Category Archives: Revival

“LORD, BREAK ME” – A BOLD AND DARING PRAYER

 

I have been a Christian for 37 years. About a year after I was born again I read a short book by William MacDonald entitled “Lord, Break Me”. After I read it, I figured that this was crucial to living a life honoring to God, so I prayed that the Lord would break me. A short time after I prayed this I mentioned it to an older fella who had been a Christian for many, many years. When he heard what I prayer he smiled, shook his head, and said “Man, are you in for it now. That’s a prayer that God always answers”.

Well, about 36 years later I can say that God certainly does answer this prayer, and it takes a long time, dare I say a lifetime, to answer.

God answers this prayer because it gets at the very heart of what He wants from us – total devotion and surrender. David said in Psalm 51:16-17: “For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

What does it mean to be “broken”? It means to be reduced to the point of humbly realizing and accepting that without Jesus we are nothing. It is to understand we are spiritually bankrupt without Him, and have nothing to offer Him but our total brokenness. Simply put, being broken is to die to self and totally surrender all of yourself to Him. “Self” (the prideful “me” that wants to be in control of my life) must be reckoned as dead, because “self” does nothing to bring Him glory.

The breaking process is long, tedious, and painful.  God must bring us to and through many dark times, uncertain days, many tears, gut wrenching revelations about ourselves, and humbling experiences. To break us of our pride, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, selfishness, idolatry, and worldly ways necessitates some drastic measures, and God is a master of these measures. However, spiritual brokenness is the key to His heart.

It is the broken person who God can use powerfully in this world. You see, God must shatter us so that He can rebuild us into a vessel He can use. Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkrgaard once said: “God created everything out of nothing. And everything which God is to use He first reduces to nothing”.

If God is to indeed break us, the process is long and hard, trust me, I know this first hand because It has been over 36 years since I prayed that prayer and I’m still in the process. Along the way He has brought me to my knees in tears many times, and has been relentless in the process. But along the way I have experienced Him in ways that I would have never known without the process. You see, God cannot have the results of the process (deep intimacy with us and anointing to bring Him glory in our lives) without the process (breaking us).

Think of it in terms of a fruit tree. We have lots of them in our yard and every January we prune them pretty severely. We cut off the dead or diseased branches that will harm the tree, and prune the good branches way back to allow for new growth in the spring. Now if the tree could talk it would probably shout “STOP!  This hurts, and you are wrecking me!!”. But we know that, in order to bear good fruit in the summer, the hard pruning is necessary. Do you see the parallel for us? In order to be fruit bearing and useful to God, He must do the same to us.

Just last Sunday in our service as we were singing in worship, God reminded me of this prayer that I prayed so many years ago. I realized that He hasn’t forgotten it, is still in process of answering it, and wants me to remember and reaffirm it. I was overwhelmed in His presence, and knew that the breaking process, though painful and ongoing, has brought me to this point in my life. I’m not sure what He has planned for me around the corner, but whatever it is, I know that the breaking process has prepared me, and is preparing me, for it.

My friends, will you be daring and bold enough to pray, in all seriousness and earnestness, “Lord, break me”? Will you invite Him to crush the worldly part of you that keeps you from a deep intimate relationship with Him and from the power He would bestow on you so as to use you for His glory? It is what He desires to do in your life because He loves you too much to leave you as you are. Being broken is the key to His heart. Isaiah 57:15 says: “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite”.

It’s up to you. It’s an act of your will that results from being sick and tired of mediocrity and shallowness in your walk with Jesus, and from a heart that is hungry and thirsty for Him. Is it painful? YES! Is it necessary? YES! Is it worth it? YES! Is it what God wants from you? YES!

My friends, will you right now bow in humility in His presence and dare to pray: “Lord, break me!”?

 

IS IT TOO LATE FOR THE UNITED STATES?

2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34-35 record King Josiah’s reign in Judah. His grandfather, Manasseh, who was the longest reigning and the most wicked king in the history of Israel, had led Judah into the depths of depravity that are indeed shocking. Although he repented and attempted to do good in the last six years of his reign, it was too late. In the previous 49 years his sin was so horrendously evil that he had crossed the line and assured Israel of God’s righteous judgment. Manasseh’s son, Amon, even though his reign was only two years, continued the evil ways of his father.

It is into this context that Amon’s son (and Manasseh’s grandson) son, Josiah took the throne when he was only eight years old. At the age of sixteen he began to seek after God, and when he was twenty he initiated incredible reforms in Judah.

During this time the Book of the Law was found in the Temple. When it was read to Josiah, he immediately realized the horrible state of apostasy of the nation and fell into deep repentance over their sin. He sought God’s direction on what to do and, through the prophetess Huldah, God told him that it was too late for Judah. His grandfather, Manasseh, had crossed the line of wickedness and the sins of the nation were so grievous that His righteous judgment was coming (by way of Babylonian take over, destruction of Jerusalem, and exile of the people). However, God said that, since Josiah humbled himself before Him and repented from his heart, he would not experience this judgment, but would have peace in his days. Josiah then led one of the most powerful revivals the world has ever seen.

This story brings my thoughts to the current condition of America. We have moved far from God, and are steeped in gross sin. Many evangelical leaders are crying out for God to have mercy on our nation, but, I wonder, have we crossed the line? Like Judah, is it too late for the United States to avoid God’s righteous judgment?

The sins of our nation are great. Consider:

  • Over 58 million babies have been slaughtered in their mother’s womb since the Roe v Wade decision in 1973.
  • Recently, hundreds of thousands of women marched around the country to retain the “right” to kill their own babies.
  • Assisted suicide is now legal in six states.
  • Recreational use of marijuana (which is a gateway to harder drugs) is legal in seven states and Washington D.C.
  • The Supreme Court has made gay marriage legal in the country
  • Eighteen states have “bathroom bills” (males can use female bathrooms and locker rooms if they feel female, and females can use male facilities if they feel male), and many more states have pending legislation regarding this matter.
  • Gay pride parades are celebrated by society.
  • The “hook up” generation, which sees sex as just another type of recreation to be engaged in whenever one feels the desire and with whoever is available at the time, is now the norm
  • Pornography literally floods the internet.
  • God’s moral absolute truth is scoffed at and has been replaced by relativism and political correctness.
  • Biblical Christianity is considered by some to be a threat to the progress of humanity and has been equated to terrorism.
  • Organizations like the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation spend vast amounts of money and energy attempting to oust God from society.

And this is just some of the evil that abounds today. I’m definitely not a prophet, but it sure seems like we have crossed the line and reached the point of no return. As it was during the reign of Manasseh, our wicked culture has thumbed its nose at God and defiantly, arrogantly, and brazenly trampled on His majesty, holiness, righteousness, and sovereignty.  And the consequences will be terrifying. Just look at what happened to Israel.

As I study eschatology (end times) from Scripture, I never see a reference to any nation from the west. Evidently, the western world, including the United States, deteriorates into oblivion. Nations crumble from within, and it appears that America is well on its way.  If He brought His righteous judgment on Israel, His covenant nation, we dare not smugly think that He won’t bring His righteous judgment on the United States. I believe that the terrorist attacks of 9-11 were a wake up call from God to our country. However, we failed to respond to His call. Is God’s judgment on our blasphemous nation looming on the horizon? Have we reached the point of no return?

If so, church, what do we do? Just ignore the signs? Just sit back and wait for Jesus to come back and take us home? Definitely not! We need to be like Josiah, who, even though he knew God’s judgment was coming, continued to work towards bringing a final revival in the hearts of the people of Judah. Likewise, we need to keep praying, keep preaching, keep witnessing, and keep serving for His glory. Who knows, perhaps He will send an end times revival, a Third Great Awakening, before the hammer of His judgment falls.

Church, its time for us, God’s people to follow Josiah’s example and fall on our faces in deep humility and repentance before our holy God. We need to repent of our own sins and the sins of our nation. The order here is absolutely crucial – we must first repent of our own sins. You see, my friends, the church of Jesus, the bride of Christ, has played the harlot with the world. We have gone after other “lovers” – popularity, glitz and glamour, fancy buildings, “coolness”, and pragmatism. We have watered down the gospel into a bloodless and crossless “accept Jesus in your heart” transaction, and have made discipleship an easy, breezy journey that is centered on personal happiness and worldly success. We have replaced the Holy Spirit with programs and marketing gimmicks,  holiness with happiness, and the focus on Jesus with the focus on “self”. Bottom line – the church has lost its power because its lost its first Love.

In Ezekiel 9:5-6, God, after having an angel put a mark on those in Israel who faithfully followed Him, is dispatching His angels to bring judgment on those without the mark, and He says these chilling words:  But to the others He said in my hearing, ‘Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your eye have pity, and do not spare. Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark; and you shall start from My sanctuary‘. So they started with the elders who were before the temple”.

The judgment was going to begin in the Temple, where His holiness and majesty should have been reverenced. I wonder, is God going to begin His judgment on the United States with His church? Will His righteous judgment come because of our lukewarmness, worldliness, and worship of “self”?  Oh, my friends, we need to repent! Just think, if every true believer in Jesus would humble themselves and cry out to God in repentance for their sins and the sins of our nation, God could do incredible things in these last days through a humble, surrendered, sold out church? This is our only hope.

Is it too late? Maybe. Maybe not. But regardless of what He has planned, what are you doing to bring one last revival?

 

THE CHURCH HAS LOST ITS POWER, AND WE HAVE NO ONE TO BLAME BUT OURSELVES

In a Washington Post article concerning Donald Trump’s meeting with evangelical leaders, the author wrote this: “While it wasn’t the first time Trump has reached out to the Christian right, it provided a vivid illustration of the fact that as an organized and potent force in national politics, the Christian right has faded into nothingness. It now exists for nothing more than to be patted on the head and sent on its way with an encouragement to vote in November”.

I was struck by the words “faded into nothingness”. Sadly, that is exactly how the secular world views Christianity in our culture – an irrelevant old dinosaur with outdated views that are harmful to the progress of the human race.
How did we get here? Around thirty years ago the church “experts” realized the culture was drastically changing, so they decided that the church needed to change with it. Unfortunately, this change has turned into compromise. In order to reach people in this post modern culture, we had to “do” church differently. First we needed to ditch the word “church”, as this brought angst to too many people. Then we needed to change our worship to be an entertainment extravaganza complete with the latest technological gadgets to tantalize the senses. Next the teaching needed to be “me” focussed, with theology and deep biblical truth dispensed with. Finally, the gospel had to be watered down to a bloodless and crossless event so that it wouldn’t be threatening  to unbelievers, and, along the same lines, Bible studies and prayer meetings became “nonthreatening” in order to make everyone comfortable and feeling good about themselves.
The results to this paradigm shift have been disastrous. The average “Christian” (I use this term loosely) is clueless about what they believe and why thy believe it, and have no idea how a follower of Jesus Christ is supposed to live. The average church attendee is an inch deep and a mile wide, and is anything but a testimony to the saving grace of our awesome Savior. Holiness, surrender, spiritual brokenness, and dying to self have been eliminated from discipleship. This, my friends, is a counterfeit discipleship and is totally foreign to Scripture.
Society sees Christianity as basically no different themselves, and thus irrelevant to their lives.
And what is the church’s response? Do we get back to the basics and return to being Jesus centered? Evidently, and unfortunately, not. We continue to pander to the culture and expend enormous time and energy in keeping up with it by continuing to adopt to their latest modes of dress, talk, music, use of technology, and lifestyle. In so doing, we have become so “cool” that our hearts have become as cold as ice towards Jesus. The culture sees right through our phoniness and, at best, just laughs, and, at worst, tries to eliminate us from society.

What a tragedy. The church, which is the most powerful entity on the planet because of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the avenue that Jesus chose to be the transforming agent in the world, has become powerless. This powerlessness has risen because we have become prayerless, and we have become prayerless because we have become passionless for Jesus. We have taken our eyes off the One who is the Head of the church and put them on ourselves. In our pragmatism, we have become useless, and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Can this be changed? Yes, but there’s only one way – humble, deep heart repentance for our own sins of lukewarmness and compromise. We need to cry out to God for mercy and to send a mighty wind of revival in the heart of His church. A revived church is in love with, and sold out to, Jesus, and is filled with passion, conviction, and boldness to be used By Him to transform society – not politically but spiritually.

If we don’t do this, then the words of Jesus to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:16 will be directed to us – “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth”.

Church it’s time to come back to Jesus. It could very well be now or never.

A PRAYER FOR THE CHURCH IN AMERICA FOR 2016

A prayer for the church in America for 2016:

Father,

We enter this new year in a world that seems to be spinning furiously out of control – terrorism,  crime, racism, hatred, sexual immorality, disregard for human life, and relativism abound. Our country champions those things that You hate, and disregards, and even loathes, the things You love. America is creeping closer and closer to the point of no return, and seems to be unconcerned about it. As we look to the future, is judgment on the horizon?

And Father, Your church has joined the culture in the parade towards judgment. Oh, we haven’t purposely rebelled against You or devised a diabolical plan to plunge into doom. But we have become like the proverbial frog in the boiling pot – slowing dying without realizing it.

We’ve gotten away from Biblical truth and turned to pop psychology and the latest fad in our teaching and preaching. In order to be non-offensive and non-threatening to attendees we avoid truths like holiness, absolute surrender, dying to self, and brokenness, and have become wishy-washy on moral issues like gay marriage, the sanctity of life, divorce, and pornography. We’ve turned heartfelt worship into cheap entertainment, and instead of calling on the power of the Holy Spirit in fervent prayer, we’ve relied on marketing techniques, business models, and cutting edge technology.

We’ve done this under the guise of being relevant, but the only thing we have become is irreverent. In a sense, we’ve sold our soul for popularity, and have deeply offended You. Instead of being transformed into the likeness of Jesus and living in deep intimacy with Him, we’ve been conformed into the shallow, self-absorbed, ungodly likeness of the world.

Father, I pray that in 2016 we, Your church, would fall on our faces before You in deep, humble repentance and cry out to You day and night for a life transforming move of the Holy Spirit in revival so that we would fall in love with You all over again and be totally sold out to You. And Lord, I confess my need of personal revival, so may it start in me.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

O LORD, HEAR US FROM HEAVEN

In Solomon’s dedicatory prayer over the Temple in 1 Kings 8:22-53 he asks God to “hear from Heaven” eight times. In each case it is in regards to a person, persons, or the nation confessing their sin, turning from it, and imploring God to have mercy and act on their behalf.

While the whole prayer is incredible, verses 46-51 are especially eye-opening:

“When they [Israelites] sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to his own land, far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their conquerors and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly’; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you; forgive all the offenses they have committed against you, and cause their conquerors to show them mercy; for they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought out of Egypt, out of that iron-smelting furnace.

While the United States has not been conquered and taken captive by our enemies as of yet, it’s as if Solomon was praying today for our country. We have indeed acted wickedly towards God in our nation. We have ousted Him from most aspects of our society and thumbed our nose at His moral absolutes – abortion, gay marriage, doctor assisted suicide, embryonic stem cell research, pornography, sex outside of the marriage covenant, divorce, dishonesty, greed, etc. In our cowardly political correctness, we congratulate and champion wickedness, and condemn those who hold to biblical standards of righteousness. And it seems to be getting worse every day.

And what about the church? The church in America has lost its way. Jesus is no longer the cornerstone, and has been replaced by programs, pragmatism, a lust for popularity, pop entertainment, compromised teaching and preaching, and a counterfeit holiness. The church is no longer the light that shines the truth of Jesus to a dark world. Sadly, many in our culture look at the church as totally irrelevant to life in our society.  How far we have fallen!

What can change this? What can reverse the growing darkness of evil and anti God thought in our land that seems to be progressing at an alarming rate?  Solomon, in the verses quoted above has laid out God’s masterful blueprint for how things can turn around.

“…and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly..”.  First we must confess our sins. Confession literally means to “say the same word”,i.e. to agree with. We must fall on our faces before our holy God and agree with Him that we, each one of us, and our nation, has fallen short of His holy standards. No more sweeping our sin under the rug, rationalizing it away, or blaming others. It’s time, with brutal honesty, to be transparent, to humble ourselves before Him, and to acknowledge our failures before our holy God.

“…and if they have a change of heart…and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul…”   Confession is a great place to start, but it is not enough.  We must also repent. Repentance means to have a change of direction, which means that we must not only confess our sins, but also take whatever action necessary, even if it means radical action, to get to the root of our sin and obliterate it from our lives. It means to hate our sin because it grieves our holy God, and to have no desire for it in the future. Notice Solomon said “with all their heart and soul”.  True repentance originates from deep in the recesses of our souls and is seen in our actions. Half hearted repentance is no repentance.

and pray to you …”  After confession and repentance from the heart, we must then cast ourselves on God’s mercy, humbly asking for His forgiveness and to, once again, bless us with His presence. All great revivals in history were brought about when a remnant of God’s people fell before God in deep, fervent, desperate, urgent prayer. Prayer is the catalyst for revival. As Solomon dedicated the Temple, the main theme was prayer (it is mentioned no less than 25 times in his dedication), which tells us that while the sacrifices and rites were important in the temple, prayer would be the key. So too with the church. Preaching, teaching, worship, and outreach are vital parts of our churches, but prayer is the power that ignites these ministries to be glorifying to God and fruitful in their results .

 “…then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people…” While revival is a sovereign act of God, when we humble ourselves and cry out to Him, we have confidence that He hears us, and our hope is that He sends a life changing and culture transforming revival in our midst. We first cleanse our hearts and then trust that our prayers are pleasing to Him and that, from His holy throne in Heaven, He hears us (i.e: responds to our cries for forgiveness and to our pleas for revival).

What a phenomenal dedication prayer by King Solomon. Read the whole prayer over very carefully and meditate on it, deeply digging out the poignant applications for us today. My friend, we live in dark times and the darkness is spreading thicker and thicker in our nation. Only a powerful move of God in an authentic revival will save us. Will you be part of the remnant and humble yourself, confess your own sin and the sin of our nation, repent with  all your heart, and cry out to God for mercy? He is our only hope. If the United States continues on its present path, we face the tragic consequences of God’s judgment. If we don’t confess, repent, and cry out to Him for mercy, is our fate going to be like that of ancient Israel, who was conquered by a foreign nation and taken captive? It’s time to cry out with a sense of utgency.

Oh Sovereign Lord, HEAR US FROM HEAVEN!!

THE BRIDE IS NOT READY

There is a popular song currently heard on Christian radio that contains the following lyrics: “Like a bride waiting for her groom we’ll be a church ready for you”.  The bride refers to the church as the bride of Christ (taken from Revelation 19:7, 21:2, 21:9), and the lyrics convey the idea that the church is ready to present herself to her Groom, Jesus, for the great wedding feast at the end times.

My friends, the church is not ready for her groom.

When you attend a wedding, you’ll always see the bride carefully adorned for her husband – impeccably groomed, a carefully coiffed hairstyle, a clean beautiful gown, nice shoes, tasteful makeup, and subtly sweet perfume. As the saying goes, all brides are beautiful on their wedding day.

However, let’s say you are invited to a wedding and, as the wedding march is played and you stand to greet the bride, you are astonished at what you see – her hair is unkempt, her gown is torn, her shoes are dirty, her faced is smudged with dirt, and she smells like she just got through mowing the back forty. This bride was definitely not ready to present herself at her best to her husband.

This, I believe, is how the church, the bride of Christ, currently is in America (author’s note: When I talk about the church in this post, I am talking about the church in general, not every single church, as there are some good Biblically based churches that remain uncompromised. However, the majority of churches have left their First Love).

A bride should present herself to her groom well prepared and chaste. And the church as the bride of Christ is anything but prepared and chaste. We have played the harlot with the world by going after other lovers – popularity, political correctness, compromised theology based on our culture instead of God’s absolute truth, lavish buildings, overflowing calendars, big attendance numbers, a non threatening gospel void of the cross and blood of Jesus, hardly a mention of repentance, an easy, breezy discipleship without calls to holiness, surrender, brokenness, or dying to self, and a biblically and theologically illiterate membership that is satisfied with a shallow, inch deep and mile wide relationship with our awesome Savior.

In a seeker and emergent church culture we’ve watered down the truth in order to be relevant and to keep the people happy and coming back. We’ve turned authentic, heartfelt worship into a Hollywood extravaganza meant to entertain attendees. We’ve turned the church into a “latte bar” style lounge so that everyone feels comfortable and “safe”.  And we’ve taken the focus off of Jesus and placed it directly on ourselves. In a sense, we’ve amused ourselves to death, and we’ve become so culturally relevant that we, in reality, have become spiritually irreverent.

No, the bride is not chaste, prepared, or ready for her Groom.

The lyrics of the song mentioned above might make us feel warm and fuzzy, but it is far from the truth. Church, we need to get ourselves ready to meet our Groom, and it will not be easy. In fact, it will be downright painful. If we fail to prepare ourselves, God’s judgment on America will have to start inside the walls of His church, with His bride. In Ezekiel 9: 5-6, God commissioned His angel to bring judgment on people who did not follow Him, and then told the angel “Begin at My sanctuary”.  These are chilling words, as they show that God’s own people had turned their backs on Him and followed after the world, and His judgment started with them.

You see, God is not shy about bringing judgment on His own. Church in the United States, take note.

The bride of Christ, the church, is supposed to be His tongue, arms, and legs in this world to influence culture with the gospel, and yet, sadly, just the opposite has happened – our evil culture has influenced the church. The influence has been so impactful that the church looks and acts just like the world – divorce, adultery, premarital sex, pornography, lying, cheating, gossip, materialism, self-centeredness, divisions and factions, and in some churches, the acceptance of homosexuality.

The bride has been soiled by the filth of the world and is no longer chaste.

How do we change this? How do we make ourselves beautifully adorned and chaste for our soon coming Groom? The only way is through a genuine revival.  And while revival is a sovereign work of God, all revivals in history have come when God’s people fell on their faces in humility and repented of their own sins and the sins of their nation. People were cut to the very core of their souls with their sin and wept in deep anguish over it, not because they got caught or because of the consequences they might face, but because it, in essence, slaps Jesus in the face and offends our Holy God.

When was the last time you, or your church, wept over sin? When was the last time you or people in your church fervently and passionately cried out to God for mercy and, with a sense of urgency called out to Him to bring a revival – first in yourself and then in His church? The results of revival are incredible, but the process is painful. Each of us must come to grips with our own sin – pride, self centeredness, self-righteousness, lust, unforgiving spirits, gossip, jealousy, critical spirits, materialism, idolatry, sexual sin, lying, unwholesome entertainment choices, and lukewarmness. We must come to the point where we honestly and humbly acknowledge these before God and hate our rebellion against a Him, and cry out in repentance. Then we must confess the sins of our nation and cry out to God for mercy. Nothing short of this amongst God’s people will bring a revival.

We desperately need revival, God has done it before and He can do it again. The spiritual condition of our country was pretty deplorable before both the First Great Awakening and the Second Great Awakenings, but God responded to the cries of His people and brought powerful revivals. A Third Great Awakening is our only hope.

A revived church would fall in love with Jesus all over again. A revived church would be characterized by a hunger and thirst for deep intimacy with Jesus, a passion for holiness, an unquenchable desire for the Word, lavish worship, sold out devotion to Him, and a continual attitude of fervent prayer. A revived church would have an incredible impact on its society, and evangelism would come so naturally that scores of people would be saved, and, as a result, marriages would be healed, fractured relationships mended, evil vices stopped, and goodness sought.

But revival must start in the church before its effects are seen in our communities. Church, have we had enough of lazy, compromised, worldly Christianity?  Do we want to present ourselves to our Groom chaste and adorned, ready for His return? If so, then our only hope is revival.

We must look at our culture with a sense of urgency. We could be dangerously close to experiencing God’s righteous judgment. Will you pray, with that sense of urgency, for God to send revival our way, And, more importantly, will you pray that He starts this Third Great Awakening with YOU?

A MESSAGE FOR THE CHURH FOR 2014


I didn’t want to write this post, but I sensed God leading me to do so. I love the church, both the universal collection of all born again believers and the local bodies of believers that make up the universal church, so I argued with Him about it. However, one thing I have learned in my thirty three years of being a Christian is that when you argue with God, He always wins.  I gave God two reasons why I didn’t want to write this post. First, I asked God “Who am I to write this?  I’m just an unknown pastor of a small church that is struggling to keep its doors open.  There are many other big name pastors who should write this.” Secondly, the things He led me to write hurt deeply, because, as I write this, I am part of the problem, not part of the solution. But He prevailed, and so I write this. It’s not neat and pretty, but I sense it’s God’s heart. So here goes.


If I am part of the problem, what is the problem? The church, the bride of Christ, has lost its purity and gone after other lovers, and thus has lost its power.  Who are these lovers? Popularity, coolness, self exaltation, complacency, and lukewarmness.


The church has gone to great lengths to be popular and cool with the world. We make our sanctuaries look like coffee house lounges instead of places of worship. When I go to a doctors office, I expect it to look like a doctor’s office.  When I go to a church I expect it to look like a place to meet with God, not a place to lay back and drink a latte. Also, many churches have dropped the word “church” from their name because the word “church”, they say, is offensive to people. Call it what you like, it is still a church. Additionally, in our “coolness” we have also devised “non threatening” services, Bible studies, and prayer meetings. When we cut through the baloney, non threatening basically means watered down. In truth, the gospel is threatening because it says that I am a sinner that deserves hell, and that I cannot save myself. However, there is good news, absolutely incredible news in this threatening message, and that is God loves me and has made the way to forgiveness of sin and eternal life through his Son Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the church has forgotten to tell people both sides of the gospel message. – all lovey-dovey and no sin, no hell, no repentance. We might be non threatening and non offending people to a lost eternity.


In order to be cool, we have adopted many buzz words in the last few years.  We are told by the experts to “think outside the box” (i.e.: do weird things). How about thinking inside the Book instead of “outside the box”? We are also told that the church needs to be “relevant”. Relevant? God and His word are always relevant. We don’t need to be clever and tell lots of cutesy stories and add a multi media extravaganza to make the message “relevant”.  Just preach and teach the Word with the anointing of the Holy Spirit and God will transform lives. Another buzz word is “missional”.  Do we really need to make this a central focus? Being “missional” (living out our faith and verbalizing it with others) is at the very heart of being a follower of Jesus. If we need to make this a big focus, it is a sad commentary that the church has lost its way.

I wonder how many pastors spend more time downloading stories and video clips to spice up their sermons than being down on their faces before God praying for anointing and holy boldness as they prepare and deliver His message. And we scratch our heads trying to figure out why most Christians are biblically and theologically illiterate, and don’t have a biblical world view on the moral issues of the day. They say, however, that they are not changing the message, just the method. Well, I believe that when you change the method, the message will eventually change because you now must cater to those whom you attracted, which are not really interested in the real message. But you need to keep them coming back so the message changes to appeal to them.

Sadly, the modern church has adopted a worldly stance in regards to music and literature. Dove awards? Really? Do Christian musicians compete with one another for the song of the year, singer of the year, etc? Aren’t we supposed to sing for God’s glory and His approval? Do we compete with each other to see who worships better? And what about Christian Book Awards (formerly known as Gold Medallion Awards) that are given to the best Christian books? Are we competing with each other on who writes the best book about God? On top of this, many big name Christian authors don’t even write their own books but use ghost writers to write their books and then put their own name on the cover. How dishonest is that? And yet we congratulate ourselves by giving each other little trophies, which are actually trophies to our own egos. 


Have you ever gone to a Christian conference or listened to a Christian radio/television talk show, and before the speakers give their talks the emcee takes about five minutes touting all the degrees the speaker has, all the prestigious universities they studied at, how many books he/she has written, how many television shows they have appeared on, and how many countries the individual has ministered in. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t care about all of that. I care about the individual’s heart. Are they sold out bond slaves of Jesus? Do they pride themselves on their accolades or are they broken, humble servants of God?


Have you noticed the plethora of self help books in Christian bookstores? There are “how to” books on every conceivable topic. Much of this worldly psycho babble has complicated the Christian life so much. We’ve made marriage, raising kids, work place behavior, and interpersonal relationships a chaotic maze of steps, emotional responses, and “to do’s”. We’ve complicated the Christian life so much, is it any wonder that most Christians haven’t a clue on how to follow Jesus.

We’ve become Christians of convenience instead of Christians of conviction. We want to come to church and be entertained by the “show” and then have our ears tickled by a feel-good, its-all-about-me message. We follow Jesus on our terms instead of His. We have ignored Jesus’ words in Luke 14:33: “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple”, and Luke 9:23: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me”.  Instead we want an easy, comfortable, light and breezy discipleship, which is totally foreign to Scripture.

I could go on but this is already too long. You know, it’s one thing to say what’ wrong, and quite another to give solutions. So, what is the solution to the mess the church finds it self in? What can we do to be what God has called His church to be – the most powerful entity on the planet who, through the power of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is used by God to transform our world for His kingdom?

It’s very simple. In fact, it can be summed up in three words: DIE TO SELF. Self is that part of me that wants to be God and call the shots and be in control. “Self” is the anti-God state of mind.

Dying to self means nothing less than absolute surrender to Jesus Christ. It is giving up all rights to ourselves to Him in total surrender. Dying to self is living in spiritual brokenness, which means to acknowledge that without Him, we are spiritually bankrupt, so we hold onto Him in holy desperation. Dying to self makes Romans 6 operative in our lives – acknowledging that “self” died with Christ on the cross, and intentionally living in this reality. 

Dying to self is the key to living the Christian life and impacts every aspect of life – marriage, family, work, recreation, entertainment, relationships, money, time, ethics, morals, and character. If we would just die to self and give God the reigns of our lives everything would change. For example, just think for a moment, what would every marriage look like if every Christian would die to self and obey God’s simple standards for marriage? How would our marriages be if every husband loved his wife as Christ loved the church (i.e.: unconditionally and self sacrificially) and every wife submitted to her husband (i.e: respected Him as the head of the marriage and home)?

My friends, only by dying to self will Jesus’ bride, the church, be chaste again. Only when each one of us repents of our sin of self sufficiency, self reliance, self centeredness, self righteousness, self exaltation, self congratulation, and selfishness, and dies to self by surrendering to Jesus Christ will we, the church, again be His holy, devoted, passionate, intimate, sold out bride. I believe that it is that simple. But for many of us, it is so hard to do because we fight so hard to be in control. However, if God is to send the revival that we so desperately need, it must start here.

I know that many who read this will not agree with me and think I am some crazy nut job. Probably some, if not most, will be angry at me and never read uncompromisedchristianity.com again. That’s ok. But for those who resonate with this, will you die to self and be on the journey of absolute surrender? As our world slides further and further into darkness and chaos, will we, the church, the bride of Christ, be His chosen instruments that He works through to shatter the darkness and bring people into the light?   I ask myself, and you my fellow brother and sister in Christ, will we die to self? Will we be part of the solution or remain as part of the problem?


KNEELING IN THE CIRCLE

On a wall in my office I have fastened a piece of chalk so that I see it constantly as I sit at my desk. Why? It’s not because I like to scribble on the carpet or draw hopscotch squares. I have it there as a reminder – a reminder that our nation, our churches, and most importantly, that I, need revival.

It has been said that when Gypsy Smith, the great English revivalist, would come to a town to conduct meetings he would get down on his knees, draw a circle around himself, and cry out to God to send revival,, and to start it inside the circle. The chalk on my wall reminds me that if God is to bring a revival to my city, my county, my state, and my country, then it needs to start with me.

It is so easy to look at our society and say how bad “they” are, and to look at other Christians and say how much “they” need revival. But what about you and I? I don’t know about you, but I sure need a fresh move of God in my life. I need to draw that circle get on my face, and cry out to God to start a revival in me.

Revivals always are birthed in prayer that is saturated in humble brokenness, honest transparency, and deep repentance. Humble brokenness that recognizes that we are powerless and spiritually bankrupt without God’s manifest presence in our lives. Honest transparency that acknowledges that we, too, have sinned in many areas of our lives, be it gossip, laziness, lukewarmness, critical spirit, sexual sin, lust, dishonesty, cheating, jealousy, compromise, or any other unholiness. Deep repentance that weeps over our own sin because we hate it so much – not because we got caught or because of the consequences we might have to face, but because it grieves the heart of our heavenly Father.

Before we “stand in the gap” for revival on behalf of our country (Ezekiel 22:30), we must kneel in the circle for personal revival. You see, my friends, it starts with me, and it starts with you.

And, when He rends the heavens and comes down within our circle and revives our hearts, it will be a transformation that is truly supernatural. We will be saturated in His presence, filled with the Holy Spirit, crave holiness, and experience deep intimacy with Him. We will be hungry for His word, passionate in prayer, sold out in our worship, and fearless in proclaiming Him. We will understand that their is wholeness in spiritual brokenness, victory in surrendering to Him, freedom in being His bond slave, and true life is dying to self. In summary, we will experience the reality for which we were created – to know, and I mean really know, our great God.

Will you join me and be a part of the army of the “Chalk Circlers”? Are you tired of just existing and going through the motions in your walk with Jesus? Do you hunger and thirst for more? Then how about going to the store, buying a box of chalk, and putting a piece in a prominent place so that you see it everyday as a reminder of your need of revival. If you can, draw a circle in a private place and get in that circle everyday and pray that God would send a revival, and start it in your circle. If you can’t draw a circle, still pray everyday for personal revival. Persevere in your prayer and don’t lose heart, God works in His will and in His timing (let me know if you will enlist in the Chalk Circle army so we can pray for and encourage each other).  

Remember – pray fervently in humble brokenness, honest transparency, and deep repentance.

Oh Lord, rend the heavens and come down in revival, and let it start with me!

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE UNITED STATES?


Whatever happened to the United States of America, that great experiment in democracy, that nation that was founded squarely on the morality and truths of the Bible? While the U.S. is not a “Christian nation” per se (our constitution provides for freedom of religion), it was undeniably founded on biblical principles. One only needs to read the statements of the Founding Fathers to see this. The argument of who was a Deist or who was a Theist is a straw man argument. The United States of America was founded on biblical principles. Period.


And because of this, our country led the way for basic goodness, decency, morality, and benevolence in the world. Oh, we weren’t, and aren’t, perfect. Far from it. Slavery and racism being a prime example. But, on the whole, we were a good nation. Why? Because of our foundation of biblical principles.

Since our country honored God, His hand of blessing was upon us. We enjoyed freedom, goodness, opportunity, decency, plenty, and justice. We were the country others flocked to to make a good life for themselves and their families


However, with the passing of time, things began to change. Before we reached our 200th birthday, we started to forget that God was the source of our incredible blessings and embarked on a dangerous journey of self reliance that had no room for God.


Prayer in schools vanished, evolution became the science of choice, living together replaced marriage, casual sex became the norm, rampant divorce led to the demise of the family which in turn left millions of kids confused and angry, the filth of pornography was protected as free speech, the mother’s womb became a death chamber for over fifty million babies, God’s moral absolutes were considered archaic for our modern society and were replaced by relativism, God’s name and His ten commandments were considered threatening to many and have been ousted from public places, and now homosexuality and gay marriage is applauded and championed in every aspect of our society.


Additionally, our elected officials, from the White House to the Governor’s office have not upheld their oath of office by refusing to defend the laws of the land and the measures voted on by the people. And sadly, unelected judges with no accountability are determining the course that the nation is heading on many moral issues.


If the Founding Fathers could see the condition of the United States today they would think they were looking at a foreign country, not the one they so bravely established over two hundred years ago.


In its inception, and for many decades, America was good and the church of Jesus Christ was a big part of that goodness.  The Bible was believed, faith was important, families attended church together, and God was considered as the cornerstone of society.


But, like our nation, something happened to the church. Theologians, scholars, and experts suddenly got “smarter” and started to doubt the Bible, wondered if God’s moral absolutes were really necessary, took a twisted view of morality, and began to compromise the truth. Instead of pouring energy into discipleship and helping Christians mature in the faith, the church decided that it needed to be “cool” and popular with the world. So the church made the sanctuary look like a night club or a lounge, replaced heartfelt worship with an entertainment extravaganza that rivaled a Las Vegas production, replaced the Bible with self help books and books about “me”, developed a crossless and bloodless gospel so as to not make people feel icky about themselves, and created buzz words like “thinking outside the box”, “emergent”, “seeker sensitive”, “non threatening services”,  “real, relevant, relational”, and “a new way to do church”.


And the results have been devastating. The church of Jesus Christ has lost its savor and has become no different than the world. Tragically, the church has lost the power of the Holy Spirit to impact our culture for Kingdom of God.

Church, we must be honest and shoulder some of the blame for the pathetic condition of our nation. We should have been leading the way for the culture to see their need of God and been the lighthouse to show them the way to Him. Instead , we compromised the truth and became like the ones we were called to transform. We have shamed our magnificent God’s name.


While its easy, and common, in articles like this to bemoan, the ills of society and the church, and how we’re going to hell in a hand basket, it is another thing to offer a solution.  Church, there is a solution.


And that solution is revival.


Only a revival in the church can halt the disaster that ominously looms before our nation.  The church is sick and on life support, but God can breathe new life into her. But it will come at a cost. Church, we, all of us who name Jesus as Savior, must fall on our faces before our holy God, repent of our own sins, the sins of the church, and the sins of the nation, and cry out to God for mercy.  Perhaps He will send revival fires our way. A revived church is surrendered, deep, passionate, fearless, bold, loving, hungry for holiness, and anointed by God. A revived church is alive and in love with Jesus Christ, and has an enormous impact on society.


Church, our nation is dying, and we, the body of Christ, can be used by Him to rescue it. Will we humble ourselves, repent, and die to self so He can live through us?


It may be now or never.

IF WE TRULY FOLLOW JESUS WILL THE WORLD LIKE US?

Over the last couple of decades many non Christians said that the church was no longer relevant, so  the church “experts” concluded that it was time to think outside the box in order to create a new way of doing church. As a result the church spent enormous amounts of time, energy, and resources trying to remake itself so it would look “with it”, “cool’, and a place where people can have a good time, sort of like going to a dinner theater or concert.

This “outside the box” thinking led to many changes. For example, many churches have dropped the word “church” from their name because the word “church”, they say, is threatening to many people. In some churches (or whatever name they have called themselves), you’ll find living room type seating complete with latte bars in order to make the atmosphere seem casual and comfy. Others have gone to great expense to make the music rival a rock concert with special effects, unique lighting, and a multimedia extravaganza. In keeping with the entertainment driven focus on this new way of doing church, it is common to see skits, plays, and dance routines in the service. Many have taken the preaching time and made it into a light, breezy, talk centered on pop psychology, self improvement, and managing one’s life.

Unfortunately, in the church’s attempt to become “relevant”, it has become spiritually “irreverent”.  All of these changes haven’t made a powerful impact in our society for the Kingdom of God. In fact, it seems to have done just the opposite. It has created a shallow spirituality that has deceived countless numbers of people in thinking that they are “okay” with God when they haven’t a clue of who Jesus is, how one becomes a Christian, and what it really means to follow Jesus.

We have it all wrong. Instead of seeking the world’s approval, we should be seeking God’s approval. Instead of being popular with the world, we should strive to be popular with Him.

The church has been so preoccupied with being liked by the world, we have forgotten that, if Christians follow Jesus, and I mean really follow Him as sold out disciples, the world won’t like us. Why? Because Jesus said so: “If
the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you
as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out
of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is
greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute
you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also”. John 15:18-20

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are supposed to be different because we have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. We have new purpose, new motives, a new world view, new standards of behavior, new ways of relating to people, new parameters for entertainment choices, and a new focus. And all of these will be different from the world, and the world probably won’t like us for what we stand for because a  lifestyle of deep
discipleship is very much counter culture to the status quo of society.
The apostle Paul said in  2 Timothy 3:12 “In fact, everyone who wants to
live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”.

(By the way. when I say we are to be different, I’m
not talking about being purposely obnoxious, spiritually smug, or
acting spiritually weird in order to get non Christians to hate us so we can tell others how much we are being persecuted for Jesus.
That’s dumb. I’m talking about living in intimacy with our incredible
God, being sold out to Him, and being on the journey of holiness and
surrender.)

You see my friends, while there is nothing wrong with using technology, the church doesn’t need gimmicks, promotions, or Madison Avenue marketing techniques to attract people to Jesus. We need Christians who are passionate about Jesus, knowledgeable of the Bible and theology, and filled with the Holy Spirit. We don’t need to be clever with the Word, just preach and teach the truth under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and let Him do the rest. We don’t need entertainment, just genuine worship from hearts that are in love with Jesus. We don’t need to be “cool”, we need to be holy. Maybe I’m old fashioned, or not “with it”, but I believe, and always will believe, that Jesus is enough. And when we make our lives and churches about Him and chuck the idea of being popular with the world, God will use us to impact our culture and draw many to Himself. 

I wonder,…what would our culture look like if every born again believer in Jesus acted like one? If every Christian knew what they believed and why they believed it, and lived it out in daily life? If every Christian died to self, surrendered to God, and really fell in love with Jesus? If every Christian was passionate, bold, and unashamed of the Truth?

What would it look like? Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?