Posts Tagged ‘revival’

Judges 12:1-7 (Part 1 of 2)
Ephraim Fights with Jephthah

As you know, I am a big Clemson Tiger football fan. This past Saturday, Clemson passed one of what will have proven to be one of the toughest games of its season by season’s end. They defeated the Auburn University Tigers by the score of 14-6. It was an old-fashioned slobber-knocker of a defensive struggle. It was a throwback to an era gone by in college football. Nowadays, with changes in defensive rules and in offensive philosophies, offenses reign. Nowadays, a defense that averages giving up 17 points a game or so is considered a great defense. Back before wide-open offenses, a team that scored 17 points a game was considered a pretty good offense. So, this game was a throwback to times gone by. Clemson and Auburn have two of the best defenses in the country this year. Everyone knew that it was not going to be your typical 35-31 type game that you see nowadays. Everyone knew it was going to be a struggle. No one expected that there would be only twenty points scored by the teams combined and no one expected Clemson’s defense not to allow Auburn into the end zone at all. If you like defense and I do, this game was treat. Clemson did just enough more on offense than Auburn did to post two touchdowns (one on its last possession of the first half and one on its first possession of the second half). Clemson’s defense was spectacular as Auburn did not cross midfield except once after its first drive of game (and that one time was because Clemson fumbled the ball on its own 10 yard line). Auburn’s defense seemed to have Clemson’s number as well, except for giving up those two long drives for touchdowns.

And if you are a college football fan, you know that after winning the national championship last year, Clemson lost a lot of its star offensive players to graduation and to the NFL. Clemson had to, this year, replace almost 80% of its offensive yardage production from last year. That’s a lot of talent gone. So, this year, the offense is young with a lot of new skill players everywhere. So, after scoring only 14 points in the game against Auburn, there are critics in the press now and even among fringes of Clemson fans that are saying that the Tigers are in trouble offensively. After watching the team play what seemed very conservatively after getting an 8 point lead, many are criticizing the offensive coordinators for calling such a lame game in the second half of the contest. Last year, this team averaged nearly 40 points a game and over 500 yards of total offense per game so the critics are out. Clemson has lost its offensive mojo. They are going to get creamed by the offensive juggernaut that is Louisville this coming weekend (with its all everything defending Heisman trophy winning quarterback Lamar Jackson). They are saying that the defense might have won the game against Auburn but Lamar is going to light our defense up and our offense will be putting along with 14 points again.

All I can say is wow to these critics. Yes, Clemson was amazing on defense this past Saturday. Probably one of the best defensive performances I ever seen. Auburn could do nothing, I mean nothing, after their first drive. They made Auburn’s new and highly touted quarterback seem like a pee-wee football quarterback who did not know what to do. But, yet, at the same time, Auburn’s defense had as much to do with Clemson only scoring 14 points in the game. Auburn’s defense was almost as good as Clemson’s. Running lanes were small and passing windows were smaller. They have a great defense just not as good as Clemson’s. All teams are going to struggle to score against Auburn this year, plain and simple. But listen to the critics out there, Clemson is in trouble. They blame the offensive coaches for calling a conservative game. They blame the new kids on offense for not being ready for the big stage. They are saying that it was the talent on the field the last few years that made Clemson great not the coaches. Wow. Just wow. Clemson over the past 7 years now have gone through now what is the third offensive transition from one group of talented players to the next group up and they’re still winning. This group of new kids showed toughness and grit in scratching out two touchdowns against a highly rated defense. Let’s just wait and see before we say the sky is falling. The game was won in a mighty defensive struggle. Not flashy but effective. Let us wait until this week before we criticize this young team and its veteran coaches. If the Clemson offense struggles against a lesser defense this week and loses a game to the highly powered offense of Louisville then OK we got problems.

That idea of always being the critic, that armchair quarterbacking, that happens among football fans is similar sometimes how we complain in the church about how the preacher does things, about how we didn’t get asked to participate and how we could have done it better. Let’s read through the silliness of the Ephraimites in this passage:

12 Then the people of Ephraim mobilized an army and crossed over the Jordan River to Zaphon. They sent this message to Jephthah: “Why didn’t you call for us to help you fight against the Ammonites? We are going to burn down your house with you in it!”

2 Jephthah replied, “I summoned you at the beginning of the dispute, but you refused to come! You failed to help us in our struggle against Ammon. 3 So when I realized you weren’t coming, I risked my life and went to battle without you, and the Lord gave me victory over the Ammonites. So why have you now come to fight me?”

4 The people of Ephraim responded, “You men of Gilead are nothing more than fugitives from Ephraim and Manasseh.” So Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and attacked the men of Ephraim and defeated them.

5 Jephthah captured the shallow crossings of the Jordan River, and whenever a fugitive from Ephraim tried to go back across, the men of Gilead would challenge him. “Are you a member of the tribe of Ephraim?” they would ask. If the man said, “No, I’m not,” 6 they would tell him to say “Shibboleth.” If he was from Ephraim, he would say “Sibboleth,” because people from Ephraim cannot pronounce the word correctly. Then they would take him and kill him at the shallow crossings of the Jordan. In all, 42,000 Ephraimites were killed at that time.

7 Jephthah judged Israel for six years. When he died, he was buried in one of the towns of Gilead.

Here, in this passage, we see that the people of Israel had just won a great battle, but instead of joy, there was pettiness and quarreling. The tribe of Ephraim was angry and jealous that they had not been invited to join the fighting (although Jephthah said he had invited them). They wanted to kill Jephthah and his whole family as a result. This is not the first time the men of Ephraim complained about being left out or given what they perceived as something lesser than. In Judges 8, they complained that they were not given the best job in the attack on Midian. They complained there that they were relegated to “mop up” duty of capturing the escaping Midianites. Some people are quick to criticize it seems, especially when they have risked nothing or risked less than others.

Are you jealous because the pastor did not hand pick you for a project or a position at church? Do you criticize everything that goes on at church, even in the victories? Do you want a spot out front in an event or be on stage instead of operating behind the scenes? Do you get mad because you are not given a star role in a ministry? Do you criticize the church staff but yet you did nothing? Do you think you could do it better but never do anything? Do you criticize how the church is falling apart but never give a dime to the church? Do you complain that the church is not doing enough in the community but do not tithe? Do you spend a great deal of time justifying not tithing so that you don’t have to but yet throw the word tithe around as if you do? Do you criticize the fact that the church is doing nothing for disaster relief but do not (1) give to the church or (2) have the willingness to lead a disaster relief ministry?

Just as critics of the Clemson offense need to check how well they really did against the second best defense in the country, so too should we as Christ followers need to check ourselves before we start in-fighting within the church? We need to check our pride. We need to check our hearts of service. We need to check our love for our Lord and Savior. He calls us to be a unified body. He calls us to work together for the good of seeking and saving the lost and edifying the saints already in the church. He calls us to love another as an example of what Christ looks like. That is the distinctive for us according to the Lord himself – how we love another.

There are those that think that no matter what we do in leadership at churches that they could have done it better. They often don’t know the facts and are often those who stood on the sidelines when action was required. It’s easy to criticize. It’s harder to actually be in the game. Let us build up and not tear down. Let us set our egos aside and do what is best for the church. Let us focus on the things that we need to focus on. Let us focus on being unified so that people are drawn to how we love one another. Let us focus on seeking and saving the lost. Let us celebrate the victories of when we have played our role in supporting the Holy Spirit drawing people unto Christ. Let us major on the majors! Let us celebrate together and love each other as we call on the Holy Spirit to drench our church and our people in His power. Let us be united in calling on a Holy Spirit revival in our church and in our community! Let us be united in our efforts to support the spread of the gospel to the point that our churches are full of people seeking God!

Amen and Amen.

Judges 3:1-6 (Part 1 of 3)
The Nations Left in Canaan

One of my guilty pleasure movies that, along with my grown daughters when we are together to watch it, can mouth the words of the movie pretty much from start to finish. It is not the same as it was back in 2006 when that movie was hot off the DVD presses. Back then when Taylor was 16 and Meghan was 21, we would make ourselves laugh hysterically when we would watch “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and would begin saying the lines a split second before the actors. Further, some the quotes from the movie we would weave into our conversations which again would make us laugh hysterically when we did it successfully. After I started dating Elena and the girls had met her, she would refuse to watch the movie with us because you just can’t watch the movie with me, Taylor and Meghan together. Ah, those were good times. Good times escape us like a genie in the bottle. Those family moments that are special that will always be remembered. Mine with my girls as young adults coming of age is this movie. Says something about how cultured we are I guess! LOL!

One of the scenes from the movie that is just chock full of memorable, quotable lines is what is known as the “dinner scene” where Ricky and his family are sitting around the dinner table on a Sunday afternoon with foods from KFC, Dominos, and “the ever-delicious Taco Bell”. So when I read this passage which is on one level is about the passage of generations one to the next, I thought of a line from Talladega Nights (TN). I can recall lines from TN or see similarities of real-life situations to a particular episode of the television series, Friends, upon demand. Movie quotes and Friends episodes are weaved into conversations almost daily, much to the amusement and sometimes, chagrin, of my wife. I do it so much that it she has started comparing life situations to Friends episodes or lines from TN as well. But I digress. That just happened! One of the quotes from the dinner table seen that I quote when I know those who hear it will not be offended is “Greatest generation, my ass! That Tom Brokaw’s a punk!”

Why do I think of that quote from TN while reading this passage this morning? There is a comparison I think between my that “greatest generation” of Americans, my grandfather Bowling’s and my dad’s generation (my grandfather was born at the beginning of the greatest generation and my dad was born at the end of it) and the passing generations in our nation compared to the post-conquest generations of Israel. That line from Talladega Nights points out the jealousy that future generations after the Greatest Generation have for that generation. They were indeed the greatest generation that our nation has known. They changed the world in so many ways that we take for granted nowadays. We became a world power under the power of that generation. They sacrificed so many things so that the world would be free from tyranny and changed from that old elitist world that existed before World War II. They developed the middle-class and the suburbs. They developed affordable cars and housing. They developed the space age. They questioned institutional racism and ended it. They put a man on the moon. They laid the groundwork for all the things that subsequent generations built upon.

I was born at the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation (anyone born from 1945-1964). We are the kids of parents who were part of the Greatest Generation. Although we did not have to make the sacrifices that our parents’ generation, we did not have all the creature comforts of our parents generation. Some of us who were born early in the generation fought in Vietnam but most of us were not old enough. When you watch movies like Stand by Me (a boys coming of age movie) and Now & Then (a girls coming of age movie) or watch the TV show, Wonder Years. That was what it was like growing up as a Baby Boomer. Life was not as sophisticated and technically oriented as it is now. We actually had bikes and rode all over town in the evenings after school and all day on Saturdays and after church on Sundays. When we think of the Baby Boomer generation we so often think of our childhoods and not our adulthoods as the Greatest Generation does. I think it because the Baby Boomers were the last generation to actually come of age – to go from innocence of youth to knowledge of adulthood. As well, our generation did not have to overcome Hitler to the east and Japan to the west. We did not radically change the world, we just made it new and improved. Our youth was what we idealize about our generation. That last generation that really got to enjoy being a child. The world we knew was safer, we could be outside all the time, and we used our imaginations to create entertainment. We were the first privileged generation of Americans.

With each passing generation though and it is our fault beginning when we Baby Boomers became parents, our nation has become more and more spoiled. When pass from the Baby Boomers to Generation X (born 1965-1984) to the Millenials, those who came of age at the turn of the century (born 1984-1999) to Generation Z (the generation being born since the turn of the century and will probably cutoff around 2020), we have become a more and more privileged society that knows nothing of the sacrifices, the hard work, the moral values, and the fear of the Lord that the Greatest Generation knew. In ancient Israel, one would have to call Joshua’s generation up the point of Judges, the greatest generation. After that, they began to fall away and follow their own lusts. Much the same can be said of us post-Greatest Generation generations in America. We have become spoiled, and entitled, and just expect rather than sacrifice or do without. We honor God less and less with each generation – beginning with my generation.

It is this thought of taking the easy road because of privilege that I thought of this morning when I read through this passage, Judges 3:1-6, this morning for the first of three times we will visit it. Let’s read it now.

3 These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan 2 (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): 3 the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. 4 They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the Lord’s commands, which he had given their ancestors through Moses.

5 The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 6 They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.

In this passage, we see that in Judges 1 that these enemy nations were still in the land because the Israelites had failed to obey God and drive them out. Now, God would allow the enemies to remain in order to “test” the Israelites. That is, to give them an opportunity to exercise faith and obedience. By now, the younger generation that had not grown up in the desert wanderings and in the battles of Canaan was coming of age. They lost their will to separate themselves from the things that are not of God. What is because they had never been tested in battle? Was it the settled life that they had now? Why is it that with peace and prosperity we often fall away from God and it is only when we have crisis that we find Him?

What will be said about the Baby Boomers when we all have passed from existence? Will we be the generation that wakes up and takes hold of the promise of our Greatest Generation? Will we be the generation that leads a revival and a return to God?

I know that I want my Millenial daughters and my Generation Z granddaughter to look back at me and my generation and say, Hey, they were the generation that stopped the slide of our country away from God. Let us stand up and be the generation that does that! Let us be the generation that leads the generations after us to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I pray for revival for our country and a return to God. I pray that my generation as the old and wise generation now (that just happened!) to lead the way back to the Lord!

Amen and Amen.

 

Joshua 7:1-15 (Part 4 of 4)

Ai Defeats the Israelites

We are about enter a unique time in our church’s short history (we will only be 10 years old this October). Our senior pastor is going on sabbatical for a little over a month. It will be the first time that he has taken any significant time off since he founded the church in the living room of his house almost 10 years ago. His stated purpose in doing so is to take some concentrated time in prayer and supplication before the Lord to develop a vision for the next 10 years of the church. He says he needs time to examine himself and his role in the future of the church and examine, even if, he is supposed to be a part of the church’s future for the next 10 years. He will be examining himself before the Lord and seeking the Lord’s will for his ministry and for our church.

 

While he is gone on sabbatical, the remaining elders are going to run the church in his absence and are going to led the church in a time of prayer. Each Wednesday night during our senior pastor’s sabbatical, we are going to have times of prayer. It will be a time where we just meet to wholly and earnestly seek the Lord in prayer. I hope that it will be a time like what my wife and I experienced when we went on our first mission trip to Haiti. At the church in the small rural community of Morne Oge (just outside the city of Jacmel) that our church is partnered with, they have a Tuesday night prayer meeting each week (not just a special month). The time our mission team visited it, I was profoundly affected by it. Although I did not understand a word they were saying (because I do not understand their French derivative language, Creole), I did feel the mighty presence of the Holy Spirit that night. There was no pastor leading this prayer meeting. It was just the members of the church coming in and spending time in vocal but personal prayer. By the time the prayer meeting got going good, there were somewhere between 75-100 people there, men and women. Each one was praying aloud to the Lord in their own voice not in unison with one another. Their vocal prayers filled the room and the intensity would rise and fall like the movements of a classical music piece. It was an amazing thing to behold. Each person seeking communion with the Father in heaven. It was a cacophony of sound that I will never forget. The passion with which these people prayed needed no translation. I didn’t know what they were saying, specifically. All I knew was that they were seeking the Lord in the humbled and earnest way possible. That needed no translation from Creole to English. It was one of the most spiritually moving moments of my life. I literally tasted the presence of the Holy Spirit on my tongue that night. These people were honestly seeking the Lord’s favor and seeking understanding of His will for their lives. I can only hope that our prayer meetings in July will approach a semblance of that night. I hope that we will let it all hang out as week seek God’s will and seek what we need to know about ourselves as we hold these prayer meetings. I pray that these prayer meetings will reveal God’s will and what we need to do to align ourselves with that.

 

As well during the month of July, we as a church body are to be dedicated to times of personal prayer each day about our own role in the future of our church. It will be a further time of examination of ourselves and what we need to do to be better members of the body of Christ as it expresses itself at LifeSong Church in Lyman, SC. Also, after all of that, and we approach our 10 year anniversary, we are going to have our church’s first revival ever. It will be a time where we intensely seek the Lord’s will for our lives and that of our church over four very intense nights. What’s the point of all this? We are seeking God and asking him to send revival to our region through our church. We are seeking that God will pour out the Holy Spirit upon our church. We are seeking God to send us revival and renewed vigor to seek the lost in our region and bring them to a relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

The biggest thing to that I believe is that we must examine ourselves to see where we are preventing the Holy Spirit from truly expressing himself in the reach of our church to our community, nation and world. We must examine what is that I am doing that is sinful and is preventing or holding back our church from its full-on, no-holes-barred fulfillment of God’s specific mission for it. Is there some prideful thing that I am holding on to that is blocking the full expression of God’s glory from this version of His bride, the local church. What spots am I placing on the wedding dress of His bride? What am I doing or not doing that is holding the church back? What am I not willing to do for the Lord that is holding our church back? What am I doing that is holding the church back? We must examine ourselves and our willingness to be all-in for Christ. We must examine our willingness to follow leadership? We must examine our willingness to sacrifice for the purpose of reaching lost souls in our time, our talents, and our resources? We must be willing to seek excellence when mediocrity is what we have been giving. We must examine ourselves for the sinful ways that we have been holding back our church from reaching the lost of our community more effectively. In effect, it is going to be a crossroad moment in time. I just hope and pray that we take our time of reflection as seriously and deeply as that group of church members in rural Haiti did that night I visited their prayer time.

 

That idea of examining ourselves is what I thought of when I read about God  having its consequences is what I thought of this morning as I read through Joshua 7:1-15 for the third of four times that we will read through it. Let’s read it together, now:

 

7 But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things[a]; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri,[b] the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.

 

2 Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, “Go up and spy out the region.” So the men went up and spied out Ai.

 

3 When they returned to Joshua, they said, “Not all the army will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary the whole army, for only a few people live there.” 4 So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, 5 who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.

 

6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! 8 Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? 9 The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?”

 

10 The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

 

13 “Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There are devoted things among you, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them.

 

14 “‘In the morning, present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe the Lord chooses shall come forward clan by clan; the clan the Lord chooses shall come forward family by family; and the family the Lord chooses shall come forward man by man. 15 Whoever is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the Lord and has done an outrageous thing in Israel!’”

 

In this passage, for this morning, we see that the Israelites had to, again, undergo purification rites, as when they were about to cross the Jordan River. These purification rites prepared the people to approach God and constantly reminded them of their sinfulness and God’s holiness.

 

It is interesting to note that there was only one person who had sinned by keeping loot from Jericho but yet God asked the whole nation to purify itself. That is the thing that is important to me here. Sure, Achan was the dude that screwed up, but God wanted the whole nation to examine itself. There is no one of us that is without sin. There is not one that is righteous. These facts are certain because the Bible repeatedly tells us that we have a sin nature and that none is without sin. None is pure before the Lord. The greatest sin of all is to think that we have got it made. My best friend and I had a guy dinner last night for the first time in a while. Us without our wives. One of the things that we talked about is how, even after salvation, we are still sinners and have sinful thoughts or actions that we commit daily. That is what God is trying to get the people to see here I think. It is when we refuse to see our sins as sins and revel in them that we block God’s work in our lives and in the lives of our collective body known as the church.

 

If we want God to send revival, if we want God to do great things through our church, then we must examine how committed we are to His agenda. Are we willing to examine ourselves for what we are doing to cause God to hold back His glory from our church? Are we willing to examine how we have caused God to withdraw His hand from our church, your church? What do I need to do to align myself with God’s will and am I willing to make any sacrifices to do it? Am I willing to give up my pet sins to do it? Am I willing to see my sins as sins and repent from them so as restore God’s hand on my church, your church?

 

Let us all enter a time in the next month, in your church, in my church where we seek to align ourselves with God’s will for our local churches and be willing to make changes where changes need to be made so that God’s glory can be fully expressed through our local churches.

 

Amen and Amen.