressed this to Christians. I needed to start somewhere, but I fear the viability of our form of government may depend upon an entire nation committing ourselves to absolute honesty.

http://thinkinginthespirit.blogspot.com/

http://theanchorofthesoul.blogspot.com/

http://watchinginprayer.blogspot.com/

http://writingprayerfully.blogspot.com/

Website

http://daveswatch.com/

YouTube

https://goo.gl/PyzU

Amazon Author Central page.



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The Reconquista – The Beginning

Christian Nationalism #5  

The Reconquista – The Beginning

 

I am old enough, and have been a part of the Evangelical world for long enough, that I am now struggling with understanding what exactly (or even in-exactly) is an “Evangelical.”  In an earlier post I gave a short overview of the history of Evangelical social engagement starting with the 1940’s.  The difference between early 20th century Fundamentalism and mid-20th century Evangelicalism was social engagement.  The early social engagement of Evangelicals gave birth to institutions such as World Vision and Inter-Varsity.  There was a genuine effort to mix concern for the poor, the desire to right the wrongs of racism and other items that could be categorized as “mildly progressive” together with a commitment to a historic and orthodox version of Protestant Christianity.  Thus Evangelicalism was willing – at least on a limited basis – to take up the concerns of the earlier social gospel movement without compromising or watering down theology. 

 

This new engagement did not make Evangelicals into political liberals, but it also was very far from the reactionary politics of the early 21st century.  Institutions such as Wheaton College, Fuller Seminary and Christianity Today reflected these values.  With my own familiarity with Southern Baptists, I can also testify that this phenomenon was not just a Yankee thing.  The Christian Life Commission, Southern Seminary and the WMU all had strong components that reflected this new social awareness.  Perhaps the greatest example to the new Southern Evangelical was President Jimmy Carter. 

 

I remember as a college student going to the library and reading The Sword of The Lord.  This was the publication of John R. Rice, Jerry Falwell and Jack Hyles, and represented the last remnant of Fundamentalism that had survived into the 1970s.  The paranoia, the anti-intellectualism and the fierce hostility to any who did not completely accept their version of Christianity: these were the characteristics of their world.   I had a sort of perverse – almost schadenfreude – delight in reading their version of Christianity, knowing that they had lost.

 

I was wrong.  Starting in the late 1970s, a series of events and theological controversies began the reversal of the 20th century Evangelical renaissance.  Today, Evangelicalism much more resembles the Sword of Lord style Christianity than the progressive movement of earlier years.  Modern Evangelicalism represents a re-conquest of the conservative Protestant world by a version of Fundamentalism that accepted the call to social engagement of earlier Evangelicalism but took it in a much different direction.  In my next blog, I will cover the Re-conquest from 1979 to 2000. 

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Teaching from a Prayer Bench

I first saw one in a friend’s “Prayer Room” (a middle bedroom of his house), then I saw another one in a colleague’s office. How unique, I thought.  So, I searched until I found my own Prayer Bench and fit it into my Seminary office. I had long believed, and then taught, the discipline of place, in private prayer.  After all, Jesus repeatedly went to specific places to pray (Mark 1:35; Luke 22:39-40). Among other subjects, I kept my class seating charts on the bench, and knelt there to pray for my students before each class, firmly believing that it is best to talk to God about people before talking to people about God.  It was a private place that saw only private times of prayer - or so I thought.  I recently spoke in a church pastored by a former student and was amazed and touched to see him stand before his people and emotionally share what it had meant to him to know that one of his professors had a prayer bench on which he prayed for his students.  Then he told of making his own such prayer bench for his office.  I always expected to teach when standing in front of students in a classroom.  I had not thought about teaching through a simple prayer bench, placed in my office.  Be careful this week, for you know not when, where, or how you teach. 

 

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Five Principles for Discerning the News - con'd

Christian Nationalism #4

Five Principles for Discerning the News - cont'd

(Principles 3 – 5)

In my early blog post, I talked about the first two principles.  Now I will continue with #3,#4, and #5.

  1. The enemy is never a monolith.

One of the myths that exist in any situation of conflict is the over-estimation of the opponent.  I remember some years ago when I was working for a group that was advocating for affordable housing in the City of Chicago.  We had put together a loose coalition of people and groups that had very little internal cohesion, but who were willing to tolerate each other for the common purpose of this effort.  Perhaps I exaggerate, but this was no unified front.  As I talked with the city officials – people who were well educated and pleasant people – they clearly communicated that they knew our ulterior motives: namely, to undermine and defeat the political career of the current mayor.  We were the enemy, and all they saw was a powerful and unified front that stood in opposition to everything that they cared about (at least from a political point of view). 

This was perhaps the clearest personal experience that I have had of a phenomenon that I observe happening with increasing frequency: the idea that we are under siege by a powerful enemy that wants to destroy us.  It also allows us to look beyond the current issue at conflict and see the real battle as some sort of cosmic struggle of good vs. evil.  This is really a problem because it prevents us from engaging in healthy dialogue over important civic issues.  How can we talk about healthcare reform when the real agenda is the imposition of a dystopian Brave New World?  Civic discourse stops and civil war begins.

The way out of this morass is to better understand those who disagree with us.  I have been fortunate in living at various times on both sides of the Left/Right divide in our country.  The Left is as diverse as the Right.  In fact, those labels are actually not helpful.  There are a few dedicated Marxists out there, but they are not powerful.  The largest group of progressives is well-meaning people who have no other agenda than the actual issue for which they are advocating.  The Left, like the Right, is fluid, and alliances change depending on the issue at hand.  The same for the Right.  Left-wing anxieties about some sort of theocratic Handmaiden’s Tale society are nonsense, yet the myth exists.   The dedicated extremists, either Left or Right, are few, yet they feed into the false narrative.  Most political disagreement is just people like us disagreeing. 

  1. Beware second hand news.

There has been a breakdown in how we get information from trusted sources.  Thirty years ago, we had local newspapers and three television stations whose editors served as a filter for the information that we received.  Some of us who were particularly curious would subscribe to the Atlantic or Wilson Quarter and get more of an inside scoop on things.  That is no longer the case. Today there are many sources, most of which are not completely reliable.  One of the greatest dangers that I have heard through these new media sources is the anecdotal story that reinforces a political narrative.  I will give an example:

During the 2016 election year, there were numerous stories of “caravans” of illegal immigrants invading the United States, and embedded within these caravans were Al-Qaeda operatives (or perhaps ISIS, take your pick).  People I know and respect would repeat the story as if it were true.  Often they were uncertain of where they heard it, but it was true none-the-less.  When it was pointed out that the U.S. was at an historic low mark for illegal immigration, the fact was dismissed as untrue.  When it was pointed out that the Muslim population of Mexico was relatively small, it was dismissed as untrue.  Only the overarching narrative was true, and contrary facts were rejected or simply not heard.

We need to become better editors of our news.  We need to know the difference between reliable sources and sources that are engaged in political propaganda. Because this is difficult, perhaps the best approach is to be a news skeptic.  Information given during the standard news programs is more reliable than those given by “opinion hosts.”  Most of these hosts are considered entertainment by the broadcast company, and are thus held to a much lower standard when it comes to reliability. Know that stories are promoted to further political interests.

  1. We are in God’s hand, not the hands of politicians.

I believe that the crisis in the church today is one of faith.  For some reason, we now doubt that God is truly in control of events.  During times of genuine persecution of the church, the saints of old held forth, firm in their faith.  To accept martyrdom was the ultimate statement of God’s being in control.  The body they may kill, but God’s kingdom will prevail.  And it did prevail. 

The desperate grasp for political power by many Evangelicals is the exact opposite of the witness of the martyrs. The Evangelical political agenda has the underlying assumption that God is not in control, and God needs us to re-establish control.  God needs us to fix the problems in society.  And we can best fix those problems by exercising power over others: We need Christian judges to mandate morality upon a restive population.  We need legislation to enforce our moral preferences.

A healthier and more Biblical way of advocating for change is to win the hearts and minds of the people.  Every significant social change in our society has happened not through the political power of a few, but by the changes within the broad public.  The fight for civil rights took more than 100 years following the Civil War, but changed only happened when the country was ready for the change.  The forces of segregation lost the public moral argument on a bridge in Selma. We may not win every argument, but we should never believe that God requires us to use force to enact his will on earth.

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God, Me and Prayer

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Dave Butts "Prayer Strategy for Ministry" resonated strongly with me, as does Nehemiah's prayer life.

https://praynetwork.ning.com/forum/topics/nppn-prayer-strategy-for-ministry

I also liked Phil Miglioratti's thought provoking Take-Away questions on this article which resulted in my responses below.  (If you haven't read Dave's article then please do that before proceeding..)

  • As you were reading, did this seem more relevant to you personally or to your role as a leader or change agent?

As a retired engineer / change agent, and a lay ministry leader, I do not compartmentalise my life into personal and leadership domains.  I am who I am in Christ, born again, following him, and seeking to bring glory to him in whatever he calls me to.  The article spoke equally to all of this.

  • Where do you agree? Disagree - and why?

I agree with all of it; I disagree with none of it.  Why? because I have learned the truth of it through 35 years of Christian living and ministry practice.

  • What did you read that resonates with the leading/guiding you have sensed recently from the Holy Spirit?

With God’s impeccable timing, a link to the article appeared in my inbox immediately after discussing - with a Christian brother from my church fellowship - the place of prayer relative to vision and planning within God’s mission.  As the article expressed my view better than my words in the discussion, I passed on a link along with some additional reflection and comments as follows.

This world is but part of God’s creation.

Christian mission is God’s Mission to redeem broken people and a broken world.

Yet he invites us to participate in his Mission.

He knows the end from the beginning.

So why would some think they can do mission without him?

Why would they think they could develop vision, strategy, or plan without him?

Some claim “God is in control of all things” (correct) so “let go and let God” (incorrect).  Why? Because many of those to whom he has given vision, are also those he is calling to implement that vision. A failure to act on a God given vision may be to deny God’s calling.   As Dave Butts pointed out: Nehemiah's vision was God's vision (Neh 2:12)

Our faith is not a blind faith - not a leap in the dark - but a trusting in a God’s assured promises.  So too when we “step out in faith” in a new ministry direction, we should not set out with merely good intentions to do God’s work as we see fit, but we should seek his vision, his will, his blessing, before we conclude what he wants of us. We must follow him, not ask him to follow and bless us.

  • How can you move from analysis to application to implementation?

It takes prayerful intent, perseverance, and self discipline, but it leads to a joy-filled life. I don't think it's something we do for it seems to come along with other fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).

 In my early days as a born again Christian (having been redeemed by a new-found faith in Christ from the darkest nihilism of my then atheistic beliefs) prayer was but one of the daily spiritual disciplines that I learned to practice.  As I grew in my knowledge of God, I desired him more, and served him better. It was as if His Spirit moved out of the pages of Scripture and into my heart.  Now, I don’t just know of him: I know him!  He is with me wherever I go, whatever I’m doing.  I’m never alone.  He is in me, guiding and leading me, bringing both joy and sorrow.  My daily communication with him (Bible reading and prayer) transitioned into a constant communication with him throughout my waking hours: the Spirit bringing to mind memorised Scripture and calling me to prayers of thanksgiving, praise, confession, intercession, and lamentation as applicable to the various matters he brings before me.  It's as if he's saying: "Here, see the world through my eyes, and respond to it as would my beloved Son!" As he is with me constantly, it is only natural for me to consult with him on almost everything before I speak or act, to wait on him as appropriate, and to bring him thanks and praise for answered prayers.  Times of solitude with him can be spiritually overwhelming as nothing can drown out his voice.

Prayer is a direct line to God.  Not to use it is an insult to him: it not only breaks our communion with him, it breaks his heart!  Like a grandchild ignoring my love, my presence, my desire to advise and teach, as I watch them struggling to figure out things on their own, and finally giving up in disgust, too proud to ask for help.  Mature adults wouldn’t do that - would they?

Jesus said we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  It speaks of a personal relationship with the living God through faith in Christ.  A love above all other loves.  A desire above all other desires. A fascination with God’s wisdom above all other facts and knowledge.  A dedication to Godly living in all aspects of life.  Communication is at the heart of all relationship.  Relationship with our infinite God demands constant communication through prayer and the reading or recall of Scripture.

Do you have a loved one in your life - a spouse, parent, child, or close friend? How often do you listen to your loved one?  You should listen to God more often than that by reading his word.

How often do you talk to your loved one? You should talk to God more often than that in prayer.

Put another way, the amount of time we spend with God in Bible reading and prayer is a measure of our love for him.  So how much do we really love him?  How does our time spent in Bible reading and prayer compare with our time spent on our other “loves”: people, hobbies, TV, sports, etc?

Does that scare you?

Fear not, for Jesus died for our sins, and His Holy Spirit will sanctify our sinful nature, so trust him, and learn to love him more, by reading about him in the Scriptures, and speaking with him in prayer.

Christianity is not principally about righteous living, but about a personal relationship with the living God.  How is your relationship going?

If prayer isn’t natural for us, then we must ask God to help us desire him, and to turn away from unnecessary distractions. If we don’t do that, then he may remove those distractions anyway.  He could completely break us to get our full attention.  It need not be like that.  We must get our priorities right that we may serve him better.

  • Who do you need to talk with about the ideas you have encountered here?

Many people in my church fellowship.

  • Finish this sentence: "Jesus . . .

Jesus, despite being God incarnate, did not act on his own.  His ministry began during prayer at his baptism when God the Holy Spirit descended upon him, God the Father spoke directly to him, and the Holy Spirit directed him to the wilderness where he confronted Satan with the word of God (Lk 3:21-22; 4:1-13).  Jesus said and did only the will of his Father (Jn 14:10; 24). To this end, Jesus went out to solitary places to be alone, and to spend time in prayer with his Father (Mk 1:35).  He prayed all night before he chose his 12 Apostles (Lk 6:12-16).  When daunted by what lay ahead, Jesus prayed and deferred to his Father’s will (Mt 6:36-39).  As his earthly mission was about to reach its climax, Jesus reported back to his Father in prayer (Jn 17:1-26).  If Jesus needed such communion with, and direction from, the Father for his earthly ministry, how much more we broken, sinful, conflicted followers?

His disciples recognised the power and necessity of prayer even in Jesus' life, which is why they asked him to teach them to pray (Lk 11:1-4).  Has he taught you?  Does your ministry for God lack power because you fail to pray?

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Five Principles for Discerning The News - Part 1

Christian Nationalism #4

Five Principles for Discerning the News

(Principles 1 – 2)

 

I recall a meeting with a community organizer many years ago.  On her wall was a framed Hagar The Horrible cartoon.  The caption said: “Allies come and go, but a good Enemy will last a life-time.”  I remember that because in the world of political organizing you need a good enemy.  However, what is pragmatic for politics is deadly for the Church and the Gospel.

Evangelicals need to be better at discerning the sign of the times, and a central part of that discernment is interpreting news.  In this blog, I want to suggest a couple of principles that will help us become better discerners of the news.

  1. The Gospel needs to be our filter.

Jesus lived in a time and culture where people felt under attack and desired clear boundaries and clear loyalties. Rome was the oppressor.  To compromise or cooperate with Rome made you “one of them:” an enemy to be rejected and feared.  May Jews took up arms and planned for insurrection against the Romans.  Into this environment, Jesus said: love your enemies.  His miracles cured both religious Jew and pagan Romans.  He accepted into his fellowship both the radical Zealots and collaborators with Rome such as Matthew.  His examples of righteous behavior used non-Jews as examples.  His teachings and his life style undermined any suggestion that the world was divided between “us” and “them.” 

We cannot be faithful to the Gospel and believe in a world divided between “us” and “them.”   This way of thinking is absolutely prohibited for the Christian.  This means that we must reject any narrative of events, conspiracy theory, or teaching that paints a picture of Christians at war with an earthly enemy. 

  1. We need to hear many sides and be humble in our judgment.

As a practical matter, if you only get your news from one source, you will have a distorted sense of the world, be that MSNBC or FOX News.  I recall not too long ago, I followed a link that seemed like news and it went to a story about a well-known celebrity moving into a community near my home.  This surprised me, but the article seemed genuine, so I believed it.  I shared this with a friend and to my great embarrassment, he pointed out just how wrong I was.  I fell for it.  What I learned is that this sort of thing can happen to anyone.  Fortunately, the misinformation was about something harmless.  However, when this type of information causes you to change your thought patterns or behavior, it is dangerous.  This is particularly dangerous when the misinformation “seems right.”  It fits into concerns or fears that we have, or it confirms something that we had been thinking.  At that point we are less inclined to be skeptical.

The Gospel answer is humility.  My need to know with certainty needs to be tempered with humility.  I might be wrong.  If the information causes me to behave or act in a certain manner, I need to ask: what are the consequences if I am wrong? 

 

In order to keep this blog to a reasonable length, I will cover principles 3-5 in the next blog

--- to be continued ---

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Christian Nationalism Part 3 - The Lie

The Lie

In my previous post, I said that I would talk about next steps to restore a Christ-centered orthodoxy to Evangelical Christianity and rid us of the scourge of Christian nationalism.  This is the first step – we must confront the loss of truth.  

In Ephesians, Paul admonishes us to speak the truth in love.  This has two parts: 1) a commitment to truth, and 2) a commitment to love.  Following this guide, I want to say that I love Evangelicals.  They are my brothers and sisters, and I greatly desire that the truth of the Gospel is lived out in their lives and in their witness to the world.  In believe, in fact, that the vast majority of Evangelicals are loving people.  They care deeply about the people in their lives and will go out of their way to both minister to needs and share the message of Christ.  

However, no matter how loving they are in their personal relationships, when it comes to their witness to the world, love dies.  Not for all, but for many.  Instead, paranoia and a victim mentality gives them permission to become very hateful in their witness.  This paranoia comes not from the Bible or a spirit-filled life, but from sociological conditions of which they are often unaware.  

A friend shared a quote from Bible scholar Earl F. Palmer.  It was written many years ago, but it bears repeating because it fits so well with today’s situation:

“Persons who most often are entrapped by cultic movements are individuals who were programmed for the entrapment in pre-cultic homes. Perhaps they grew up in a family where the mood at every meal was pessimistic and cynical. The result for such an individual and for the family was the gradual development of low-grade paranoia, adriftness, a feeling of helplessness, a conviction that all people are basically hypocritical, all systems bad or hopeless. Such a person grows up starved for warm relationships and a sense of hope because a human being cannot live on cynicism and pessimism. If such a person does not find true food, then false foods will find a welcome in his or her life.”

Low grade paranoia describes well this situation in so many Evangelical households.  Distrust of government, of social systems, a feeling that everything is corrupt: these all leave the believer in a state of helplessness. Our family and our community are alone on an island surrounded by enemies who are out to get us.  The cult movement gives comforting answers in the form a powerful individual who both validates the fears and offers solutions that require unquestioning loyalty on the part of the follower.    

The clearest proof that Evangelicals have fallen into this cult-like state is the Lie.  By every objective measure, Donald Trump lost both the popular vote and the electoral college.  Republican officials in Georgia and Arizona confirmed this even though their interest lay in the opposite result.  William Barr, the attorney general who was so eager to turn the Justice Department into the president’s personal attorneys, never the less was not able to find any objective evidence of election fraud.  The President’s own White House Counsel spent weeks tracking down each and every claim.  They all hit a dead end.  Everything, from midnight camera recordings to ballots in a dumpster, was seriously looked into.  Nothing.  Not a cover up by the President’s enemies, but an earnest effort by his allies.  

The power of a cult leader is that he can demand that his followers confirm their loyalty by denying reality.  This is what is happening now.  It is the surest proof that the disease infecting so many Evangelicals is serious.  The Lie and the willingness to engage in either active violence or passive support of efforts to undermine democracy are the result.

There is a way out.  It requires a step of faith and a willingness to allow God to be in charge of our fears.  And most of all, it involves letting go of the Lie.  If we are willing to let go of the Lie, we have broken one of the powerful strongholds that the cult strongman has over us – namely the subservience of truth to loyalty.  When we let go of it, we can look back and see the ugliness that the Lie with its demand for unquestioning loyalty has left behind.  Then, we can truly say that the truth has set us free.

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Christian Nationalism - Part 2

Christian Nationalism - Part 2

Should we engage society?

In my last blog post I talked about the theological error of Christian nationalism, and its danger to Christianity because it undermines evangelism and attempts social reform through the use of power.  Having stated what I think is wrong, I feel the need to suggest a way forward.  The next couple of blogs will address that.

First, should Christians be concerned with social reform? If you look at our history, we discover that modern Evangelicals defined themselves as the socially engaged version of conservative Protestantism as they separated from fundamentalism after World War II.  Perhaps the most important work at that time was Carl F.H. Henry’s “The Uneasy Conscious of Modern Fundamentalism.”  Evangelicals had become alienated from the social reform movement at the beginning of the 20th Century, and Henry made the case for them to become engaged in society and promote reforms that make for just society.  Christianity, Henry argued, has a public face and does not live in an isolated corner of the world.  For Henry, Christianity had a message that addressed not just problem of personal sin, but also addressed the social problems of the 20th century. 

In many respects, the phenomenon of Christian nationalism can be seen as a way of addressing Henry’s concern.  However, Christian nationalism also grows out of a kind of cultural religion that has been with the country since before its founding.  The Pilgrims were intentional about founding a commonwealth built on Christian principles.  Throughout our history, religion and politics have mixed.  I am old enough to remember when there were Public Service Announcements on television encouraging people to “attend the church or synagogue of your choice.”  One of my favorite tellings of this tale is Richard Niebuhr’s “The Kingdom of God in America.”  This cultural American Christianity became, in Niebuhr’s famous conclusion: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgement through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”  This was liberal cultural religion.

Liberal cultural Christianity ended with a whimper in the 1960s as events overwhelmed the “kum-ba-yah” narrative.  Evangelical Christianity, which was on the rise in the last half of the 20th century, attempted to take up the challenge of social engagement.  Some of the results, such as Prison Fellowship and World Vision, have had a remarkable impact on society.  However, so much of the current cultural engagement has devolved into Christian nationalism.  To attempt to answer how this happened would take much more than can be covered in a blog.  However, in my next blog, I want to suggest some ways out of the swamp of nationalism.

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Christian Nationalism and the Call to Revival

Today, especially in the wake of the events of Jan 6 in our nation’s capital and the aftermath, there have been many thoughtful things written about the dangers of Christian nationalism.  One writer said: “The split we are seeing is not theological or philosophical. It’s a division between those who have become detached from reality and those who, however right wing, are still in the real world.”  I disagree.  I believe that the problem is theological, and the healing can only happen when we deal with the underlying spiritual issues at work here.  Bad theology (another name for heresy) blinds us to the underlying spiritual truths.  

I want to begin with the 18th century: Specifically the revivals and evangelistic campaigns of Finney and Moody.  The pattern at that time was revival of the church then evangelism of the community.  Revival was not about changing the culture or the community; it was about changing the heart of the church.  The life-transforming work of the Holy Spirit can be stifled by unconfessed sin which hardens the heart.  The challenge of unconfessed sin is that it is often deeply hidden in our hearts – or to use modern language, it rests within our subconscious.  It is something repressed so that we, perhaps, have a vague sense of something wrong, but in our everyday life it cannot be fully grasped or acknowledged.  The revival of the church happens when we individually and corporately search the depth of our souls.  It comes with the deep conviction that we are sinners in need of grace. That humility at the feet of the Cross gives us the power to break through the normal human defenses that hid our own sin from our self.  It is with the spiritual renewal that comes from revival that the church is then empowered to witness the Gospel of Christ to the surrounding community.  The power of the gospel comes out of human brokenness – a brokenness that has experienced the power of grace.  

The theological error of Christian nationalism is that it reverses the process and confuses revival with evangelism.  The narrative of Christian nationalism is that the nation needs a revival and that revival can only happen when more people become Christians.  The sin-focus is not on unconfessed sin within the church, but on the moral failings in the society.  The believer comes not broken but empowered, having the answer to society’s problems and using power to bring about moral reform.  This error is especially dangerous because it blinds us to our own failings.  We never get to the place of soul searching and confession of sin.  It replaces the truth of our own brokenness with the lie that Christians are powerful.  It then closes off the most important truth of the gospel: our own need for grace.  Thus falsely empowered, we use our sin-warped power – in the name of Jesus – in inflict more damage.  In this way, Christian nationalism transforms itself into a political ideology and becomes the enemy of true evangelism.

 

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