Posts Tagged ‘Revival and Spiritual Awakening’

be-stillLast Sunday afternoon Gayla and I traveled to Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge for the Louisiana Baptist Convention Pastors Conference. I’ve learned a great deal over the past several months about the sovereignly of God — particularly His sovereignty with regards to His timing. However, He would teach us more at this conference. The theme, “Pause,” is what we are experiencing right now — a pause in our ministry. Sunday marked the final time that I would preach as the pastor of Mandeville’s First Baptist Church. With no “next assignment” in sight, we find ourselves in a pause in our ministry.

From Sunday evening to the close of the conference on Monday afternoon, we heard seven different speakers and five of them chose to speak from Psalm 46. That psalm is one of my favorites and includes one of the most quoted verses of the psalms — “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Martin Luther used this psalm as the scriptural basis of his “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Coincidentally, we just observed the 500th anniversary of the day when Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the church at Wittenberg, Germany. The historical background of the psalm was God’s deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrians during the reign of King Hezekiah, who may have been the poet who the Spirit used to form this psalm and perhaps Psalms 47 and 48 as well.

The psalm has three stanzas, each marked off by the term “Selah,” a term that may mean a musical interlude. The interlude would give the worshipers the opportunity to reflect on the stanza that they had just heard or sung. Instructions in the text prior to verse one give instructions to the worship leader. Clearly, the Lord intended this psalm to be used as a hymn of worship.

Given that we heard this psalm used repeatedly as a sermon text at the pastors conference, I believe that the Lord wanted us to pause for a while so that we could hear from His Word that we could trust in what He had planned for us. He wanted us to know that we could trust Him. The three stanzas of Psalm 46 help the reader focus on the Lord and how He relates to His trusting people.

God is our refuge and tower of strength. God is that place of refuge or the fortress to whom we may go. When everything seems to be falling apart, He shelters us so that He can strengthen us to go back to life with its responsibilities, challenges, and even dangers. That the psalm writer said that He would be near “in times of trouble” describes God as He would be with us in the tight places of life. He is saying to us, “Don’t be afraid.” We need that kind of comforting word in the Christian life.

God is our river of joy. When the Assyrian army laid siege to Jerusalem, their water supply would normally have been threatened. However, Hezekiah had built an underground water system that connected the Spring of Gihon in the Kidron Valley with the Pool Siloam within the city walls, thus making water available. But the psalmist knew that the true source of the river of life was God. We need to know that our source of life is God and not our wise planning.

God is our God, and He will be glorified.  It’s not until verse 8 that the psalmist gave a command for his readers to heed, “Come, see the works of the LORD.” But this is not a command to do something. Rather, it is a command to watch God. What does He do? According to the psalm, He makes the wars cease by destroying the weapons of war. When you come to verse 10, there’s a new speaker. God says, “Stop your fighting, and know that I am God.” The Christian Standard Bible captures the nuance of the word that is often translated as “be still.” The command to be still is not simply a command to be quiet or to get alone. No, it’s a command to stop trying to fix things in your life yourself. It’s a command to stop depending on our your strength or your ingenuity and start depending on the Lord.

This morning when we came into the church where the Lord had assigned us to preach, Gayla pointed out a small plaque hanging above the baptistry at the front of the auditorium. It said, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

The Lord has my attention during this pause in my ministry. I waiting for the Lord.

Jonathan Edwards, pastor of the prestigious Congregational Church in Northampton, Massachusetts, was a leading figure of the eighteenth century First Great Awakening. Religious leaders, like the famous preacher George Whitefield (pronounce “Whit – field”), traveled great distances to meet with him and discuss theological matters.

At age 14, Edwards, already a student at Yale University, treasured the spiritual qualities that directed his life and ministry. At age 17, after a period of distress, he said holiness was revealed to him as ravishing, divine beauty. His heart panted “to lie low before God, as in the dust; that I might be nothing, and that God might be all, that I might become as a little child.” So the rare blend of spiritual passion and searching intellect characterized his life. By the age of 26, he became the sole pastor of the Northampton Church. Five years later his preaching on justification by faith sparked an awakening.

Yet even a man of Edwards’s credentials was not exempt from criticism. When Edwards sought assurance that those in his congregation had experienced genuine conversion, a group of discontented church members took exception. They launched a slanderous campaign against him that ultimately led to his dismissal from the church he had made famous. One of the greatest theological minds and most devout pastors in American history had been forced out of his church by malicious detractors. Edwards then assumed a modest pastorate in the small town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and ministered to native Americans.

Eventually Jonathan Edwards was vindicated before his critics. Some of his most vocal opponents publicly confessed their sinfulness in attacking their godly pastor. Ultimately, the College of New Jersey, which later became Princeton, called his as president in 1758. To its great loss and to that of the American church, Edwards died soon after his arrival at the age of 55. Some consider Edwards to be the finest theologian America has produced.

I offer this short biography of Edwards to remind us that God uses faithful believers who have solid commitments to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and to His Word. I am reminded of the call that God issued twice to Jonah, “Get up, go to Nineveh, and preach the Word.” The first time, Jonah ran in the opposite direction of Nineveh. He went down Joppa, down into the ship, down into the sea, and ultimately down into the belly of a great fish. The second time God issued the call, Jonah was more than ready to listen and obey. When he arrived in Nineveh, he preached the word that God had given to him — and God brought about a supernatural movement, and the people repented.

I am praying that God will “do it again.” A few Sundays ago, we dedicated both services to prayer and to seeking God’s divine intervention. We believe that God still wants to do a great work in America and to the ends of the earth. However, He will only do so on His terms. We cannot tell God how He must move. We cannot require Him to submit to our bidding. Rather, we must humble ourselves, pray and seek His face, and turn from our wickedness. Then He will hear from heaven and forgive our sin and heal our land.

Wednesday afternoon I viewed the disturbing video released for the first time on Tuesday which showed the senior medical director of Planned Parenthood casually discussing over lunch the sale of intact organs from aborted babies. It sickened me to the core of my being. The graphic nature of the subject prevents me from writing about it here.

Of course, Planned Parenthood struck back immediately, claiming that the video misrepresented Dr. Deborah Nucatola as she described the procurement process of fetal organs. However, it appears that the only thing misrepresented is Planned Parenthood’s own messy response.

In his blog this week, Dr. Al Mohler wrote:

“I have no reason to believe that the video is anything less than totally credible. But, even if Planned Parenthood somehow finds a way to evade justice in terms of criminal activity, the part of the video that Planned Parenthood does not and cannot deny reveals their senior medical director (Dr. Nucatola) enjoying a conversation over a meal in which she describes tearing apart the bodies of unborn human beings in order to get the desired organ….

“When the Allied forces liberated the concentration camps of the Nazi regime, General Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the ordinary German citizens of nearby towns and villages to walk through the camps and to see what they had allowed and facilitated. Eisenhower’s point was all too clear — you allowed this to happen, and you share the guilt.”

We all share in the guilt of the holocaust of abortion. Just a couple of weeks ago our church dedicated a Sunday morning to prayer for revival and spiritual awakening. We prayed for our nation in the spirit of 2 Chronicles 7:14 to be stirred from its spiritual slumber and spiritual stupor. As a nation we have called good evil and evil good for so long that we are confused. Many spurn the Word of God as irrelevant.

I’m praying that the release of this video will stir more people; although, those who support abortion will likely “keep their ears stopped and their eyes closed” to the atrocities of abortion because they enjoy the profits from this horrific industry. Will you join me in praying that this video will mark an important turning point in our nation’s conscience? Mohler concluded his blog with, “The horrifying images of harvested baby hearts must lead us to our own broken hearts. A nation that allow this, will allow anything.”

For the past several months, someone from our pastoral staff opened the Sunday services with what we call “the service introduction.” We’ve used this opening to set the stage for the service. Sometimes we use a short story or anecdote, and sometimes we simply call attention to the subject matter or theme of the service. Last Sunday (June 26, 2015) I opened the services with how we should respond to the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement of its 5-4 decision that makes same-sex marriage legal. To ensure that I am clear, I am repeating that response in writing.

1. God is still sovereign. We do not need to panic. Jesus Christ remains completely and totally in charge. God is eternally sovereign and nothing can change that. This means that we should not make wild declarations about how everything is lost. In reality, not many of us were surprised that the court ruled the way it did. Our response should be that of complete trust in the Lord and that He will one day bring all things together in perfect order.

2. Marriage and sexuality has not changed. The Word is very clear. What I mean by this is that God created marriage; therefore, God alone defines marriage. No legislative body, no president, and no court can change this fact. We must continue to stand for marriage and what the Bible says about marriage. As we do so, we must be careful not to jump to conclusions as to what will happen next. Some have already concluded that pastors and priests will be forced to conduct ceremonies for same-sex couples under the threat of fines or jail time and that churches will lost their federal tax exempt status if they refuse same-sex couples to use their facilities for ceremonies. Jumping into such discussions accomplishes little and should not be the main focus of our conversations. Such conversations actually keep us offtrack and away from our main responsibility—to bring people who are far from God near to Him through the gospel so that all people might love Him.

3. We must lovingly demonstrate the love of Christ to all people — no matter how they have responded to the court’s decision. It would be very easy for us to get into a war mode. To do so actually does much disservice to the Lord and to the cause of the gospel. Make sure that the people who disagree with us do not think that we hate them. Remember, Paul of Tarsus live and served in a world completely hostile to Christ and the gospel. Obviously the government in his time offered no accommodations for Christianity. To be sure, the Roman government permitted pagan religions and, to some extent, allowed the synagogues to exists. However, when it targeted Christians for persecution, they had no place to hide. Even in such circumstances, the gospel prospered. Therefore, we must continue to communicate the gospel and not do or say anything that suggests that we are going to retreat from the world and from sharing the Good News.

4. I am calling for a service during which time we will spend time praying as we plead with God to send revival. Both services on July 5 will dedicated to this purpose. This experience will be unlike any we have had on a Sunday morning. We will have times for hearing from God’s Word, times for personal intercession, times for corporate prayers, and times for singing hymns and praises to the Lord. We know that God alone is sovereign and He alone can bring about revival and a spiritual awakening. What we can do is to position ourselves according to scripture so that He might bring about such a revival. “[I]f my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV).