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The rapid spread of the church in the New Testament can only be attributed to two things: the gracious, miraculous activity of the Holy Spirit, and the bold witness of His followers. If God had not moved, nothing would have happened. If believers had not shared the gospel, the movement would have stalled.
In His sovereignty, God has ordained preaching as a primary means of transforming lives. He has graciously given us creation, His Word, and most dramatically, Himself, in the person of His Son, so that we might know Him. By these three means God sufficiently reveals Himself.
It would seem that the propensity of God to test His children is unloving. But in reality, it is one of the greatest demonstrations of His love for us. God is not out to always give us the most comfortable life. If He was, we would grow soft, unusable, and inherently self-absorbed.
It is one of the ways of God. Periodically in history, He opens the windows of heaven and comes down with His manifest presence. We call these moments revival as they affect the church, and spiritual awakening, as they impact people without Christ. Spiritual results happen at an accelerated pace and with stunning results. These outpourings bring a course correction to nations, and most importantly, they glorify God.
“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love” (Robert Robinson, 1758). The hymn writer captured in a sentence what is universally true of man. Our humanity is weak, the devil is strong, and the world pulls us relentlessly away from God. Even those who have come into a relationship with Christ still wander at times.
Every pastor and spiritual leader I know is experiencing waves of discouragement and confusion during this COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders lead. They want to move the ball forward and get things done. Spiritual leaders want to see the kingdom advance. No true man or woman of God wants to just survive. To get by. To merely tread water. To see the work of God slowed or even stopped.
It is a tragic thing to watch a nation digress. The youngest of those who live in our nation today cannot possibly remember anything different. But many of us can. We remember a nation, not long ago, where …
One of the great mysteries of God is that He meets with us. This has happened since the beginning of time, as God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day in the Garden He had created for them. Until they chose to go their own way, they enjoyed unhindered, intimate communion with Him.
We are most often the central subject of our thoughts and conversation. This preoccupation indicates a self-observed life, which is our greatest problem. Worried about what people think of who we are, what we look like, and what we’ve done, we unconsciously place the “I” in the forefront.
Who is the smartest person in the world? Regardless of the list you would compile, no one would come close to a 30-year-old Hebrew slave named Joseph. But it is vital to understand the source of Joseph’s wisdom and knowledge.
In 1996 I began to pastor New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. The population around our church was significantly black, but our church was not. I embarked on a journey to see that change. It was not an easy task. As our church became more diverse, I began to encounter opposition I had never experienced before. Our family even received death threats! At one point I was so discouraged and angry that I went to my friend and mentor Crawford Loritts and asked for his advice.
Revival must change our hearts AND our actions. A global pandemic … racism, hatred, killing … our nation on fire … And the Supreme Court has allowed government authority to have over churches. Churches are not seen as essential now because they have not acted essentially in the past. We don’t really need churches to reopen. We need them to restart—different than they used to be.
The loss of hearing is debilitating. Our ears are one of the primary gates that give us the ability to know and respond to everything. The eyes, the nose, the mouth all aid us, as well as the sense of touch. But hearing is foundational. There are different levels of hearing. We hear thousands of sounds every day with no response. Our minds are conditioned to tune much of this out. We’ve labeled it “background noise.”
It begins in the crib. We hold things tightly, like a pacifier or toy. Progressing through each stage of life, we always find a new object to grasp: a baseball bat, a diploma, keys to car or home, our wallet, a job, a relationship, our independence. The objects are endless. If we will follow Christ, He will gently but firmly be about the business of showing us anything we are holding tightly that is detrimental to our lives and His purpose.
Last week, I began this series of blogs by suggesting three questions for every Christian to consider as we navigate forward in reopening churches: What should never restart in your church? How important is the concept of safety in your church? When does honoring government dishonor God? Obviously, there are many other questions that need to be considered. But today, I simply want to suggest that one question may rise above all of them as the most important: WHY should your church reopen?
“Let us be concerned about one another … not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do” (Hebrews 10:24-25 HCSB). This seems pretty clear, doesn’t it? There are good reasons to miss corporate worship. But we are not to miss it habitually. No, this verse was not written during a global pandemic; but it was written against the backdrop of severe suffering. Then and now, wherever Christians face persecution, they endanger themselves, their families, and others every time they meet. Yet they meet anyway.
In human history there are always constant waves of sin and obedience, blessing and judgment. King David had known an incredible forty years as a leader who ruled in the fear of God and with great humility. Correspondingly, God had granted the Israelites four decades of blessing and victory against their enemies.
There is nothing quite so devious as moral impurity. But there is also nothing quite so predictable. Our great Enemy knows that he doesn’t have to be creative with immorality. The bait is so strong that it just needs to be placed within our reach. If we do not immediately apply God’s remedy, we will be ensnared. Sweet for a moment, the end results are always excruciating.
We must ask ourselves what is God saying. Listen as John Avant and Ronnie Floyd share how to live with purpose during this time.
Everyone gets hurt. If you haven’t been hurt yet, just keep breathing … it will happen. Once hurt, you must decide how you will respond. And you really have only two choices—to forgive or to take revenge. Revenge has many forms. You can withdraw, ignore, retaliate with words or actions, gossip and slander to tear someone down, and on and on. But what you’re saying is this: “You’ve hurt me; therefore, I’m going to take this matter into my hands and hurt you back.”