Saturday, February 3, 2024

FLOODS UPON DRY GROUND, CHAPTER 7: FIDDLING WHILE ROME BURNS


 


     Last time in "Floods Upon Dry Ground, Chapter 6, Why No Revival", Pastors Bobby Duncan and James Jones cited reasons why there is no revival in today’s world, and they gave three actions Christians must do for God to work.
     In today's post “Floods Upon Dry Ground, Chapter 7: Fiddling While Rome Burns”, the authors used the well-known metaphor of what happened in 64 A.D. when during Emperor Nero’s reign, literally 70% of Rome burned to the ground.
     Duncan and Jones clarified that there were actually no violins back then, but some creative soul initiated the term anyway to decry Nero’s inaction to save Rome. They compared it to today’s world that is falling apart, and the church for the large part being concerned with what the authors deemed, “petty, unimportant matters.”
     The authors asked the question, “Where Are the Shepherds?” I recognized that question because back in 2019 I asked Bobby Duncan that same question. I was concerned that before I had him as a pastor I had 40-plus years of ineffective shepherds. Ones who seemed to have agendas other than to find and save lost sheep from peril. Pastor Duncan confirmed that he included my question in the book.
     Duncan and Jones quoted Ezekiel 34:1-6. I’ll read only verses 4 through 6:
“The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.”
     The authors wrote about modern-day shepherds—that “position, acceptance, and money often trump the high calling of God in Jesus Christ and the sacrifices He calls on His ministers to make.”
     Duncan and Jones then talked about “The True Presence of God”. Along with the “self-serving nature of its shepherds.” They wrote, “forgiveness, cleansing, godly living, and sacrificial service have been pushed to the background in favor of seeker-sensitivity, entertainment, feel-good music, and a man-orchestrated worship experience”. They qualified their expressed thoughts by saying, “God’s presence doesn’t necessarily leave because the lights are turned down and a theatre atmosphere is created”—BUT—does it "offer the best environment for corporate worship?”
     James Jones lamented the following found on page 85 of the book:
“For me, growing up in a full-gospel church and seeing true saints of God pray and worship with uplifted hands and, at times, tears coursing down their cheeks, had a powerful impact on me, and still does. Many times worshippers, such as I, have looked over to see a blessed saint of God with a bony, arthritic hand stretched toward God and eyes filled with tears expressing love to the Savior in complete surrender. And to see that deeply spiritual action has always brought its own blessings and encouragement. Yet, in today’s theater-like worship environment in many churches, it’s difficult to observe that. The observations and personal interaction seem to be missing.”
     Duncan and Jones said there's a great need for the “true presence of God to fill our hearts and our worship centers” when we come together. They encouraged pastors to “sincerely seek God for the direction that will best serve that particular body of believers.”
     The authors strongly encouraged that the real truth of the Gospel be “reaffirmed”, and that “a deeply divided nation needs truth more than ever.” They shared the sobering fact, however, that if the church shares the real truth, it will be met with strong opposition.
     But not doing so will lead the church to continue—“fiddling while Rome burns.”

Saturday, January 20, 2024

FLOODS UPON DRY GROUND, CHAPTER 6: WHY NO REVIVAL?


     


 

     Last time in "Floods Upon Dry Ground", Chapter 5, Praying For A Nation", Pastors Bobby Duncan and James Jones reminded us that the church needs to be revived before America can be revived. Only then will “God Bless America” as the song states.
     In today's post “Floods Upon Dry Ground, Chapter 6: Why No Revival?” the authors cited reasons why there is no revival in today’s world. They gave examples of the past, such as Jesus' words to John the Revelator about the Church of Laodicea—and also Leonard Ravenhill’s 60-year-old book, “Why Revival Tarries".
     Jesus said about the Church of Laodicea that they thought they were "rich and in need of nothing". He corrected them, however, and said they were “neither cold nor hot”—that they were instead, “lukewarm”. He said about their lukewarmness—that they were “wretched, miserable, poor, and blind”. Jesus was very descriptive about what would happen if they didn’t change their ways. He said He would “vomit” them from his mouth.
     Ravenhill, in the 1959 book, “Why Revival Tarries”, told his opinion of the reasons for no revival back then. I was five years old at that time. Authors Duncan and Jones hold that the reasons are still true today.
     Ravenhill said that evangelism was at that time “highly commercialized”, and therefore “cheapened”. Also, the church was “careless” and “fearful” to share the truth of the Gospel. They lacked, way back in 1959, “an urgency to pray”, and also they were “stealing the glory that belongs to God”.
     Authors Duncan and Jones concurred with Ravenhill that some of those points are true today. They also said revival can’t come under the following conditions:

  1. If we worry about what people think about us if we share the truth of the gospel. We are sometimes afraid people will think we are “intolerant” if we point to Jesus as being the only way to reach God.
  2. If Jesus isn’t “returned to the absolute center of the body of believers we call the church.” Failure to do so will result in no revival.
  3. If we don’t become broken before God and repent for our sinful condition of “self-centeredness”.
  4. If we don’t “hunger and thirst for the righteousness of Christ".

     They gave the example of a prospector in the desert who forsook his pack of precious gold that was too heavy to carry in the desert heat. All he cared about was getting some “cool, refreshing water”. Duncan and Jones said if we want revival we need to be like that prospector—to be so desperate that we forsake everything else to thirst after righteousness.
     Duncan and Jones wrote that most of us as Christians would welcome a revival. But they wrote, “the voracious hunger to experience it is almost non-existent.” They said we need to do the following for revival to come:

  1. "Thirst so much for the righteousness of God that we feel we simply cannot survive without it.”
  2. “Are driven into His (God’s) loving arms through intense prayer and supplications, and through casting aside all obstacles that stand in our way.”
  3. “Genuinely hunger and thirst for His presence and obey His Word.”

     They compared today’s church to “untempered mortar”, or stucco that is so prevalent in making buildings look nice. However, stucco doesn’t increase the structural integrity of the building. They compared our church practices and programs, including what they titled “misguided worship”, to stucco. All these practices and programs might look and feel nice, but they don’t lead people to repent, to sincerely seek God alone above all other things, and to make Him once again “the epicenter of all we are and do.”
     Now, I want to qualify where I'm at in hungering and thirsting for the righteousness of Christ--and revival. I confess that I'm sorely lacking. I turned 70 years old this week, and in my five years of retirement, I have become distracted by many things, as I'm sure most of you do.
     Charles Spurgeon, at the end of his book "The Soul Winner", quoted the following verse in Luke 15:10: “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” He reiterated over and over again that Jesus has "boundless joy" over sinners who repent and turn to Him, Jesus, for eternal life!
     Spurgeon concluded the book with the following statement:

 

“With this in mind, go and seek to bring your children, your neighbors, your friends, and your kinfolk to the Savior’s feet, because nothing will give Him more pleasure than to see them turn to Him and live. By your love to Jesus, I implore you, become fishers of men.”

Monday, January 1, 2024

FLOODS UPON DRY, GROUND CHAPTER 5: PRAYING FOR A NATION

 


     Last time Chapter 4, entitled "Crumbling Foundations", reminded us that amid crumbling foundations around us—“God remains in complete control over His creation.”
     So now, in Chapter 5, "Praying For A Nation"Duncan and Jones wrote that we are right in praying, “God bless America”. But, perhaps “God is saying to His church, ‘I have placed YOU there to bless America’ ” They wrote, “The most pressing prayer need in the church is to pray for revival in its ranks, because the way God blesses a nation is through His people.”
     They indicated liberalism, socialism, and communism are not “the main problem with America.” Even “radical professors” in our colleges are also not the main problem. “It is rather a Christian movement that has lost its Biblical integrity.”
     They cited researcher George Barna, who in a poll reported “41% of Evangelicals and 77% of Catholics do not believe someone has to have a personal relationship with Jesus to go to heaven.” They said that many Evangelical leaders now see Jesus as “an optional way to God but not the only way. By this, we know “a shaking is near.” They wrote, “America needs a bible-believing church and bible-practicing church to show it the way.”
     The authors likened today's churches to what Isaiah said to the Israelites in Isaiah 1:13-14. “The lifeless rituals, vain ceremonies, and empty worship experiences are a stench in His nostrils.” They said church rituals become “hollow expressions of piety” without “(1) A deep devotion to the Creator and (2) a sincere pursuit of true holiness.”
     Duncan and Jones described many churches today as being “institutional”, “consumer-driven”, and “narcissistic”. They said to depend on these churches, “It is like a drowning person throwing a life rope to another drowning person. Ultimately, both will be lost.”
     They said our hope doesn’t rest in “Republicans, Democrats, independents, socialists, capitalists”, or even “religious leaders, however spiritual they might be”, and that “sustained favorability in society is not what leads to a genuine spiritual awakening.”
     As English Baptist minister Edward Mote wrote in 1834, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” The authors wrote that our hope rests only in Jesus Christ.
     What might disappoint many Christians in America is that “the church is aroused when persecution comes”. Many Christians, however, dispute that fact. Bobby Duncan told the story of some ministers slipping into a Middle Eastern country to support former Taliban and al-Qaeda members in their switch to the Christian faith. These men remained steadfast in their faith in Jesus, even though most now face death sentences in a Muslim country.
     Bobby Duncan wrote, “Increased persecution, along with spiritual drought and coldness, are elements that often prompt people to turn to God in fervent prayer and mourning over personal and national sins.”
     The bottom line is that the natural desire of the church is for our nation to be blessed. But, may we understand that more important is the statement, “God, revive Your church!” 
     Only then can, “God Bless America”!