My Vision

There is a great difference of opinion in Christianity as to what, exactly, it is to be. There are those who see it as an evolving thing, adapting itself in each generation and in each culture to the felt needs of the times, organizing and re-organizing itself in response to those ‘needs.’ Then, there are those who see it as a static thing whose mission is to reproduce an acceptable (to God and good reason) duplicate of First Century Christianity in each century and in each culture.

To those who see it as an evolving organism, the Christianity of our day is doing perfectly fine, even thriving and growing. After all, we have some of the largest church buildings that have ever been built, some of the largest congregations that have ever been assembled, preachers who speak to more people via mass communications each week than some of the most prolific Christian speakers of history addressed in a lifetime. Money is flowing into religion at an amazing clip and is being spent just as amazingly. Church and para-church organizations have presences in almost every country on the planet and are organizing congregations of ‘Christians’ everywhere. Yes, if the modern view is the correct view Christianity is prospering and doing quite well.

If, however, the ‘static’ view is correct, if Christianity is to reproduce an acceptable replica of First Century Christianity in every place and every time in which it finds itself, there is a problem. The organism (or should I say ‘organization’?) that we see calling itself ‘Christianity’ today is far different than the model we find in the New Testament. In fact, the two are so dissimilar that some find it strange that they even are called by the same name.

Those early congregations busied themselves concerning the truths of God, the reformation of their lives according to His Word, and the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to their culture: ‘repent or perish.’ Their budgets were tiny. Their preachers were not seminary graduates. There was no television nor internet. The cultures in which they existed so hated their message that they were often persecuted or put to death because of it. And, still, they not only radically reformed their own lives but changed the world with their godly example and their message. God’s Spirit attended what they did and made their impact infinitely more powerful than it could ever have been apart from Him. They believed the Word of God, surrendered themselves without reservation to obedience to it, adored the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and the Lord drew thousands to them to be discipled into the Kingdom of God.

Now here is the thing that history teaches us. As the church ‘matured’ it changed. Men began to change and re-organize it according to their ‘felt needs.’ As they did, the Spirit of God backed away from blessing in the way He had at the beginning. Oh, the churches still grew but it was now more because of the methodologies and organizational skills of men than the moving of the Holy Spirit. Continuing down this path, the church began to grow corrupt, more centered upon men than upon God. Power struggles, infighting, and the consolidation of power produced an ever more centralized organization which grew steadily more perverse and moved radically away from the early model.

Some people recognized the error that had befallen the church and worked to reform it to a more biblical model but they were seen as enemies, as ‘heretics,’ and as dangerous criminals. To the degree that it influenced civil power the ‘Church’ persecuted, hounded, and at times even executed those dangerous souls. But where such small congregations could be founded and to the degree that they reformed themselves to the model of the First Century, the Holy Ghost came and blessed in power those faithful people, giving them many blessings, converting many in their communities, and conforming them to the teachings of Christ.

As we look back across history, regardless of what century into which we drop ourselves, we find this same struggle going on. Some are working at ‘evolving’ the church into a better organizational scheme and fighting to maintain what they have, continuing on a march toward an ever-larger everything. Others are working at building on the New Testament model and finding the assistance of the Power of God to do so. At times, the Holy Spirit would seem to move on an entire region, awakening and calling to repentance (and to the biblical model) hosts of people at nearly the same time. ‘Revivals’ (as we have now learned to call them) would break out and thousands would be converted. But the ‘Church Proper’ would frequently move to suppress, co-opt, or otherwise put to an end such things. Nevertheless, the old ‘static’ model of the New Testament church continued to live and, at times (under the blessing of God) prosper.

Each ‘Revival’ or ‘Awakening’ had something in common. Some individual or group of dear souls became burdened concerning the state of religion in their time. They began to pray that God would move and help them... and God would visit. The lives of common people would fall powerfully under the influence of God’s word, often connected with the powerful preaching of a man or group of men raised up by God. The people became convinced that life contrary to the Revealed Will of God was wicked and doomed to be rewarded with horrible and eternal punishment. They heeded the admonition of Jesus Christ to ‘repent’ and cast off their wicked behaviors, attitudes and dispositions. They grouped together in congregations to hear the Word of God taught in simplicity and in truth. And they lived their lives according to what they were being taught. It was obvious that something was happening to them that only the Power of God could do.

Fast forward now to the early nineteenth century. The previous century had seen a powerful move of the Spirit of God like those described above. Some undertook to reproduce that movement and, indeed, some powerful things happened and, undoubtedly, many were converted. But new and bizarre things began to occur as well which led to the upstart of several unorthodox denominations and the introduction of corruptions into some of the mainstream denominations. This movement is generally called The Second Great Awakening. "New Methods" of preaching, evangelizing, even conducting church services themselves were powerfully and permanently introduced to what we now know as Evangelical Christianity. Along with these "New Methods" was also introduced the concept that men might freely innovate on biblical models in order to discover what "worked" in gaining ever greater numbers of converts. The process of ‘evolution’ had now been adopted by those who had previously worked for ‘restoration.’ And a process was begun that has given us this wonderful New Christianity that we see all around us today. The biblical and ‘static’ model had been replaced in almost all corners of Christianity with the ‘evolutionary’ model.

I will not launch into a tirade here against what I am seeing as the modern results of this influence. If you have enough interest in the things of God to have studied the matter of Revival at all, you know what we are facing.

If you believe in and seek for Awakening and Revival in our time, then you must understand that we must ‘turn back the clock’ in our minds, seeking a much older model than the one that has been held up to us as the ideal. We must divest ourselves of the corruptions that we absorbed by having been brought into Christianity downstream of Charles G. Finney, those like him, and those who have taken him as their model.

We must seek the restoration of the church to the ‘static’ model that has always been blessed by God and forsake completely the idea that Christianity ‘evolves.’

We must seek the restoration of Biblical Christianity in our souls, learning to believe, pray, worship and preach according to the examples and instructions of scriptures, forgetting and rejecting the ‘new methods’ that have been devised by men and taught to us as the ideal. We must lock ourselves to the Word of God and take up in our souls the admonition of Isaiah, "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." 8:20, KJV

We must, as the writer of Hebrews admonishes us, "lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us," 12:1, KJV

We must seek and find the Face of God for ourselves through prayer, the study of His Word, and the complete giving of ourselves over to Him. The Face of God is revealed to us in the Person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, "who loved us and gave Himself for us." We must completely surrender ourselves to Him as servants "bought with a price," seeking in every way to live out His instructions and the examples His apostles left behind.

2 Thess 3:6
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. KJV (‘disorderly’ means ‘out of step’ or ‘out of rank’)

We have every reason to expect and believe that the Spirit of God might enable us to do such a thing, that He might visit and bless our efforts, and that He might use us in yet another Awakening.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Update, Sept. 10, 2010

I have not written anything here for a while. Some of you may have wondered as to whether I have given up on the project. I have not. It was for reasons of conscience that I have refrained from putting anything in writing here. My struggles were simply too intense for me to write anything at all seeking to encourage or challenge others.

Following our Convocation (actually beginning during it), I found myself under attack from the forces of darkness of this world, some of them in my own soul. I was beset in a way that I have only rarely experienced by temptations, discouragements, thoughts of my own failures and and overwhelming sense that I was never going to see the Awakening for which I am praying. After all, how could I (in the state that I was in) lead anyone to anything profitable? I despaired of life, much less success in this great endeavor.

The situation lasted from the time of our Convocation in February to sometime late in May. Then, on a Saturday night, when I was much beset with temptations and thoughts of failure, I cried out to God in despair for Him to deliver me or take my life. (I was not, nor have I been, suicidal but I simply had no desire to continue living without His help.) I don't know what to tell you about what happened. I have no words to describe it. I am much like the blind man of John 9, "I was bind but now I see." I went to sleep a defeated man and awoke in victory. As the old song says, "my fetters fell off."

I woke up in a new world in which God's victory was readily available to me and my life has changed. My prayer life, which formerly was a chore, is a joy and a time of delight in the Lord. Whereas I found it difficult to be disciplined to pray daily, I now grieve if I miss a day. My preaching has changed, but I really don't know how to describe that to you either. I don't know how to evaluate it. That will remain to be demonstrated by the fruits.

And, I don't want to leave you with the impression that my struggles are over. They are definitely not. I continue to be attacked and, at times, to fail to weather the attack. But the times of recovery come quickly and my joy is soon restored.

I have wondered at times whether the Convocation was helpful to any of you. I certainly pray that it was but I can report to you that is has been of immense help to me. Of course, I have no way to know what the future holds nor how or when God is going to answer our cries for Awakening. But I am seriously considering another Convocation for 2011 and hope that you can all come.

All of the praise here goes to our Gracious God. I merely cried, He is the One Who Answered. I wanted to make sure that this was just not some temporary phase of mind, so I waited until now to communicate what has happened with me. I grow more confident by the day that this is not a temporary thing. Perhaps.....Oh, perhaps......

Friday, September 10, 2010

Nehemiah and Restoration

Neh 1:1-2:1
1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,
2 That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.
3 And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.
4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,
5 And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:
6 Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.
7 We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.
8 Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:
9 But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.
10 Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.
11 O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer. KJV

Much can be understood about a man by observing his reactions to various things.

Here, Nehemiah is seen reacting to the news that the conditions in Jerusalem were far worse than he had thought. The people are in great trouble. The walls are broken down. And, the gates have been burned.

To this news Nehemiah sat down and wept. Moreover, he fasted and prayed, confessing and repenting of his own sins, the sins of his family, and the sins of the nation. He set himself to pray day and night for the restoration of his people.

In this I see a comparison and a contrast between Nehemiah and modern preachers. I also see a comparison and contrast between Israel in Nehemiah’s day and the church in our day.

The walls of Jerusalem were those barriers to invading enemies that kept them out. With the walls broken down there was no ability to keep enemies away or to keep the city safe.

The gates of the city were the means by which the rulers of the city controlled access to the city of visitors to it. Ezra used them to keep merchants out of the city on the Sabbath, an activity which violated the Law of God and which tempted the people of the city to do evil.

Because there was no way to defend the city or control access to it, the people were suffering under oppression of their enemies.

In the same manner, the ‘walls’ of the church are now broken down. Historical Biblical Doctrine, which for years defended the church from her enemies has been forsaken. Church Discipline, which turned the wicked out of church membership is no longer practiced. So, the wicked remain in the church and pollute it with their wickedness. Prayer, that blessed tool by which the church cried out to God for blessing and for protection, has been relegated to merely public oration. There are no organized prayer meetings where people fast and pray for help and defense from God.

The ‘gates’ of the church, which once only admitted those who had a genuine testimony of grace, are now thrown open for any and all who will fill out a card to join. As a result, the churches are filled with the unregenerate and those who are truly saints (if there are any left) are oppressed and grieved by the enemies of the gospel who seek to use the church only for their own ends.

And what of the preachers? Rather than fasting and weeping for the church they amplify the harm by going further and further down the road which had led the church to its present ruin. Rather than seeking how they may restore the church to its’ former glory, they decorate the broken walls so that it seems that the breeches in the wall are a good thing. And, they remove all vestiges of the burned gates so that it seems that there was never intended to be any gates.

O men, when will the ruin of the church fasten upon our souls like the ruin of Jerusalem clung to Nehemiah’s mind? When will it drive us to weeping and prayer and fasting, to confession of our sins and the sins of our fathers, to the remembrance of the glory that once was and a desperate longing for it to be restored? When????

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I am going to give you the following quote from "A Year of Grace," the story of the 1859 Revival in Ireland. I have been giving much thought to the hindrances to Awakening in our day. In doing so, I have found much fault in myself that, no doubt, hinders the Work of God in my church. Consider the words and see if they cause you to ponder the same thing.

Quoting from Pastor James Mayne, an "aged and experienced minister, for upwards of forty years an labourer in the Lord's vineyard," the author records the following.

"If there be a revival where must it be expected to begin? who may be supposed to be the first partakers of it?---The ministers of religion themselves.

As the sunbeams strike first upon the mountains, and as the clouds pour forth their treasures first upon the hills, which form a kind of natural reservoir for the valleys; so it may be looked for that the spiritual rain will descend first into the pulpit before it reaches the pews. The influence of ministers upon their flocks is very great, both for good or evil. 'Like priest, like people,' is a proverb founded on truth. We are in the midst of our people like central fires, producing a glowing atmosphere around us, or like icebergs, which chill everything in their vicinity. Should a revival take place among them and not extend to us, we shall not only stop its progress, but undo what has been done; but if our piety be increased, the influence of it will, in all probability, be spread through the Church.

"Before the season of revival, wickedness did very much abound in our country, and the love of many waxed cold. Often did I solicit the pouring out of the Spirit to enliven and awaken; often did I intreat, like the good John Brown of Haddingtion, 'for dead Haddington, and wicked, withered, East Lothian.' So did I for dead Ballywatt, and withered, wicked Ballyrashane. And now, my prayers are heard, and I and my people have enjoyed times of refreshing from the Lord. I have been strengthened to do more labour and with more ease and satisfaction now than I could have anticipated; and I rejoice in the Spirit's influences being so largely conferred for the enlivenment and enlightenment of the Church of God."

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Prayer Meetings01

Unfortunately, we live in a day when churches have rarely been visited by the Spirit of God in power.  As a result, there is a dimness of vision concerning what Awakening might mean and what it might produce.  Thankfully, God has provided us with records of times past when He did visit His people.  Consider the following quote from "The Year of Grace," by William Gibson, 1860.

"Frequently our prayer-meetings have experienced a sudden, mysterious, overpowering impulse, swaying the whole assembly as one man, and leaving all weeping, praying, rejoicing.  Men have felt as if the Lord had breathed upon them.  They were first affected with awe and fear---then they were bathed in tears---then filled with love unspeakable.  Such a scene as this occurred about a month ago in the midst of the ordinary services of the Sabbath."

Such events remind us that the power of God is largely absent from our church meetings, that we are far down the road toward the Laodicean spirit if not outright apostasy.  Records like this should bathe our hearts with a longing for the Return of the Spirit of God.  Our hearts should ache with desire for such times.  We should not consider them as relics of a bygone day, unattainable to us, nor should we consider them the errors of an ignorant and primitive people.  These people were led by good, godly and well-trained men who recognized that they had indeed been witness to the outpoured Grace of our Mighty God.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Reflections, 03/13/2010

Well, it has now been three weeks since our Convocation of Prayer (Feb. 23-25, 2010) and I have spent much time reflecting on it.

I hope that it demonstrated to all the great need for such gatherings for prayer. I was much blessed by the time and the opportunity to join with my brethren in the endeavor.

I have tried to learn from the time so that the next opportunity will, hopefully, be more fruitful.

There are two major areas that I believed that I learned something about.

1. We are further from being in that place of revival than I had thought.

I was struck by the great sense of need that was present in all and I am grateful to God that He has given some this burden.

But I was also struck by the lack of a common vision as to what Awakening and Revival is. Some see it as a great resurgence in evangelism. Some believe that this will be accomplished by God raising up a man who has wide acceptance to proclaim the gospel with power. Such an event would add many souls to existing churches and revitalize Evangelical Christianity in our day. There was the thought that maybe another 'Billy Graham' would come along and be the answer to our current malaise.

Here are the questions that comes to my mind when I envision such a 'raising up' of a man.

A. If I were God, would I entrust a large number of my elect to the churches as they currently exist?

Honestly, I must tell you that I would not. Even so-called 'good churches' in our day are in serious violation of some of the most fundamental elements that identified the churches of the past upon whom God sent Revival. There is little in the way of proclamation of the need of repentance from sin. The 'gospel' as currently preached has much more to do with believing than repenting. The gospel always has and those who were used in Revival in the past led with the issue of sin, judgment, righteousness and the repentance which these issues demand.

Churches are almost void of any kind of discipline. As a result there is much careless living, lack of prayer and devotion, and even immorality involved in them. In many there is the notion that so long as our doctrines are correct and our preachers preach well all is OK, we are a sound church. But this is not the case in many places. Sound doctrinal churches with good preachers in many cases have serious fundamental problems with the understanding of holiness. All of the
doctrines proclaimed skirt the issues of heartfelt anguish over sin and genuine, Spirit-convicted reformation of life. Quite often the doctrines only bolster a sense of complacency and self-satisfaction (might I even say self-righteousness?).

And...I am sure that God Himself is aware of many more problems at which I can only guess.

B. Do we make an 'idol' out of such a man when we place our hope of Revival and Awakening in him?

Our hope must be in God Himself Who is able of stones to raise up sons of Abraham. Many so-called 'Revivals' have indeed centered on a particular individual but I have always been struck by the story of how the First Great Awakening seemed to have been born by a 'groundswell' of spiritual concern, beginning almost simulataneously in various locations without the influence of a dramatice personality.

This is the kind of Revival and Awakening for which I am praying. I have learned to have far too little trust in men to hope that a single man is going to be the answer for our situation. There is much work to do in the churches themselves to prepare for the moving of God's Spirit. I recall that Jesus told Ephesus to 'repent and to the first works' lest He come upon them in judgment. And, I suspect that Ephesus in trouble was a far better church than most of us (any of us?) have ever known.

2. Our secret hope than an 'experience' will save us may be misplaced.

I have also noticed in my reflections on our Convocation that there seems to be among us (and I am not exempt!) the notion that we will have an experience which will solve our personal problems and bring us to the place of Awakening. As I have thought upon this, I have wondered if this notion puts us in the place of making an 'idol' of this experience for which we are hoping.

I wonder if the records of revivals do us a disservice by making much of the experiences of those involved. Our thinking seems to go something like this. (1) there was a great revival, and (2) the people had wonderful experiences, therefore, (3) if we could have experiences like them we could have Revival as well. This sends us in search of the experience with the danger that our hope is in this elusive, life-shattering event rather in in our Lord.

There are two categories, I believe, of religious experience. The most common is an intense emotional and ecstatic event brought on by an environment of religion or maybe created by our own minds. I have had some of those. Their track record in my life is that they do not permanently profit. They produced no lasting change. And, as I have observed them in others, the same can be said.

The less common, but far more profitable, experience is that which begins in the soul through the contemplation of truth and the help of the Holy Spirit to reveal it. When, for example, the sinner becomes convinced by the Spirit of God that he is the kind of sinner that God says he is and destined for an eternal judgment, he is humbled, shattered and broken by this awful fact. The experience is powerful, no doubt, sometimes with physical reactions of one kind or another. Some weep uncontrollably, others tremble, some mourn aloud with groans and cries to God, and others may have different experiences. But these 'experiences' are not the event nor the reason that change is produces. The change is produced because the enlightened mind has grasped enormous spiritual realities and is convinced that they are true. The experience is only the symptom of the event, a collateral occurrence with it, and not the core of the matter.

Likewise, when the child of God sees his own failures, his lack of conformity to Christ, the inexcusable nature of it, and the damage that he has caused to others, a sickening sadness takes hold of him that can crush him under the weight of it unless God interevenes and shows him mercy. Witness the concern that Paul had in 2 Cor. for the repentant adulterer seeking restoration to the church. When this same saint sees the true 'hope of his calling,' the holiness to which he has both been called and enabled, he is powerfully smitten with a longing for it and a walk with God that is consistent with the call of God. He goes burdened, saddened and sorrowful until God, in His Own Good Pleasure, gives him something of what he is seeking, the Visit of the Spirit of God upon his soul to enalbe him to move out of failure into something that approaches 'the fullness of the Spirit.' His heart is overwhelmed with joy, gratitude, rejoicing and profound relief. He hav weep, shout, cast himself about in rapture or simply set to the taks of casting away from him every token of the wicked and shameful life he has led as a child of God up to this point. But, again, it is not the details of the experience that make the matter a real thing. Someone else duplicating the 'experience' without grasping the truths revealed by the Spirit of God may have a wonderful time but he will be left as empty afterward as before (and possibly spiritually damaged). It is the TRUTH grasped and held in a real way in the soul that produces lasting change.

John 8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Truth revealed to the soul by the Son (through His Spirit) changes the life, makes the person free, not experience. This certainly is a life-changing experience, but it is the Truth, Divinely Revealed, that is the essence of it.

Let us not make an idol of experience and let us not make an idol of man.