You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2009.
My friend, Darryl Dash wrote this piece at the end of 2006 (What I Long For in 2007)
His word still apply for 2010…
“Nothing changes on New Year’s Day,” sings Bono, lead singer of U2. Later in the same song, Bono continues, “I will begin again.” Nothing changes as we start 2007, but I pray it is possible, in some ways, to begin again.
Speaking in Toronto last year, pastor and author Gordon MacDonald defined revival as bringing something back to life. We need two kinds of revival, MacDonald argued. One is big-R Revival, which is needed at crisis points five or six times within one’s life. The other is small-r revival, which we need on a daily basis. I long for both kinds of revival in the coming year.
I grew up in the church. I am used to North American Christianity. Somehow I’ve picked up some modern ways of thinking about church which really aren’t helpful and have lead me to some crisis points. I hope to continue the big-R Revival in how I think about effective ministry.
I need, for instance, to give up my longing for Christendom. Part of me still longs for the days when Christianity was dominant within Canadian culture and the Church had influence. Those days aren’t coming back, but that is okay. God is more than up to the challenge.
I need to give up my reliance on techniques and pragmatism. At no stage in Christian history have we had better programs, techniques, and leadership theories. New programs and techniques come out almost daily. Despite all these techniques, the North American church is struggling at its core. The late Canadian theologian Stanley Grenz wrote that a pragmatic approach to ministry is “self-defeating, simply because it transforms the community of faith into an institution whose chief end is not the glory of God and the fulfillment of a divinely-given mandate, but survival.” Real change does not come from better techniques.
I need a revival in the way that I think about the gospel. Canadian theologian J.I. Packer says,
“Without realizing it, we have during the past century bartered that gospel for a substitute product, which, though it looks similar in enough points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing. Hence our troubles; for the substitute product does not answer the ends for which the authentic gospel has in days proved itself so mighty.” Recovering the gospel, and bringing our ministries back into line with it, is perhaps our most pressing need, according to Packer.
I also need to deal with my pastoral ambitions. “I am convinced that personal pastoral ambition, and a pastoral ethic centered around productivity and success is brutal to our souls and destructive to the souls of the people we lead,” writes one pastor, Kent Carlson. “We must become skilled at detecting the odor of personal ambition, then flee from it as if the church’s future depends on it. For I believe it does.”
Mostly, I need to rediscover true Biblical ministry, centered not around meeting human needs with a truncated gospel in an attempt to win people over to a human institution. Rather, it is about becoming an alternate community shaped by the Gospel, sent by God to participate in his mission to the world.
I confided to a friend recently that I don’t know if I have what it takes to lead a congregation to effective ministry in a changing culture. This isn’t false modesty. It is relatively easy to be a transactional leader who maintains a congregation; it is much more difficult to be a transformational leader who sees real change at the deepest levels. Nobody is able to do this on their own.
I hope to be revived on a daily basis this year so I’m reminded I don’t have to lead on my own.
“I want to encourage you,” a friend wrote to me recently, “that you don’t have to fix anyone’s problems. You just need to point them to Jesus. He does the work – you are just the vehicle that he works through.” As Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” I want to learn this and live this on a daily basis.
These are the revivals, big and small, that I long for this coming year.
In the book, Breakout Churches, author Thom S. Rainer writes that eight out of ten churches in America are in a state of decline or have plateaued (45).
If that is the case, then the American church is in deep trouble. Acts 1.8 and the Great Commission (Matthew 28. 18-20) is not, on the most part being fulfilled by us.
What is the answer to this. We must pray! Psalm 85.6 says: “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?”
Brothers and sisters in Jesus, we must pray for a fresh new power from the Holy Spirit. Let us wake up and pray urgently for revival.
The second condition is also vitally important. God has not placed Himself under obligation to honor the requests of worldly, carnal or disobedient Christians. He hears and answers the prayers only of those who walk in His way.
Adrian Rogers made this observation on revival…
“Study the history of revival. God has always sent revival in the darkest days. Oh, for a mighty, sweeping revival today!”
The days are spiritually dark around us. Therefore, let us pray for a sweeping revival!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I will set before my eyes no vile thing. (Psalm 101:3, NIV)
Not too many people follow a shank with their eyes. Rather, the moment the ball comes off the club, they drop their head and wince. It’s just too hard to look at something that ugly!
If only we could control our eyes in all circumstances like this.
When David wrote that he would set his eyes on no vile thing, his context was simple: he wanted his house to be a blameless one. And he wanted to be the leader of that blamelessness. This means he had to be prepared to deny access to anything that would defile his home.
Certainly we make every attempt to do this against those who would steal our possessions or do us physical harm. Some folks install elaborate alarm systems; others keep a gun available for self-defense. Our doors have peepholes that allow us to see who is on the other side before we throw those doors open to potentially harmful strangers. Some live in gated communities, where a guard in the shack keeps an extra eye on things. In so many ways, we employ protection.
And yet, we often forget to be so diligent with our souls. What enters our minds can enter our souls quite quickly if our defenses are not in place. And what enters our minds comes through only two avenues: our eyes and our ears.
Which makes it imperative that we ask two questions with great regularity:
– What am I allowing my eyes to see?
– What am I permitting my ears to hear?
A psalmist wrote elsewhere of lifting his eyes to the hills, seeking the help of the Lord (Psalm 121:1). It is a powerful suggestion, that God’s beauty leads us to God. Our normal mode of operation is to let our eyes wander through the world with little discernment, figuring that God can win out over any trash that “happens” to make its way into our brain.
This is not the choice David was seeking to make in his own life. He wanted to establish a proactive defense against the things that would threaten his soul and the souls in his care. We know, sadly, that David was not always successful in this defense, and that he paid a dear price for his unguarded moments. But that is all the more reason to learn from his example, both in its positive and negative aspects.
We cannot always govern what comes knocking on the door of our mind—but we can make the decision now to shut our eyes and our ears from things that would tear us from right relationship with God.
September 8, 2009
Copyright 2009 Links Players International
The Links Daily Devotional appears Monday-Friday at http://www.linksplayers.com.
The Punk Group Advent recently released a song called, REVIVAL. Since we are in the season of advent, I thought this would be a good post. The song combines the coming of Jesus with revival…
There is a light in my heart.
The catalyst to ignite the spark.
There is a name on my tongue.
Immanuel, God with us.
There is a cry from deep within our broken hearts for You to meet us here.
And as we gather in this place, Lord send your spirit to ignite the flames of Revival. REVIVAL.
God send REVIVAL.
There is an Almighty King.
His love endures.
He makes righteous everything.
He voice controls the seas.
Lion of Judah, Prince of Peace.
There is a name above all names
King of Kings
and as we gather in his name,
strongholds will fall in the wake of the flames of
I’m grateful that CCEF is periodically posting great meditations from David Powlison. The latest is on Psalm 131, entitled “Peace, Be Still”: Learning Psalm 131 by Heart. Powlison argues that “Psalm 131 is show-and-tell for how to become peaceful inside.”
One of the things that Powlison likes to do is to contrast a biblical God-centered worldview with a functional godless universe; he does so by composing “anti-Psalms” that show the opposite of the life of the faith.
Here’s Anti-Psalm 131:
my heart is proud (I’m absorbed in myself),
and my eyes are haughty (I look down on other people),
and I chase after things too great and too difficult for me.
So of course I’m noisy and restless inside, it comes naturally,
like a hungry infant fussing on his mother’s lap,
like a hungry infant, I’m restless with my demands and worries.
I scatter my hopes onto anything and everybody all the time.
Contrast that with the real Psalm 131:
my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
This blog is dedicated to the subject of praying for spiritual revival. When God sends a revival, it will begin with his people in the church. We will repent and turn back to God; and by his grace, we will be empowered to be the people he desires.
As God’s Spirit is working on the church, people outside the church will be drawn to love and glory of Jesus. In other words, there will be conversions. The words of Acts 1.8 will be fulfilled. Jonathan Edwards reminds us that God’s mission in the world is the salvation of souls…
“The work of God in converting souls out of the hands of
Satan, was begun soon after the fall of man, has been carried
on in the world ever since to this day, and will be to the end
of the world. God has always, ever since erecting of the
church of the redeemed after the fall, had such a church in
the world. Though oftentimes it has been reduced to a very
narrow compass and to low circumstances; yet it has never