Weep, Repent, Seek Revival

Like many Christians I was deeply grieved, but not surprised, by the decisions of the Supreme Court yesterday regarding DOMA and Proposition 8. Excellent articles for Christians to read can be found here, here, and here. We need to be prepared in this time to speak to the issues with clarity, intelligence, and Spirit-filled boldness. Marriage was instituted by God within Scripture to be the covenant union of one man and one woman, we must work to ensure that our lawmakers know that this is the case and make appropriate legislation. Pastors must preach clearly on these issues, and we must be citizens who fulfill our mandate as a member of two kingdoms, an earthly and a heavenly one.

Beyond this we must be people of prayer and repentance. Yesterday in my trek through the Bible in my quiet time I was providentially brought through Ezekiel 8-9. In chapter 8 God showed the prophet all the idolatrous practices that were occurring in the Jerusalem temple. Chapter 9 depicts a startling scene.

1Then he cried in my ears with a loud voice, saying, “Bring near the executioners of the city, each with his destroying weapon in his hand.” 2And behold, six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with his weapon for slaughter in his hand, and with them was a man clothed in linen, with a writing case at his waist. And they went in and stood beside the bronze altar.

1Then he cried in my ears with a loud voice, saying, “Bring near the executioners of the city, each with his destroying weapon in his hand.” 2And behold, six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with his weapon for slaughter in his hand, and with them was a man clothed in linen, with a writing case at his waist. And they went in and stood beside the bronze altar. 3Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub on which it rested to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed in linen, who had the writing case at his waist. 4And the Lord said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” 5And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. 6Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the house.

There is much to speak of here, but I want to focus on those in the city who saw the sin and the idolatry and were genuinely grieved and repentant over it. Is that us? Do we see our own sin and pray with such fervor to God to kill it. Are we dismayed and praying over the sin we see around us in our culture and our world? Are we praying big, sweeping, fervent prayers that shake the throne room of God with the angst we feel over our sin and the need for revival in our midst?

I have been praying hard for the last two days, something has flipped in me to where I want to see God move in ways I have never seen him move before. I live in a relatively obscure place, but we are beginning to see the movement of God in our midst. I want more. I want to see, in my life and the lives of other Christians, passion for Scripture, prayer, repentance, revival, worship, genuine community, and the mission of God. If we want to see change it will require these things. Are you praying today with fervency and fire? Do you delight in and crave the Scripture? Is your worship unabashed? Are you repenting and seeking revival? Will you join yourself to a community that will sharpen you? Are you on mission with God and heralding the good news of Jesus Christ?

Let us set our minds to these things, to see homes restored, churches revitalized and planted, disciples made, and the glory of God covering this land as the waters cover the sea.

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Thoughts on Biblical Theology

I am a person who is dedicated to the study of both biblical and systematic theology. Though there are quibbles regarding the exact definition of these categories, I will simply categorize the former as the historical and thematic study of the Scriptures as it is revealed progressively in redemptive history, whereas the latter is dedicated to the orderly arrangement of what the Bible says about various topics or doctrines (e.g. God, Christ, Spirit, church, salvation, end times). For an excellent article on the history and differences between these two disciplines see works by D. A. Carson or Andreas Kostenberger.

In a later post I hope to elaborate on these points, but I just wanted to post some videos here of a biblical theologian who always stirs my thoughts and affections for the Lord, Jim Hamilton. Below are two videos to watch, one an academic lecture, the other a recent sermon. Both, in my estimation, are examples of biblical theology that yield implication relevant to systematic theology. Watch and enjoy, and be stirred to take up the Scriptures and to know your God.

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Understanding Parts of Scripture in Light of the Whole

This is excellent exhortation from N. T. Wright to know our Bibles well and to read whole books in one sitting, a practice I have found to be extremely helpful in understanding the whole sweep of Scripture. May we take up our Bibles often to know our God intimately.

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“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another…” Colossians 3:16

Reading this text and doing what I have been doing for the last few weeks has reaffirmed in my mind the fact that ministry is indeed overflow. Here’s what I mean. We are called as Christians, according to texts like Colossians 3:16, to speak the Word of God prayerfully to other people and beg God for that word to bear fruit in that person’s life. This applies to both preaching and personal ministry. As such we must be dwelling in God’s Word to the point that our heart is full and even overflowing with the beauty of what God is doing in our own lives.

In my particular ministry setting I often go from strategic meetings to teaching a class to mentoring a specific individual. Often there is not much space in between these kinds of meetings, and thus I am largely dependent on how God ministered to me early that morning as I spent time in Bible study and prayer. If my time is dry and God does not do a work it is much more difficult for me to assist others in their walk with God that day. I am not saying it’s impossible, but one must consider that there is a direct correlation between their walk with God and how effectively they can minister to others.

As such, I have for many years gotten up early in the morning and before my Bible is opened I pray four things from the Psalms: incline my heart to your testimonies, open the eyes of my heart to behold beautiful things from your Word, unite my heart to fear your name, and satisfy me this morning with your steadfast love (this is an acrostic called IOUS derived from John Piper, and I have it written in the front of my Bible). This prepares my heart to receive what I need from the Word so I can be prepared to teach and admonish others in turn.

So this morning I was struck by two things as I read Hebrews. The author exhorts us in Hebrews 3:1 to “consider Jesus” after he had just proclaimed his divinity in chapter one and the greatness of our salvation in chapter two. This left me to ponder the person and work of Jesus this morning and thus I hope to remind myself and others of the hope we in Christ. I was also instructed that we should exhort one another day after day so we are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 3:12-13) and as such I hope to continually root out my own sin and encourage others to do the same.

These items will be the theme of my day, and this is the “overflow” that will spill onto others as we cross paths. Certainly we must know and apply the whole counsel of God in ministry, but my prayer is also that we may continually have fresh words from God that are ministering to us specifically by the Spirit so we can encourage others also. Look to overflow today.

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Scripture, Our Sweet and Solid Foundation

Over the last two weeks several people have come to me about a “dip” they are experiencing in their faith. Surely we all experience times where the Word of God is not as rich, our prayer life feels cold and distant, and ministry feels more like a chore than a delight. People wonder where to turn, and I only have one unfailing answer that I turn back to again and again: the Word of God.

Scripture is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb 4:12), and this is so because this book was breathed out by God (2 Tim 3:16) and written by men who were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). If we are feeling spiritually dry the solution is not to avoid our Bibles and to forego prayer until we feel more spiritual. These are the means by which we are revived in our faith, and thus while we may not feel a great desire to engage in Word and prayer, they are the only means for our transformation, for it is through these means that the Spirit works.

This also applies to ministry, as we are called to prayerfully speak a word from Scripture to people, begging God to use that word so that it might bear fruit in their lives by the power of the Spirit. This goes for both public and private proclamation. May we never forget that the Word of God is our sweet and solid foundation, the means by which God changes individual lives, churches, cities, nations, and the world.

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The Need for Humble Boldness

The book of Acts depicts a group of men and women who are filled with the Spirit and bold for the gospel. If you communicate the Word of God in any fashion it is going to require that you are bold in proclaiming the truth. One can see Peter preaching to thousands in Acts 2 and 3. As a result of this preaching and the response of the people Peter and John are brought before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4 and warned to no longer proclaim the name of Jesus. While most of us would go back with our friends and pray for God to take away the opposition, these believers returned home and prayed “And now Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29). They wanted to see the Word of God go forward no matter what, amazing courage and passion emanated from these believers.

Stephen is martyred in Acts 7 for preaching the message of Jesus. Paul, after his conversion, possesses the same kind of longing to see the gospel go forward, no matter what the cost. One example of this is when Paul is stoned by the people of Iconium. He appears to be dead, but then comes back to life and goes back into the city proclaiming the same message (Acts 14:19-23). In Acts 19 a riot breaks out in Ephesus due to the fact that Paul’s preaching was affecting the sale of idols, and after a mob gathers in a theater the only thing Paul wants to do is go out there and preach to them (Acts 19:30). At the end of the day Paul states, “But I do not count my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

This kind of Spirit-induced boldness is needed in our day, as it has been throughout history. And if you read Acts you will not notice some kind of swagger accompanying the boldness of these early Christians. Each of them knew the power of God and that the real need was not simply to be right, but to compel others to embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our boldness for the gospel must be accompanied by humility, but it must be present as we seek to communicate the truths of God, in both private conversation and public discourse. May we be a people who are not ashamed of the gospel knowing that it is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).

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The Essentials of Leadership (and everything else)

As I stated in my previous post I read through Dave Kraft’s book Leaders Who Last, a work dedicated to seeing Christian leaders go the long haul and not burn out in whatever position they may find themselves in. In the first section Kraft talks about the leader’s power (abiding in Jesus Christ), purpose (a succinct statement that gives you laser focus in your life), passion (it’s contagious, you better get some), priorities (what’s best next), and pacing (can you last at your current output; what are you doing to recharge).

The second section of this book goes over the leader’s calling, gifts, character, and growth. Each of these are foundational elements to lead others in any capacity. The final section goes over vision, influence, and legacy, which are the key ingredients to leadership. Again, I would commend this book to you and say it is extremely worthwhile to go over.

Corresponding to this for the last few days I have been working through the book of Acts in my time with the Lord in the morning. While not revolutionary, it seems very apparent that the key elements to the work of the early church included the Word of God, prayer, and the Holy Spirit. In the first 12 chapters of Acts (as well as the rest of the book, this is just what I have read the last few days) we see the Word of God continue to spread, prayers being made in the midst of persecution and serious ministry, and the Spirit filling believers and directing them in ministry endeavors. These are the weapons of godly leaders and communicators, without them we have absolutely no power and no content. Be a lifelong learner, read key books, listen to podcasts, talk to great leaders and spiritual giants, but never forget that the primary weapons of our arsenal consist of Scripture, prayer, and the Spirit.

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