Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Putting Out Fires

"If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone."
Romans 12:18
It's dry here. Fire's start easily when things are dry - in nature and in relationships. A fire started yesterday, spreading rapidly. The wind was pushing it toward a small community in the country. Residents were evacuated. Many of them gathered to pray. A firefighter said it was a tree-top fire, dropping flames and embers as it moved. Seconds before the flames reached the homes, the wind changed direction blowing the fire back on itself. The community was spared.
Here are some things to remember. 
1. The dryer things are the greater the risk of fire.  
2. God often moves supernaturally in response to urgent prayer.
3. We are responsible to do our part to put out fires.
4. God limits our responsibility (we are not responsible to fix the world).

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Weddings, Seminaries, Ghettos & Planned Parenthood

My wife and I (aren't we cute) travelled to Dallas-Ft. Worth this weekend for the wedding of a friend's daughter. The wedding was held in the Riley Center on Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary campus. It was a simple and beautiful wedding. We had a good time with friends who are as close as family, and then did a little road-tripping on the way home. I wanted to see Bonton Farms (see pic below) a Christian community renewal project in one of the worst neighborhoods in Dallas. It's a garden/farm that was started on an empty lot. So, we stumbled around a very poor, almost exclusively black neighborhood till we found the farm. I am praying God would use me/us to begin something like this in our community.We then travelled through upper and lower class neighborhoods to reach the Dallas Arboretum, spent a couple of hours enjoying the beauty. Finally, we stopped at a huge Buccees between Forney and Terrell, Texas.

Here are some observations:
1. Simple weddings are much less stressful than elaborate ones, but fathers still have to give away their daughters.
2. Religious education is invaluable, but also insufficient to change the heart of man (only the Gospel is sufficient).
3. Issues regarding race and ethnicity are not limited to any race, education level, religious affiliation, or lack thereof.
4. It's a long way from the seminary to the ghetto.
5. If the Arboretum is any indication of the composition of our society, Americans (both business people and pastors) had better learn to speak several additional languages.
6. Planned Parenthood and many of their supporters are liars. They are not almost exclusively located in lower-class neighborhoods where women can find access to healthcare. Every Planned Parenthood center we saw (two of them) were located in middle to upper-class neighborhoods near hospitals.
7. Most Americans have sacrificed their souls to gain the world, and beef jerky.

The last observations is based strictly on our trip to Buc-ee's in Terrell (the pic is the inside). It is a convenience store that is the size of our old Walmart (I am not lying). It has 84 gas pumps. It has a meat counter selling mostly jerky and sausage that is bigger than the meat counter at either of the grocery stores in our town. It has a gift section bigger than the Nichol's department store here. It's bathrooms are as big as my house. My wife asked, "With this kind of overhead, do you think they can make it." "Well," I said as we looked at well over a hundred people shopping, "look at how packed out it is."  By the way, I tried the banana pudding. It wasn't worth it, but the coffee was good. I didn't buy any jerky. I just couldn't decide which of the 16 varieties I wanted.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Did We Have Revival?

"The men traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the sound but seeing no one." (Acts 9:7)

We just finished a week of services for revival. Did we have revival? Sunday morning there were 120 people in worship. Sunday night there were 60. The rest of the week we averaged 90. Do those numbers reflect a spiritual awakening? Certainly they do not follow the pattern of the great awakenings of the past. They do not reflect moves of God we in our own church have experienced in the past.

Four people, two children and two adults, professed faith in Jesus Christ last week.  Is revival only when the church is packed and scores are saved, or when anyone is saved?

What about the lasting effects of our services? Was the church packed the Sunday after? Well, it was the best crowd we have had in nearly a year, but is that revival?  I preached and gave an altar call. Only one came to pray. Honestly, I felt like a failure. Should I have? Should I gauge my faithfulness to God, my calling as the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church by the number of people at the altar?

Sunday afternoon we gathered to relocate our worship center to the gym. After the altar call Sunday, a call to answer God with "send me," I wasn't sure anyone would be there because only one came to the altar. Please hear me. My doubt wasn't in the people, or in God. My doubt was in myself. Perhaps I was no longer effective as the pastor. Perhaps there is some hidden sin that is rendering me ineffective. I returned to the church at the appointed time to begin work, to see who would come, and people were already there working. The task I expected to take days was accomplished in an afternoon. Did we have revival?

One day on a dusty road in the middle east, a man was struck to the ground by a blinding light which was the presence of Christ. He was no holy man. He was a hater of Christ, a murdered of the Lord's people. He would have fit in with the insane extremists now beheading our brothers and sisters around the world. He was travelling with companions, but only he understood the voice from heaven. "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" That day on that dusty road, only he was converted. Was that revival?

God changed his name from Saul to Paul, and caused him to be one of the most prolific church planters of his age. God used him to write two-thirds of the New Testament, and there has been no greater influence on the Christian faith outside of Christ Himself than Paul. Was that revival?

I called one of the adults who was born again in our services to schedule her baptism. She said, "Pastor, I cannot tell you all that God is doing in my life."  Is that not revival? I saw an older man in town who attended every meeting. He had been cold and hard. Now his eyes are moist as he talks about what God has done. Is that not revival?  A man stopped me after prayer meeting last night. He has not been excited about God, has had little in the way of religious instruction, but could not wait to tell me how excited he was about God, how hungry he was to know Him more. Is that not revival?

We should be careful how we evaluate the outcome of our prayers. If we are only fervent in prayer, in witnessing, and in preaching when we are desperate, we will not pray, witness or preach for long. If the lack of numbers discourages you and you stop praying, stop witnessing, and stop preaching you may be the one in need of revival (and I could say that very thing to myself). You have put your faith in man, or at least in experience. When, however, you look at the condition of the world, and then gaze into the sufficiency of Christ as Paul did on that dusty road, you have an opportunity to be transformed. You have an opportunity to believe in Him, truly believe and trust that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe. If you trust Him and believe in His Gospel, you will be empowered to pray for revival and awakening, not until "it" comes but until He comes.  Then you will be revived and will become an instrument of revival and awakening. You will see revival and awakening, will see God move and see Him moving, even if you, just like Saul on that road, are the only one who does.