Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Jeremiah Lanphier: One man’s obedience to prayer

In 1857 Jeremiah Lanphier was at a crossroads in his life; he was a single, middle-aged businessman without children and family.  Following his heart to reach the neediest around him, he put aside his regular business and began to work with the North Dutch Church in Manhattan as a lay missionary.  At that time, there were 30,000 men idle on the streets of New York.  Drunkenness was rampant, and the nation was divided by slavery.  Ministering in the dark slums of Hell’s Kitchen, Lanphier poured himself into the lives of people who were homeless, helpless and hopeless.  Month after month he went door to door sharing the Good News, distributing tracts, and holding Bible studies with whomever would listen.  

Lanphier would begin each day going from office to office, house to house, and shop to shop; but by midday he was physically, emotionally and spiritually worn out.  He discovered that, even as the body needs food, the soul and spirit need prayer.  Lanphier realized his need and regularly returned to a room in the church Consistory building to cry out to God for spiritual strength.  This fresh, personal experience of the power of prayer suggested to Lanphier that there might be others, especially those engaged in business, who might profit from time in prayer.  He handed out some 20,000 flyers advertising the first noonday prayer meeting on September 23, 1857.  

For the first thirty minutes he sat alone praying.  Eventually, steps were heard coming up the staircase and another joined.  Then another and another until Lanphier was joined by five men.  The next Wednesday the six increased to twenty. The following week there were 40.  Lanphier and the others then decided to meet daily, and within weeks thousands of business leaders were meeting for prayer each day.  Before long over 100 churches and public meeting halls were filled with noonday prayer meetings.  God moved so powerfully that similar prayer meetings sprang up around the nation.  For a season there were 10,000 conversions to Christ each week in New York City, and it is estimated that nearly one million people across the U.S. were transformed during this incredible move of God.

One man’s obedience to prayer… began a revival… that transformed a nation.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Jeremiah Lanphier - Revival Starting in the Marketplace

America's greatest spiritual awakening
How Revival Started in the Marketplace?

Is there a Jeremiah Lanphier among you?


This is a record of something God did 130 years ago in New York City.  It illustrates how God has started every harvest time in history, through the concerted prayer of his people.  Toward the middle of the last century the glow of earlier religious awakenings had faded.  America was prosperous and felt little need to call on God.  But in the 1850s...

Secular and religious conditions combined to bring about a crash.  The third great panic in American history swept the giddy structure of speculative wealth away.  Thousands of merchants were forced to the wall as banks failed, and railroads went into bankruptcy.  Factories were shut down and vast numbers thrown out of employment.  New York City alone having 30,000 idle men.  In October 1857, the hearts of people were thoroughly weaned from speculation and uncertain gain, while hunger and despair stared them in the face.

On 1st July, 1857, a quiet and zealous business man named Jeremiah Lanphier took up an appointment as a City Missionary in down-town New York.  Lanphier was appointed by the North Church of the Dutch Reformed denomination.  This church was suffering from depletion of membership due to the removal of the population from the down-town to the better residential quarters, and the new City Missionary was engaged to make diligent visitation in the immediate neighbourhood with a view to enlisting church attendance among the floating population of the lower city.  The Dutch Consistory felt that it had appointed an ideal layman for the task in hand, and so it was.

Burdened so by the need, Jeremiah Lanphier decided to invite others to join him in a noonday prayer-meeting, to be held on Wednesdays once a week.  He therefore distributed a handbill:
HOW OFTEN SHALL I PRAY?

As often as the language of prayer is in my heart; as often as I see my need of help; as often as I feel the power of temptation; as often as I am made sensible of any spiritual declension or feel the aggression of a worldly spirit.

In prayer we leave the business of time for that of eternity, and intercourse with men for intercourse with God.

A day Prayer Meeting is held every Wednesday, from 12 to 1 o'clock, in the Consistory building in the rear of the North Dutch Church, corner of Fulton and William Streets (entrance from Fulton and Ann Streets).

This meeting is intended to give merchants, mechanics, clerks, strangers, and business men generally an opportunity to stop and call upon God amid the perplexities incident to their respective avocations.  It will continue for one hour; but it is also designed for those who may find it inconvenient to remain more than five or ten minutes, as well as for those who can spare the whole hour.
Accordingly at twelve noon, 23rd September, 1857 the door was opened and the faithful Lanphier took his seat to await the response to his invitation.  Five minutes went by.  No one appeared.  The missionary paced the room in a conflict of fear and faith.  Ten minutes elapsed.  Still no one came.  Fifteen minutes passed. Lanphier was yet alone.  Twenty minutes; twenty-five; thirty; and then at 12.30 p.m., a step was heard on the stairs, and the first person appeared, then another, and another, and another, until six people were present and the prayer meeting began.  On the following Wednesday, October 7th, there were forty intercessors.

Thus in the first week of October 1857, it was decided to hold a meeting daily instead of weekly.

Within six months, ten thousand business men were gathering daily for prayer in New York, and within two years, a million converts were added to the American churches.

Undoubtedly the greatest revival in New York's colourful history was sweeping the city, and it was of such an order to make the whole nation curious.  There was no fanaticism, no hysteria, simply an incredible movement of the people to pray.

Hell Corner, New Hampshire was a stronghold of sin.  The Layman's Prayer Revival sweeping all over America invaded this wicked village and turned some hardened sinners to God. America's moral recovery was under way.

In 1858 in great cities and small towns all over America, people were assembling every night for prayer.  In fact, you could travel by horse and buggy from Omaha, Nebraska to Washington, D.C. and expect to find churches packed for prayer wherever you might stop for the night.  This prayer movement began in the fall of 1857 and was known as the Layman's Prayer Revival because there were businessmen (rather than ministers) who were leading.

This movement of prayer invaded even the village of Hell Corner, New Hampshire.  Prayer, of course, was unheard of in this stronghold of sin.  However, one day a man unleashed a volley of profanity so outrageous that even the citizens of Hell Corner were shocked.  Jokingly, somebody said, "We need a prayer meeting here in Hell Corner."  To everyone's amazement plans got underway for a village prayer meeting.  Finding someone to lead it proved to be quite a challenge.  One notorious backslider tried to lead, but he broke down while praying.  So they went to a nearby town and found a deacon who came to lead a prayer meeting in this citadel of evil.  God answered prayer and four hardened men became Christians.  Soon prayer gave birth to a group of godly believers proving that the gates of hell cannot prevail against the fervent prayers of people who trust the Almighty.

This prayer movement had its roots in 1856 when a Methodist named William Arthur published a book of fiery sermons which closed with a prayer pleading with God to "Crown this nineteenth century with a revival of pure and undefiled religion...greater than any demonstration of the Spirit ever vouchsafed to man."  His prayer was answered when the greatest revival in American history began the next year.

Before the prayer awakening there was a major spiritual decline.  Churches were sliding downhill.  Thousands of Americans were disillusioned with Christianity.  William Miller, a New England farmer, had captured nationwide attention with his prediction that Christ would return on October 22nd, 1844.  When nothing happened, many abandoned their faith.

American's moral recovery began when Jeremiah Lanphier, a concerned layman, started a noon prayer meeting for New York businessmen.  Only six people came to the first prayer meeting on September 23, 1857 on the third floor of the "Consistory" of the Old Dutch Reformed Church on Fulton Street.  By spring daily prayer meetings sprang up in many locations and daily attendance grew to 10,000.  America's greatest spiritual awakening was underway.

During the Layman's Prayer Revival, the owner of a hardware store in New York urged businessmen at the Fulton Street prayer meeting to always set a holy example.  A well-known manufacturer followed him to his store and confessed that he had cheated him for years and wanted to pay back all he had stolen.

When the news spread that there were daily prayer meetings where sinners were welcomed, prayed for, and encouraged to turn to Christ, some hardened criminals were saved.  A notorious criminal nicknamed "Awful Gardiner" surprised everyone when he found Christ through the prayer meetings.  He was not alone.

Hundreds of people who had always spent their nights in the gates of hell came to the prayer meetings that had begun in the evenings.  Thousands forsook crime and became devoted follows of Christ.  Crime and vice drastically declined.  Wealthy people generously helped the poor whom they regarded as their brothers and sisters.

Ships coming into New York harbor came under the power of God's presence.  On one ship a captain and thirty men were converted to Christ before the ship docked.  Four sailors knelt for prayer down in the depths of the battleship North Carolina anchored in the harbor.  They began to sing and their ungodly shipmates came running down to make fun, but the power of God gripped them and they humbly knelt in repentance.

"Do you have to stop business at noon and go to a prayer meeting?"  A customer from Albany asked a New York City merchant.  "Yes, I must. Why don't you go with me?"  The customer went with him and received Christ.  He returned to Albany and started prayer meetings there.

In March of 1858 a religious journal reported that "The large cities and towns from Maine to California are sharing in this great and glorious work.  There is hardly a village or town to be found where 'a special divine power' does not appear displayed."

In Chicago 2,000 men met at noon for prayer in Metropolitan Hall.  In Jayne's Hall in Philadelphia 4,000 were meeting.  An elderly philanthropist named John Crozer wrote in his diary, "I have never, I think, been present at a more stirring and edifying prayer meeting, the room quite full, and a divine influence seemed manifest.  Many hearts melted, many souls devoutly engaged."

In December of 1857 in Utica, New York attendance at a weekly union prayer meeting increased so rapidly that by the third meeting the main floor and the balcony of the First Presbyterian Church were filled with deeply burdened people.  Then daily prayer meetings were started each morning.

One night when Dr. John L. Giradeaux dismissed the prayer meeting for spiritual awakening at Anson Street Presbyterian Church in Charleston, South Carolina, no one left.  The congregation stayed until midnight while the Lord powerfully worked.  Eight weeks of nightly meetings followed reaching crowds numbering from 1,500 to 2,000. Many turned to the Lord.

The New York Observer published a report from Waco, Texas of a mighty moving of God. "Day and night the church has been crowded during the meeting...  Never before in Texas have we seen a whole community so effectually under a religious influence ... thoroughly regenerated."

The power of prayer touched every aspect of business.  There had never been a higher tone of honor.  The Bible became the standard.  Any business that injured the community was regarded as wrong.  People in every kind of business began to be more honest, truthful and conscientious.

At least three thousand came to Christ in Newark, New Jersey.  In many smaller towns scarcely any unconverted people remained.  In Haverhill, Mass., the Spirit deeply moved the crowded daily prayer meeting.  Sometimes half of the assembly silently wept.  One pastor found at least one person in every home in his congregation deeply concerned about their relationship with God.

An unsaved man went to the prayer meetings on Fulton Street in New York hoping someone would help him.  But none did.  Then one day he heard a mother's request for her son's salvation.  He discovered that note was from HIS OWN mother!  Soon afterwards he found Christ.  In Kalamazoo, Michigan a woman turned in a request for her husband's salvation.  One man responded, "Pray for me.  I'm that man."  Four more men did likewise.  A wealthy young New Yorker was born again at a noon prayer meeting.  Upon returning home he read from the Bible and knelt to pour out a fervent prayer for his wife and sister.  His wife and his sister knelt beside him and wept as they also received Christ.  One man disowned his daughter when she confessed Christ.  However, when he fell deathly sick, he sent for her and asked her forgiveness.  She shared Christ with him.  Within three days her father, mother, two brothers, and a sister entered the family of God.

March of 1858 the voice of prayer and praise to God was heard beginning at 8:30 every morning in the halls of the New York state capitol.  Six people began a prayer meeting for the Legislature.  By the fifth day two rooms were filled and interest was growing.

In 1858 in Louisville, Kentucky 1,000 attended the daily union prayer.  One writer exclaimed, "The Spirit of God seems to be brooding over our city, and to have produced an unusual degree of tenderness and solemnity in all classes."  An amazing work of grace was changing the city.

Some of the leading business men of Boston were attending prayer meetings.  An unusual number of people who had lived wicked lives also came.  One writer said, "'Publicans and sinners' are awakened, and are entering the prayer meetings of their own accord.  Some of them manifest signs of sincere repentance."

Published by Bible Prayer Fellowship
P.O. Box 810718
Dallas, TX 75381


1858

March - New York, America (Jeremiah Lanphier)

At the beginning of 1858 that Fulton Street prayer meeting had grown so much they were holding three simultaneous prayer meetings in the building and other prayer groups were starting in the city.  By March newspapers carried front page reports of over 6,000 attending daily prayer meetings in New York, 6,000 attending them in Pittsburgh, and daily prayer meetings were held in Washington at five different times to accommodate the crowds.

Other cities followed the pattern.  Soon a common mid­day sign on businesses read, 'Will re­open at the close of the prayer meeting.'

By May, 50,000 of New York's 800,000 people were new converts.  A newspaper reported that New England was profoundly changed by the revival and in several towns no unconverted adults could be found!

In 1858 a leading Methodist paper reported these features of the revival: few sermons were needed, lay people witnessed, seekers flocked to the altar, nearly all seekers were blessed, experiences remained clear, converts had holy boldness, religion became a social topic, family altars were strengthened, testimony given nightly was abundant, and conversations were marked with seriousness.

Edwin Orr's research revealed that in 1858-­59 a million Americans were converted in a population of thirty million and at least a million Christians were renewed, with lasting results in church attendances and moral reform in society.

  

How to preach sermons that don't suck

From the Covenant blog, where there is more.  (Be sure and read it all.)
Let’s be honest, most sermons today are terrible.  They are boring.  They ramble.  They sound like bad imitations of high school book reports.  Listening to a sermon today is often like listening to the teacher from the old Charlie Brown cartoons.  And I believe the reason why preaching has gotten so bad, particularly in liturgical churches, is rather obvious.  We do not have good preachers because we do not understand what preaching is for.

Like being a great cello player or a great center fielder, a great preacher is born with a certain degree of raw talent that then must be honed and trained in order for the preacher to reach his or her full potential.  But in liturgical churches in the contemporary West, we see preaching as less important than other aspects of ministry.  We assume that anyone can be a great preacher and that the honing of preaching skills ought to be relatively low on the clergy’s priority list, something to tend to once all the other fires are put out.  We reap what we sow.  We treat preaching like it is nothing, and thus it becomes nothing.

What I offer here are a few maxims on what makes great preaching.  They are culled from my own experience both as a preacher and as someone who listens to sermons.  I am no expert, and this list is nowhere near exhaustive, but it is a start. I hope that others will build on this.  “Faith comes through hearing,” Paul says (Romans 10:17).  It is no secret that the Church in the West is in decline, and I see no scenario for its revival that does not include a renewal of great preaching.
Read it all.
  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What happens under Spirit-anointed preaching

George Whitefield preaching
Tuesday, November 27, 1739 – …I preached from a balcony to above six thousand people. God strengthened me to speak nearly two hours, with such demonstration of the Spirit, that great numbers continued weeping for a considerable time.

Tuesday, April 30, 1740 – Towards the conclusion of my discourse, God’s Spirit came upon the preacher and people, so that they were melted down exceedingly.

May 14, 1749 – I believe there were near twelve thousand. I had not spoken long before I perceived numbers melting. As I proceeded, the influence increased, till, at last, thousands cried out, so that they almost drowned my voice…What tears were shed and poured forth after the Lord Jesus…After the last discourse, I was so pierced, as it were, and overpowered with the sense of God’s love, that some thought…I was about to give up the ghost. How sweetly did I lie at the feet of Jesus. With what power did a sense of His all-constraining, free, and everlasting love flow in upon my soul! It almost took away my life.

From George Whitefield’s Journal

O God, grant such preaching – and such moving of the Spirit today!  May those who need the Savior be pierced and overpowered by your love!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Need Inspiration?

The subtitles are in Dutch, but I think you can appreciate this, no matter what language you speak.



When you are down, God can raise you up!
 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

That Subversive Book

Mel Lawrenz writes on The Brook Network:
Jiang Yuchun was a boy the first time he attended a Christian gathering in a home in Anhui Province, China. He and his father walked fifteen miles under cover of darkness because any kind of Christian gathering during the Cultural Revolution of 1966 to 1976 was an act of subversion according to government policy. Thousands of believers were martyred during those dark days; every Christian leader exposed was imprisoned or killed; the Bible was practically extinct.

Yuchun watched the leader teaching the group, holding a tattered copy of the Bible tightly in his hand. The pages were torn and dirty, the corners worn to a rounded shape...

Read the rest of the story, and be sure to click on through to read Jiang Yuchun's testimony about "The First Bible I Saw in China".
 

Friday, December 9, 2011

John Wesley’s Church Planting Movement::Discipleship That Transformed a Nation and Changed the World

John Wesley’s Church Planting Movement: Discipleship That Transformed a Nation and Changed the World
When John Wesley was born in 1703, four million out of Britain’s five million people lived in absolute poverty—unless they found enough food for that day, they would begin to starve to death.

When John Wesley launched a Church Planting Movement in this context, he not only changed the eternal destinies of an estimated one million people who came to Christ through his ministry, he changed their economic status as well. Not only did the Methodists he led get saved, they got out of poverty and became a powerful influence in discipling their nation. Wilberforce and other “spiritual sons” of Wesley honored him as the “greatest man of his time.”

The Methodists made such an impact on their nation that in 1962 historian Élie Halévy theorized that the Wesleyan revival created England’s middle class and saved England from the kind of bloody revolution that crippled France. Other historians, building on his work, go further to suggest that God used Methodism to show all the oppressed peoples of the world that feeding their souls on the heavenly bread of the lordship of Christ is the path to providing the daily bread their bodies also need.

Read it all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Why Young Americans Can’t Think Morally

I reprinted this entire article instead of excerpting it because I felt I ought to. ;-)
Why Young Americans Can’t Think Morally

(Moral standards have been replaced by feelings)

by Dennis Prager (from National Review Online)

Last week, David Brooks of the New York Times wrote a column on an academic study concerning the nearly complete lack of a moral vocabulary among most American young people. Here are excerpts from Brooks’s summary of the study of Americans aged 18 to 23. It was led by “the eminent Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith”:

● “Smith and company asked about the young people’s moral lives, and the results are depressing.”

● “When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all.”

● “Moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school or cheating on a partner.”

● “The default position, which most of them came back to again and again, is that moral choices are just a matter of individual taste.”

● “As one put it, ‘I mean, I guess what makes something right is how I feel about it. But different people feel different ways, so I couldn’t speak on behalf of anyone else as to what’s right and wrong.’”

● “Morality was once revealed, inherited and shared, but now it’s thought of as something that emerges in the privacy of your own heart.”

Ever since I attended college I have been convinced that “studies” either confirm what common sense suggests or they are mistaken. I realized this when I was presented study after study showing that boys and girls were not inherently different from one another, and they acted differently only because of sexist upbringings.

This latest study cited by David Brooks confirms what conservatives have known for a generation: Moral standards have been replaced by feelings. Of course, those on the left only believe this when an “eminent sociologist” is cited by a writer at a major liberal newspaper.

What is disconcerting about Brooks’s piece is that nowhere in what is an important column does he mention the reason for this disturbing trend: namely, secularism.

The intellectual class and the Left still believe that secularism is an unalloyed blessing. They are wrong. Secularism is good for government. But it is terrible for society (though still preferable to bad religion) and for the individual.

One key reason is what secularism does to moral standards. If moral standards are not rooted in God, they do not objectively exist. Good and evil are no more real than “yummy” and “yucky.” They are simply a matter of personal preference. One of the foremost liberal philosophers, Richard Rorty, an atheist, acknowledged that for the secular liberal, “There is no answer to the question, ‘Why not be cruel?’”

With the death of Judeo-Christian God-based standards, people have simply substituted feelings for those standards. Millions of American young people have been raised by parents and schools with “How do you feel about it?” as the only guide to what they ought to do. The heart has replaced God and the Bible as a moral guide. And now, as Brooks points out, we see the results. A vast number of American young people do not even ask whether an action is right or wrong. The question would strike them as foreign. Why? Because the question suggests that there is a right and wrong outside of themselves. And just as there is no God higher than them, there is no morality higher than them, either.

Forty years ago, I began writing and lecturing about this problem. It was then that I began asking students if they would save their dog or a stranger first if both were drowning. The majority always voted against the stranger — because, they explained, they loved their dog and they didn’t love the stranger.

They followed their feelings.

Without God and Judeo-Christian religions, what else is there?

— Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. He may be contacted through his website, dennisprager.com.

Please visit the original site and read it all.
 

Monday, August 22, 2011

How God's Word Changed a Life


A encouraging story testimony from BiblicaDirect.com:
“I was a drunk and adulterer for forty years. I was constantly lying and cheating on my wife. Finally after all the kids were gone, and after twenty-three years of marriage my wife kicked me out of the house. I had tried everything to break my alcohol addiction – meetings and programs and endless cycles of retreating back to the same things. Then, in 1992 I had a powerful encounter with the Lord and was radically transformed. I also felt the Lord tell me to start giving away Bibles and devotionals. So, I put NKJV’s and scripture portions out all over at nursing homes, restaurants, new stands, churches and even prisons. Over the next two years the Lord restored my job, my home, and miraculously – my wife. Even my desire for adultery dried up. After seventeen years of being divorced, we were remarried in 1994. I tell people she was my first wife and she is my last wife. I deserved hell, but Jesus loves me and He is the Restorer.” - anonymous

God's Word — Read it. Believe it. Share it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Why It's Time to Speak about God Again

From Jay Haug, writing in The American Thinker:

America is living under an illusion: the idea that we can expunge God (broadly understood) from our national and public belief system and still operate a moral and accountable government.

C.S. Lewis summed up the problem in The Abolition of Man. "We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful." John Adams asserted, "Our Constitution was made for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Our founding fathers laid down a system that demanded conscientious, self-restrained implementation -- a government dependent on the character of the people. Ben Franklin, perhaps the most deistic of the founding fathers, famously assured one curious bystander that the Constitutional Conventions had engendered "a Republic, if you can keep it." How many people today truly understand that America's health depends on the moral character of its citizens, of their personal "keeping" of our nation?

Many people in power have discovered that what Ivan Karamazov said is true: "If God is dead, all is permitted." They recognize only too well that God has been removed from public life -- and with Him, the attendant moral order. In their minds, there is no responsibility because there is no God. Morality, though not always agreed upon, has become a matter of opinion, easily dismissed.

How quaint the phrases of JFK appear to modern ears in his inaugural address: "the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe -- the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God." Unlike most of American history, religious utterances today are considered sectarian, even offensive. For the publicly disgraced, however, take a few years in jail or probation and a good lawyer, and they are home free. Americans forgive, and well they should, but who is left to pick up the pieces and contemplate the risk/reward of bad behavior?

When was the last time an American president prayed aloud in public? It was FDR at the moment of the D-Day invasion. According to preacher Andy Stanley, Americans stopped in traffic and got out of their cars, and major companies sent home their employees to pray for the invasion. Children stopped in school, all to pray. The truth is that for most of our history, Americans have believed that our nation is accountable to God for our behavior and prayed publicly for His guidance and forgiveness. Even when Abraham Lincoln asserted in his Second Inaugural that "[t]he Almighty has His own purposes," intimating that they are not easily discerned, very few Americans doubted, as Lincoln asserted, that they are "true and righteous altogether."

Only since prayer was banished from public schools in 1962 and a vocal minority began to consider it their right never to be present in a public place within earshot of a prayer was it that America decided to hang up on the voice of God in the public sphere. But this has not protected us from what Julia Ward Howe called "His terrible swift sword" -- i.e., the consequences for our behavior. We are reaping the whirlwind even as we speak.

Many believe that religion should be confined to the private sphere. They want religion, in Francis Schaeffers's words, "privately important, but publicly irrelevant." But the truth is that public people living out public lives have always been subject to public oaths and understandings that invoke the name and sanction of God. According to historian David McCullough, George Washington added "so help me God" to the presidential oath, and it has stuck ever since. In the face of communism in the 1950s, Congress added "under God" to the pledge of allegiance and made "One Nation Under God" our national motto. Those who preceded us knew the wisdom of inculcating an understanding of God and the roots of conscience in all Americans -- even in public schools. The "lowest common denominator" result of the 1962 school prayer decision was not only foolish constitutionally, but self-destructive nationally. Our public schools have never been the same since.

American history shows that two "Great Awakenings" presaged the two greatest crises in American history. John and Charles Wesley and George Whitfield preached through the entire thirteen colonies in the 1740s, preparing the next generation for the challenges and inculcating the self-control needed for revolutionary times. Charles Phinney, Lyman Beecher, and others led the 2nd Great Awakening that formed the backdrop for the Civil War, empowering in the aftermath a greater healing and reconciliation of the nation than might normally have occurred. When the Civil Rights movement reached its critical stage, Martin Luther King, Jr., a clergyman, appeared on government property and invoked both the Bible (the book of Amos) and our founding documents to declare racial prejudice wrong, telling Americans that racism fell short of both God's laws and America's founding vision. He knew where freedom came from, proclaiming, "Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last" as he strode from the Lincoln Memorial. Must God be turned to publicly only when America is shaken to the core, or when our values are seriously compromised? Are we not in that position right now?

America is in crisis. Unfortunately, since the 1960s, we have expunged the one Presence from our public life who can truly help us as He has in the past. In his book Who Are We?, Samuel Huntington tells us that America is different from every other nation in the following regard: throughout the world, the more impoverished a nation is, the more time its people spend in religious observance and activities. The only exception -- the only one -- is America. We are wealthy and we also spend much time in religious observance.

Huntington warns us that we have about fifteen years to preserve what he calls "our Protestant heritage." Let's expand that here to include the public presence of God, which can help to enliven the private consciences of all Americans.

What we must face is a simple fact. A morality unhinged from God is not only inadequate for the times, but it will also doom us to a permanent slide into oblivion. Many believe that America will turn publicly to God...eventually. But will it be too late when the time finally comes?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy

Signs we need revival: Grumbling and the lack of thankfulness in our society--beautifully illustrated by the humor of Louis C.K. and Conan O'Brien [warning: contains some crude language]:


In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the Lord's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death."
(Exodus 16:2-3)

Studying Colossians recently I was struck by the Apostle Paul's exhortation to the opposite attitude of complaining, which is an attitude of continual thanksgiving.

Colossians 1:3 records Paul's thankfulness for the believers in Colossae and reminds them in verse 12 to be thankful that they have an inheritance with all the saints as well as a new citizenship:
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

In Col. 2:6-7, Paul suggests thankfulness for our inheritance in Christ as a protection against false teaching and a support to a growing faith:
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Chapter 3:15 connects thankfulness to conflict resolution leading to unity among believers: "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." Chapter 4:2 describes the attitude we should always possess: "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful."

The pressing need of our day is for God's people not to become a part of the bitterness, grumbling, and dissension that characterizes our age, but to be thankful— and, in so doing, to be a witness that we are plugged into something better—the joy of knowing Jesus.

Psalm 105:1, "Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done."