Monday, April 28, 2014

His Voice

John 10:4   When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice

         As any parent knows, hardly anything is as comfortable as being in bed on a cold winter's night, wrapped tightly and warmly in your blanket and comforter. Once I get into bed, I do not plan on leaving that bed until I am almost forcibly removed the following morning. I am especially difficult to remove if it is cold in the house. There is just something about stubbing your cold big toe on a hard bedpost that is completely unacceptable!
         When my family was younger, we lived in a two-bedroom house. Three of our kids shared one bedroom, and Marie, our fourth baby Anna Rebekah, and I shared the other bedroom. Eventually the Lord graciously provided us with a four-bedroom home, and we moved Anna into her own room.
         At first, she didn't like this much. Though the home wasn't much larger than the home we moved out of, yet because she had been sleeping in our room for so long, the thought of her being in her own room really made her uncomfortable.
         I can still remember one night in particular. 
         It was late, it was cold, and I was in bed. I was also nearly completely asleep when I heard her shaky, squeaky little voice piercing the darkness. 
         "Daddy, I'm scared! Come and get me!"
         I rolled over and told Marie, "Honey. The baby is calling you!" 
         "No she's not", Marie said, "I distinctly heard her cry out Daddy!"
         At that moment, I did what any thinking daddy would do. I said "Anna, I'm not getting up!  If you want to sleep in our room, you're going to have to come here yourself!" Immediately she cried out, "I can't come, daddy! I can't see in the dark! Come and get me!"
         Now what was I supposed to do? I was too lazy, too cold, and Marie wouldn't get up! I did the next best thing. "Honey, you can come to my room. I'll just keep talking, and you follow my voice!" This she did, and the next thing we knew, she was cuddled up in our bed, sleeping comfortably, as happy and contented as she could possibly be. (And I was still warm!)
         As selfish as it may seem to you, I actually was teaching Anna an important lesson. 
         The lesson is this: Whenever it is dark, and we are not sure of where we are to go, the best thing we can learn to do is to call out to our Father, and when He answers to simply follow our Father's voice. So often in the darkness of night and in the times of uncertainty everything around us cries out to distract and turn our attention away from the Lord. I have found that the very best and safest thing we can do at such a time is simply to follow His voice. By following His voice, we will be brought to safety, comfort, and peace. 
         His voice cries out through His word, the Bible.
         Spend time today, learning from His word, and learning to hear His voice. He calls to you, even in your darkest nights, and will lead you to comfort, peace, safety, and warmth, in Him.

Monday, April 21, 2014

I Will Never Leave You

Hebrews 13:5 God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.

         "Dad, will you please pray for me?"

          "Of course, son. What would you like me to pray for you?"

          "That tomorrow I'll get picked to play on the team. Every day, everybody else is picked first, and I am left off the team. I'm the best at throwing the football, and it's a game of catch that we play during recess, but I'm always the last one to get picked. Please pray that I'll get picked for the team."
         I indeed prayed for him.
         I prayed that he would be picked for the team. 
         But I also prayed that he would know how much he is loved.
         When he asked me to pray, my son was sitting next to me on our living room couch. His little head was nestled on my chest, and I put my arm around his shoulders. Such a big boy, no longer a small child, but in his eyes tears were forming, and sobs came gushing forth as he asked his father to pray for him.
         I am not embarrassed to say that as I prayed for my son, I also cried.
         I cried because his pain touched me. 
         I cried, because he is such a gentle loving little guy, and to see him hurt broke my heart. 
         I cried, because this is a pain he is feeling that I and so many others am so familiar with. The pain of being the new kid. The pain of being rejected. The pain of needing to belong and being left out. 
         I especially cried because I could not help him. He was alone at school, and I could not be there, to pick him for my team.
         How I loved my little boy, how my heart was so easily touched by his pain. I wished I could be there for every disappointment, for every rejection, to scoop him up in my arms and to say to him "Son, I love you. You are so dear to me. If others don't  see you for what you are, I surely do. Though others reject you, you will never be rejected by me."
         I am simply a human father, filled with sin and imperfect in every way imaginable. Yet I love my child. If I so passionately love my child, as flawed as I am, I can only imagine how loving my heavenly Father is who loves me more than I could ever dream of loving my son. I have come to firmly believe that the Lord never rejects His children. Because I believe this, it is to his heavenly Father that I directed him.
         As I prayed for my son, I thanked God because, though I could not be present on the schoolyard to hold him and be his friend, Jesus certainly could be. It is Jesus who never leaves us. It is Jesus who never forsakes us. Even though men may reject us, we will always be accepted by Him.
         Today, if you feel a bit sad or are struggling with a sense of rejection, take heart. There is One person who loves you completely, and that One person is the Lord. Turn your eyes to Him today. Cast your cares on Him, for He cares for you. He never will leave you, nor forsake you. 

            He loves you.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Genuine Revival? Pt. 2

Cal Thomas wrote something worth reading:

In calling for a spiritual revival in America at his Lincoln Memorial rally Aug. 28, talk show host Glenn Beck reached back into history and touched on a familiar theme.
What would a genuine revival look like and how did those that have transformed America several times in the past get started? Earlier revivals were not created from the mobilization of large crowds. They occurred when people did something infrequently observed in modern times: humbled themselves.
Depending on how you count them there have been at least three “great awakenings” in American history. All of them—along with revivals in other countries—had one thing in common. They all began with what the late revival historian J. Edwin Orr called “a concert of prayer.”
The 1857 revival is instructive. It began when two men working on Wall Street decided to meet once a week on their lunch hour to pray for revival. They soon decided to meet daily. They did not issue a press release. Other men soon joined them. The group grew so large they started meeting at night in churches and invited their wives to participate.
Revival came like a brush fire, exploding not only in New York City, but also up the Mohawk River and down the Hudson, into Appalachia. According to, from February to June 1858, “around 50,000 people a week were added to the church—in a nation whose population was only 30,000,000. Across the Atlantic another million were won to Christ by 1865. . . . Ulster saw 100,000 converted, Scotland 30,000, Wales 100,000 and England 500,000.”
Besides prayer, another characteristic of the 1857 revival and all other revivals was genuine repentance and a confession of personal guilt before a holy God. Anyone familiar with the Old and New Testaments knows that humbling one’s self before God gets His attention faster than any earthly pursuit or agenda.
Modern evangelicals, so preoccupied with who is in the White House or which party controls Congress, might benefit from studying the results of the revivals. As Orr tells it, not only did the 1857 revival have a profound social impact on America, it also dramatically affected every society it reached. Following the revival of 1905, crime virtually disappeared in London. The police had little to do, so they formed quartets and sang at the revival meetings.
A Chicago shoe salesman named Dwight L. Moody wanted to teach Sunday school at a local church, but was told by its superintendent that the church already had 16 teachers too many. The superintendent instructed Moody to “get some boys off the street” and “take them to the country. . . . They will be your class.” That was the beginning of a ministry and missionary work that lasted 40 years.
Revivals don’t ratify the earthly aspirations of humanity, including selfish political agendas. They are about glorifying God. Too many modern Christians have it backward. In a real revival the Lincoln Memorial event would have been a result, not an attempt to cause a revival. People would have assembled who had already repented in private. They would not have bemoaned a decline in American “morality,” but instead have fallen on their knees (or faces) and cried out in genuine repentance and humility.
On his blog, Dr. Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., writes: “Too often, and for too long, American ‘Christianity’ has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it. There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is also a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at the heart mammon worship. . . .”
What passes for American Christianity today is increasingly counterfeit. It appears more focused on a transient earthly kingdom, rather than a heavenly eternal kingdom. That is idolatry and violates the First Commandment: “Thou shall have no other gods before me.”
When Christians obey that Commandment, and humble themselves, only then might revival follow.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Genuine Revival?

I read this recently and thought it good enough to post. There is great excitement about turning back to God, but I do believe that we need to think about what is actually happening. Can a Mormon lead a revival? Are we so hungry for change that we will discard discernment?

A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that they've heard the gospel, right there in the nation's capital.The news media pronounces him the new leader of America's Christian conservative movement, and a flock of America's Christian conservatives have no problem with that.If you'd told me that ten years ago, I would have assumed it was from the pages of an evangelical apocalyptic novel about the end-times. But it's not. It's from this week's headlines. And it is a scandal.Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, of course, is that Mormon at the center of all this. Beck isn't the problem. He's an entrepreneur, he's brilliant, and, hats off to him, he knows his market. Latter-day Saints have every right to speak, with full religious liberty, in the public square. I'm quite willing to work with Mormons on various issues, as citizens working for the common good. What concerns me here is not what this says about Beck or the "Tea Party" or any other entertainment or political figure. What concerns me is about what this says about the Christian churches in the United States.It's taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck. In order to be this gullible, American Christians have had to endure years of vacuous talk about undefined "revival" and "turning America back to God" that was less about anything uniquely Christian than about, at best, a generically theistic civil religion and, at worst, some partisan political movement.Rather than cultivating a Christian vision of justice and the common good (which would have, by necessity, been nuanced enough to put us sometimes at odds with our political allies), we've relied on populist God-and-country sloganeering and outrage-generating talking heads. We've tolerated heresy and buffoonery in our leadership as long as with it there is sufficient political "conservatism" and a sufficient commercial venue to sell our books and products.Too often, and for too long, American "Christianity" has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it. There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is also a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at heart mammon worship. The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death. The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt. Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah.Leaders will always be tempted to bypass the problem behind the problems: captivity to sin, bondage to the accusations of the demonic powers, the sentence of death. That's why so many of our Christian superstars smile at crowds of thousands, reassuring them that they don't like to talk about sin. That's why other Christian celebrities are seen to be courageous for fighting their culture wars, while they carefully leave out the sins most likely to be endemic to the people paying the bills in their movements.Where there is no gospel, something else will fill the void: therapy, consumerism, racial or class resentment, utopian politics, crazy conspiracy theories of the left, crazy conspiracy theories of the right; anything will do. The prophet Isaiah warned us of such conspiracies replacing the Word of God centuries ago (Is. 8:12-20). As long as the Serpent's voice is heard, "You shall not surely die," the powers are comfortable.This is, of course, not new. Our Lord Jesus faced this test when Satan took him to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the earth, and their glory. Satan did not mind surrendering his authority to Jesus. He didn't mind a universe without pornography or Islam or abortion or nuclear weaponry. Satan did not mind Judeo-Christian values. He wasn't worried about "revival" or "getting back to God." What he opposes was the gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected for the sins of the world.We used to sing that old gospel song, "I will cling to an old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown."  The scandalous scene at the Lincoln Memorial indicates that many of us want to exchange it in too soon. To Jesus, Satan offered power and glory. To us, all he needs offer is celebrity and attention.Mormonism and Mammonism are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They offer another Lord Jesus than the One offered in the Scriptures and Christian tradition, and another way to approach him. An embrace of these tragic new vehicles for the old Gnostic heresy is unloving to our Mormon friends and secularist neighbors, and to the rest of the watching world. Any "revival" that is possible without the Lord Jesus Christ is a "revival" of a different kind of spirit than the Spirit of Christ (1 Jn. 4:1-3).The answer to this scandal isn't a retreat, as some would have it, to an allegedly apolitical isolation. Such attempts lead us right back here, in spades, to a hyper-political wasteland. If the churches are not forming consciences, consciences will be formed by the status quo, including whatever demagogues can yell the loudest or cry the hardest. The answer isn't a narrowing sectarianism, retreating further and further into our enclaves. The answer includes local churches that preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and disciple their congregations to know the difference between the kingdom of God and the latest political whim.It's sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, don't get me wrong, I'm not pessimistic. Jesus will build his church, and he will build it on the gospel. He doesn't need American Christianity to do it. Vibrant, loving, orthodox Christianity will flourish, perhaps among the poor of Haiti or the persecuted of Sudan or the outlawed of China, but it will flourish.And there will be a new generation, in America and elsewhere, who will be ready for a gospel that is more than just Fox News at prayer.