“…you were unwilling.” (Matthew 23:37)
1) We do not want revival. Not really.
2) God does not trust us with a revival, and for good reason. He refuses to arm an enemy, to endow a rebel.
There! Those are the answers to the question.
Now, pull up a chair and let’s talk about it.
It’s that plain and simple: we really do not want a Heaven-sent, life-rearranging revival.
We want the results, the good part, but not the upheaval in our personal lives, priorities, and schedules which a Heaven-sent revival would demand.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren….” (I Corinthians 15:58)
Think of these as resurREACTIONS.
Every sermon, they say, should be made up of two parts, the “what” and the “so what.”
Today is Easter Sunday. Churches across the globe are reading selections from Matthew 28, Luke 24, Mark 16, John 20, and I Corinthians 15 about the Lord Jesus’ victory over death, hell, and the grave.
We’re covering the “what” of the resurrection fairly well, I’d say.
But we must not stop there.
The whole point of the Lord’s rising from the dead is what it says about the Lord Jesus, what that says to the enemy, and the difference this should make to believers.
“The just shall live by faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11)
One day this week while traveling down the interstate through the open country, I began listing the things we Christians do by faith. The list became lengthy in a hurry.
To do anything by faith means we have an invisible authority for this thing we do. An outsider, not understanding or valuing the invisible, would consider us presumptuous or foolish or deluded, but as followers of Jesus Christ and believers in His Word, we calmly do these things and consider doing them completely reasonable.
Acting by faith for one man meant going out not knowing where he was headed but trusting the Invisible Authority to let him know when he had arrived, for another building a massive boat on dry land far removed from water, and for a third renouncing the luxury of the palace to throw his lot in with a group of slaves.
Faith people have been known to do some strange things.
No one will ever convince me Solomon wrote the “Song” attributed to him in the Old Testament.
No one with hundreds of wives and a gymnasiumful of ready-made girlfriends can focus on one woman the way the writer of that poetic rhapsody did. (If you love the Song of Solomon, good. I’m only saying there is no way it’s from the pen and heart of this Israeli king.)
True love is not about being enamored by the sheen in her hair or the gleam in her brown eyes. It’s far deeper than that.
I’ve been in revival this week in Elberta, Alabama, a sweet little community near the coastal resort town of Gulf Shores. One morning, host pastor Mike Keech and I met for breakfast at a quaint breakfast cafe called Grits ‘n Gravy. I’d brought along my sketch pad, so during the hour we were there, I drew all the diners, a dozen or more, as well as Patrick the owner and Megan the counter lady. They were all memorable, but none more than an older couple sitting in a booth.
I’m pro-deacon. I am one-hundred percent for these godly men* who will stand with their pastor, will minister to people, who love the Lord, are always on guard for threats to the unity and work of the church, and care not one whit who gets the credit so long as the Kingdom of God is advanced.
The pastor who has such men surrounding him or in back of him is one blessed dude, I’ll tell you that.
On the other hand.
“I was the student minister in a fine church many years ago,” Will told me. “We had a wonderful ministry. The single negative about the entire experience was the pastor. You never knew what he would do next.”
“Case in point. One night in a church business meeting, the pastor announced that the property the church owned, including the former pastorium, was being offered for sale. At the time, my wife and I were living in that house! And now we learn they’re selling it. This was the first we had heard of it.
“That night, my wife was angry because she thought I had known about it and not told her. But that was the way this pastor worked.”
“Staff members were nothing to him. Just pawns to be manipulated.”
I sat there listening to my longtime friend Will tell of that experience some 20 years previously and thought once again that the number one trait a staff member is looking for in his new pastor–his employer, his supervisor, and hopefully his mentor, remember–is integrity.
Without integrity, nothing matters.
“But there were standing by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” (John 19:25)
Why am I here? And why is He there?
There seem to be no answers other than “God knows and we trust Him.”
Thy will be done. “I am the bond-slave of the Lord. Be it done to me according to Thy word.”
Sometimes you cry and cry until there are no more tears.
Your heart aches until it no longer feels anything.
Your mind grows exhausted from events happening all around, none of which you were prepared for.
“I will sing a new song to Thee, O God….” (Psalm 144:9)
The message from a friend raised a question I’d not thought of: “Can you tell me how to freshen up my prayer time? My prayers all sound the same after a while. I get tired of my own words, so I know the Lord must.”
How, he wanted to know, does one freshen up his prayers?
Herewith my thoughts on that subject. (I speak as an expert on absolutely nothing, but simply as one believer encouraging another.)
1. Freshness is overrated.
When my grandchild enters the room, I’m not listening for something new from her. She crawls into my lap, hugs my neck, and speaks the same words I have heard again and again, but which never grow old or stale: “I love you, grandpa.”
I love you, too, honey.
A friend passed along something that Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of Dallas’ First Baptist Church, tells on himself. In an earlier pastorate, a little deacon group who found they could not control the pastor decided to fire him, and called a church conference for that purpose. Pastor Jeffress and his wife gave the matter to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to show one way or the other whether they were to leave or remain at this assignment.
In the meeting, after the deacons leveled their charges against the pastor–it was penny-ante stuff, Dr. Jeffress says–the moderator invited the congregation to speak. A small elderly woman stood to her feet and walked toward the front. Asked if she wanted to say anything, she said, “No. I’m just going to stand by my pastor.”
At that, another person rose and silently walked to the front and took his place on the other side of the pastor.
One by one, across the sanctuary, people got up and walked to their pastor. Many went to the microphones and testified of the blessed ministry Brother Jeffress had had in their lives. For a full 45 minutes, the congregation overwhelmingly affirmed his ministry.
The ringleader of the movement to oust the pastor finally said to the congregation, “I never realized how out of touch I was with the sentiment of this congregation. You will never hear another word from me.”
Within a few weeks, every one of those deacons and their families had left the church.
And–do we need to say this?–after they departed, the church grew and the ministry flourished.
Stand by your pastor.
“For those who serve well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 3:13).
It’s good to be a deacon. It is, that is, if you can pull off the servant, team-playing, supportive, and godly aspect.
Not everyone can.
Charlie and Robert are both Christians, friends of one another, and good guys. But when the deacon nominating committee approached both men about serving as deacons, the answers they received were completely opposite.
Robert: “Me? You think I’m deacon material? Wow. My dad was a deacon. I’m not sure I’m up to that standard. Can I have a day or two to pray about it and talk to my wife?”
Two days later, he accepted, and was ordained.
Charlie: “Are you kidding me? You think I’m deacon material? You sure are lowering your standards, aren’t you?” (Said with a laugh.) “My dad was a deacon, and I saw how he struggled with church issues. Give me a couple of days to think about it.”
Charlie called the committee two days later to decline. He said, “I just don’t think that’s for me. I’m not deacon material. Not yet, anyway.”
Here’s why Robert became a deacon and why Charlie did not.