Archive for the ‘Revival’ Category

Growing up Pentecostal I always held intellectually to various aspects of Pentecostal doctrine. Of course most notably were the doctrines that distinguish Pentecostalism from other theological camps. Among these doctrines are our beliefs about Baptism in the Holy Spirit (BHS) with initial physical evidence (IPE) of speaking in tongues (SIT). And of course this leads to the belief that the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit through the Church at large and individual believers in particular did not cease, but instead has continued to the present time and will continue until the return of Christ.

It’s a fine set of doctrine that I hold to today. But over the years I have grown concerned about the discrepancy between our doctrine and our practice. That is, our orthodoxy is not translating to sound orthopraxy.

It does precious little good to believe intellectually that the Holy Spirit works today in a way parallel with His work in the book of Acts unless that intellectual belief is translated into practical application. As debate about the nature of the work of the Holy Spirit increases, even in some of our most dedicated Pentecostal fellowships, I am led the the belief that the cause of many’s doubt about the present-day work of the Holy Spirit is rooted in being told they should expect to see Him move but never actually seeing it happen.

In such a circumstance one is led to believe that either the doctrine itself was wrong, or one’s experience is wrong. Given the vividness of personal experience, it is generally the doctrine that is discarded.

But this has led me to a problem. For I believe the Bible is inspired, inerrant, and infallible. What it teaches is true. And having considered arguments from every perspective, and doing much study on my own, I’m led to the conviction that the Bible teaches the Holy Spirit should be just as active in the Church today as He was in the first century. Thus the problem lies not with our doctrine of the Holy Spirit, but with our ability to live it out in practicality.

Leonard Ravenhill once commented that one of these days somebody is going to pick up the Bible, believe it, act on it, and put the rest of us to shame. I have often wondered what the result would be if we simply acted in faith on God’s Word.

Having read the history of my beloved Pentecostal movement I believe such a conviction is what led Charles Parham to challenge his students in Topeka to search the Scriptures regarding evidence for Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Surely we cannot believe that the Holy Spirit moved so powerfully just one hundred years ago only to let the Church wallow in spiritual stagnancy in the present time. Surely we cannot believe that God has stopped working.

Yet we will continue to go to services, simply going through the motions ritualistically while we generally lack the supernatural and transformative work of the Holy Spirit. I’m afraid that most people claiming to be believers have very low expectations regarding the Church, and outside of the work of the Holy Spirit it is only logical to expect this. Without the Holy Spirit the Church is not a living entity, but is instead a corpse of spiritual deadness.

At any given point I believe we are just one prayer and one act of faith away from seeing the Church rise from it’s dullness into the vibrant Body of Christ it is meant to be. The time is now for us to act by the authority of Christ, to believe that we can and must do what He says we can do, that we can the Body He has called us to be. We cannot put our faith in new strategies or methodologies. These are but tools to be used by a living Body, they cannot bring such a Body to life. For that we need the Holy Spirit working through Spirit-filled men and women.

With love,
Josiah

It would be possible for me to list several books that have dramatically shaped me, especially as it relates to my spiritual development and growth. Some people say, “Well we only need the Bible, why read anything else?” To that I would reply the Bible tells us God has given teachers to the Church so that we can grow into perfection in Christ, and the written word is a means of instruction used in the earliest days of the Church and before. Yes, the Bible is the only inspired and inerrant Word of God; and it is completely sufficient for all spiritual needs. But some people know more about the Bible and life in Christ than we do, and from those people we can learn. This certainly doesn’t replace studying the Bible for ourselves; rather, it supplements and enhances our personal Bible study.

At any rate, it’s often hard to say what books have most impacted me. I certainly was shaped by works such as Brother Andrew’s God’s Smuggler in my earlier years. Being home schooled I read biographies of David, Daniel, John Wycliffe, and other famous spiritual leaders. These books too helped shape me. But undoubtedly the time period of the greatest and most rapid spiritual growth in my life has been the 5 year period beginning in 2005.

Since 2005 I’ve been introduced to many phenomenal pastors, theologians, philosophers, and authors. And among those a few have stood out more than others. As it relates to the deeper life I have been especially influenced by A.W. Tozer, Leonard Ravenhill, Andrew Murray, A.B. Simpson, and Charles Finney.

In the future I will likely review books by all of those authors. But for now I want to direct your attention to just one: Leonard Ravenhill. Of Ravenhill’s book Why Revival Tarries, Ravi Zacharias said it was “The book that shaped me probably more dramatically than any other book that I have read.”

In writing the Forward to the book A.W. Tozer said: “Toward Leonard Ravenhill it is impossible to be neutral. His acquaintances are divided pretty neatly into two classes, those who love and admire him out of all proportion and those who hate him with perfect hatred. And what is true of the man is sure to be true of his books, of this book. The reader will either close its pages to seek a place of prayer or he will toss it away in anger, his heart closed to its warnings and appeals. Not all books, not even all good books come as a voice from above, but I feel that this one does. It does because its author does, and the spirit of the author breathes through his book.”

In trying to summarize this book I would say it is a rebuke to the Church, a charge against spiritual complacency, and an exhortation to give all in the pursuit of obedience to Christ. Ravenhill issues a call to live beyond the status quo of Christianity in the modern day. In many ways we might say Ravenhill is urging us to “Get on my level!”, yet we realize that rising to that level will make us incredibly uncomfortable and require great sacrifice on our part.

Ravenhill says “There are two indispensable factors to successful Christian living. They are vision and passion. Men battle mountainous seas of human, carnal criticism and storm the flinty heights of devilish opposition to plant the cross of Christ amidst the habitations of cruelty. Why? Because they have caught a vision and contracted a passion.”

However, Ravenhill is concerned that we have very little vision or passion today. The remedy he suggests has been effectively used for several thousand years. That remedy is God-inspired, sincere repentance and Spirit-led intercession (I will freely use Christianese in this note, because the target audience is those who already believe).

The fact is we need prophets today, Elijahs and Ezekiels who will challenge our institutions, question our presuppositions, rebuke our complacency, and exhort us to walk righteously before God as His holy people. Such a prophet will risk offending a great deal of modern-day Christendom, but will persist because of the inner conviction of the Holy Spirit upon the heart.

In a day when we have more methodologies and strategies and programs that at any other time in the history of the Church, yet we’re still declining in the Western world, we genuinely need to ask where the problem lays. In a day when so much is at stake, when the risk of failure is too high to be considered by spiritually reasonable people, I think it’s necessary to get back to the basics: Prayer, anointing, vision, conviction, holiness. With painstaking clarity Ravenhill calls us back to such basics.

God has promised a great deal to this generation. I think we’ve tried doing things our way for quite long enough to show that it’s utterly and entirely insufficient. Back to the basics, brothers and sisters. The shapers of history in the realm of the spiritual have always been those who desperately sought God, heard His voice and experienced His presence, and allowed their lives to be defined by obedience to the King above all kings. Will we be such a people?

With my prayers,
Josiah

[All quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries, Bethany House Publishers, 2004.]

“If the spiritual view of the world is the correct one, as Christianity boldly asserts that it is, then for every one of us heaven is more important than earth and eternity more important than time. If Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be; if He is what the glorious company of the apostles and the noble army of martyrs declared that He is; if the faith which the holy church throughout all the world doth acknowledge is the true faith of God, then no man has any right to dedicate his life to anything that can burn or rust or rot or die. No man has any right to give himself completely to anyone but Christ nor to anything but prayer.” -A.W. Tozer

“”I admit without a blush that this chapter is intentionally provocative and acerbic. I am tired of complacent Christianity. I am declaring “open season” on our smug, spiritual complacency and amnesia. We would rather squat in our rubber-foamed pews and hear a yet more pleasant dissertation on Psalm 23 for the one-thousandth time than hear a man fresh from audience with the eternal God (a man, whose sweat-bedewed brow indicates the volcano in his soul) cry with broken sobs, “Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?” (Ps. 94:16).”” -Leonard Ravenhill, Revival God’s Way

The past several weeks have been very challenging for me. There have been many things to consider, and words fail to express the totality of the conviction I’ve been dealing with.

Let me be very upfront: If Jesus is the Son of God; if He is Prophet, Priest, and King; if He is the Son of Man; if He is the Word by which all thing were made; if He really is our Savior, then no goal outside of God Himself is worthy of human effort, and Jesus has the absolute unfettered right to dictate the terms whereby we shall live our lives.

No more obfuscating what we believe about Jesus. I agree with C.S. Lewis, Jesus was either Lord, liar, or lunatic. If He’s a liar or lunatic we are justified in disregarding Him; however, if He’s Lord then our present response to that reality is completely and entirely inadequate.

If Jesus is God how can the transformation in our lives as a result of dedicating ourselves to Him be any less then the transformation from Saul to Paul? Oughtn’t we also go from chief of sinners to greatest missionary? If the same God that called Abram has called us shouldn’t we also drop what we’re doing and live according to eternal purposes seeking to advance a Kingdom not made with human hands?

If Jesus is God do not our worldly accomplishments and temporary achievements seem very insignificant in light of eternity? As much as I like having a 4.0 GPA semester after semester is it not incredibly inconsequential in light of 4+ billion people living not recognizing their Creator and only true Sovereign?

What I’m saying is this: Jesus is Lord, He is the Bridegroom establishing the Church as His bride. But far from being infatuated with the incomprehensible love lavished upon us, we’ve acted like whores. Think about it, what causes marital dissatisfaction? A lack of communication, the drowning out of romantic intimacy by other cares, a lack of time spent together. What causes dissatisfaction in Christ’s relationship with the Church? More or less the same things (albeit applied differently).

I’m very much afraid the overwhelming majority of us Christians today have been duped. Think about it, we pray about what college to go to instead of what country to go to. We pray about what Church to attend rather then what church to start. We think careers are an end rather then a means to a far greater end then retirement. We shape God according to our preconceived mold and construct rather then allowing God to shape the terms whereby our lives will be run.

The most important and outrageous claim of Christianity is that Jesus physically rose from the dead and that this proves beyond any reasonable doubt that He is the Son of God; and from this claim it logically follows that we surrender the whole of our lives to Jesus Christ and that we live exclusively for Him and His purposes. The example of the Apostles and early Christians leaves us with no other rational conclusion.

Upon the acceptance of Christ, consider everything the Apostles gave up: 1. The sacrificial system they had practiced the whole of their lives, 2. Their firm belief that it was blasphemous for any man to claim deity, 3. Their recognition of the Sabbath, 4. The approval of the Jewish religious authorities they had always trusted and followed, 5. Their professions (tax collectors, fishermen, etc…), 6. Their lives.

One of our problems is we think giving up our lives refers exclusively to martyrdom. Let me share a sentiment with you: Every single Christian martyr throughout history was dead long before they were beheaded (or crucified or burned or whatever). Dead to what? The flesh, the world’s way of thinking, sin, temporal values.  When Paul lost his head he went from life with Christ to life with Christ. Nero hardly killed Paul, he coroneted him into God’s hall of fame.

I learned many things during the Facebook Fast. For a whole month Facebook was dead to me, and in a sense the people I can’t contact otherwise were also dead to me. After one month I’ve come back, in some ways reluctantly (in other ways, happy to have my virtual pulpit back). But that same sense of deadness ought to be what I feel towards everything that stands in between God and me. Everything that is temporary ought to be dead to me.

I write not as one who has achieved, but as one who is convicted. My reputation is not dead to me. My personal ambitions are not dead to me. Pointless entertainment is not dead to me. Lust is not dead to me. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. All these things are but rubbish and poo compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord! When will I go beyond mentally realizing that to actually living it?

“There’s a cry in my heart For Your glory to fall For Your presence to fill up my senses,  There’s a yearning again A thirst for discipline A hunger for things that are deeper Could You take me beyond? Could You carry me through? If I open my heart? Could I go there with You? (For I’ve been here before But I know there’s still more Oh, Lord, I need to know You) For what do I have If I don’t have You, Jesus? What in this life Could mean any more? You are my rock You are my glory You are the lifter Of my head Lifter of this head”  -Starfield

His humble servant- Josiah

Drastic

Posted: July 23, 2009 by Josiah Batten in Christian living, Deeper Life, Revival

This was originally written and published on Facebook, but it applies here as well:

Sometimes I look at the model established by Biblical characters and just wonder… Think about it, some of these people went to incredible lengths to advance the Kingdom of Heaven. These men and women took drastic action in obedience to God and saw Him move in incredible ways on their behalf.

Just to look at a few examples consider:

Hannah: Who cried out to God for a child and then dedicated her son to Him. Her son anointed the first kings of Israel.

Josiah: Who tore down all the temples, shrines, and places of worship that were dedicated to pagan gods and goddesses.

Elijah: Who shamed the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. God consumed Elijah’s sacrifice with fire from Heaven after it had been drenched in water.

Peter and John: Who courageously spoke the Gospel in the Temple before all the leaders of Israel and the Jewish leaders and, after being threatened, prayed for boldness.

Apollos: Who publicly proclaimed the Gospel, refuting the Jews and proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.

Paul: Who God used to raise a dead man, heal numerous sick people, and who proclaimed the Gospel after being stoned, whipped, beaten, unlawfully imprisoned, shipwrecked, etc…

I could go on with many other examples, but I think you get the point. These were men and women driven to advance God’s Kingdom against all odds. As Martin Luther King Jr. points out, they were too God-inspired to be astronomically intimidated.

What I often consider today is what will it take for all of us to have a similar holy ambition (to steal a phrase from John Piper)? How many of us are chomping at the bit to shame the prophets of Baal, relying not on human strength but on the God who answers by fire (obviously Baal worship is not popular any more, but dedication to similar things is equivalent to this type of idolatry)? Think about it, we’ve been given a sacred mission, a holy task, an ancient command of preaching the Gospel in the entire world, making disciples of all nations. This is no small order.

An old preacher (who’s name slips my memory at the moment) once said that the only power that can change the course of world history is the power of the Holy Spirit released through Spirit-filled men (and women). Perhaps we’ve mistakenly believed that God moved mightily in the past but now, when more people then ever before in more places then ever before facing more challenges then ever before need to hear the Gospel, God just quit working.

Perhaps the burden is on us to do something dangerous for the Kingdom of God. Maybe we need to start considering drastic measures: Things like getting up early to prayer walk our campus everyday, things like open air preaching on busy street corners, things like getting all of the Christians in your dorm to get together (be they Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, etc…) to fervently pray for your peers. Maybe we should pray specifically, rather then the vague “God do something big” specific stuff like “God, draw every member of the football team to You.” If reaching a campus requires us to pray together for 6 hours every day will we do it (I’m not mandating that we do, just asking a question)? If God tells us to do something crazy like “Go tell that complete stranger that looks they want to hurt you that I love them” will we do it? If God tells us to stop dating, will we? If He tells us to start courting, will we? If He tells us not to watch any television or to give up Facebook, would we do it?

I’m not suggesting that God mandates any of this. Obviously I’m using Facebook right now for something that I don’t think God wants me to give up. But God does mandate our dedication. And history has shown that those to whom God gives the greatest vision are those through whom He works most amazingly. But let me be clear: God is looking for dedicated and passionate people. If God thought it best to use unthinking robots He could use stones to accomplish His purposes. But in His infinite wisdom He’s chosen people, thinking, breathing, passionate people.

Our expectations are too low. I’m tired of reading about how God moved in the past, or what God did in some other city. I want to see that here, in the present, in my city. And until like-minded men and women of God plead the same request we’re going to remain exactly where we are. There is absolutely no reason God should be unable to work mightily in Fairmont, or at Fairmont State, or at WVU. If anything I would say God most wants to move here. Why wouldn’t God want to shake the number one party school in the country? Why wouldn’t He want to turn the world upside down through behind-the-times, backwards, straight from the woods, small-town West Virginians (I’m looking at this through the eyes of common Americans, most of whom don’t even know WV is a state)? Why wouldn’t God want to do something now when social critics and atheists and secularists are saying Christianity is going to die?

We can’t do what God has called us to do on our own. But when we seek God, when the Spirit ignites our prayers such that God’s presence makes us tremble, when we weep in sorrow for our sins and the sins of our nation, when the convicting and purifying fire of the Spirit is manifest and the hearts and lives of every person in the Church; then the prophets of Baal will be shamed, we will be filled with holy vision and passion, the pagan idols of secular society will be torn down and spread over graves, people will be touched by God’s healing rain, and the Gospel will advance so quickly and so uncontrollably that every power of hell on this planet will be shaken and principalities will tremble.

But none of this can happen until we, in holy discontent, realize that things are not as they should be and we are responsible. By far the greatest sin in my life is knowing everything I do about the Gospel of Jesus Christ but somehow being able to avoid shouting it from my rooftop. Without a doubt I need to repent of that long and hard, but once the Spirit’s flame is rekindled in me I need to get out of my prayer closet and start proclaiming the Gospel; knowing that God will verify His Word not through my wise words or persuasive techniques, but by demonstrating His power.

It is for this day I long and pray.

“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for.” -C.H. Spurgeon

“‘Not called!’ did you say? ‘Not heard the call,’ I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sisters, and servants and masters not to come there. And then look Christ in the face, whose mercy you have professed to obey, and tell him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish his mercy to the world.” -William Booth

“The history of missions is the history of answered prayer. From Pentecost to the Haystack meeting in New England and from the days when Robert Morrison landed in China to the martyrdom of John and Betty Stam, prayer has been the source of power and the secret of spiritual triumph.” -Samuel M. Zwemer

God bless!
Josiah

Holiness, Hype, and Hypocrisy

Posted: May 8, 2009 by Josiah Batten in Christian living, Deeper Life, Revival

Often times when we think of revival we have images of big tent meetings, massive excitement and unbridled passion.  There’s nothing wrong with those things, in fact I think a certain level of excitement and passion is good and necessary.  However, we must avoid equating holiness with hype.

I was born in a place that still has campmeetings every year.  I mean old-fashioned campmeetings with hell-fire preaching, hammond organs, and accordions.  I love visiting the campmeeting when I can (I now live about 1,000 miles south of where it takes place).  The worship is great, there are normally phenomenal preachers, and I see lots of old friends.  And it’s amazing to see so many churches working together.

But I know what goes on behind the scenes.  I know that many of those people who will run the aisles and jump up and down during services are the same ones who vote out their pastor every four years.  As was the case in Nehemiah, it’s often the Tobiah living in the Temple that’s the real problem.  What may, at face value, appear to be a great move of God is often just hype.  That’s not to say the campmeeting is bad, I’ve been richly blessed by it; but we can’t equate hype with holiness.

Thus, it is my belief that revival shouldn’t be viewed as an event.  We need to stop saying “we’re having revival services”.  People may just stand and listen to God in a service and be greatly blessed; and they may live more in accordance with the Word and will of God than anybody who runs the aisles or shouts loud “amens!” during the service (again, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with those things).  Revival is seen when God works among His people and His people begin to be made perfect.  It involves not hype, but deep repentance and a turning away from sin; it involves a personal dedication to the purposes of God.  I believe there may be a whole generation alive today that is living in a state of revival, but is ignored because this hasn’t produced the excitement common in the past.  Trust me, the excitement is there; but it’s manifested in a personal and passionate pursuit of God rather than in shouting from pulpits and storming across stages.

The passion of God’s people is not measured by the movement of their bodies, but by the work done in their hearts and through their lives.  I’ll take one person dedicated to pursuing God over 1,000 people who are simply pew jumpers any day.

Inevitably, among those dedicated people there is theological growth.  As A.W. Tozer often said, nothing less then a whole Bible can make a whole Christian.  Among the hyped up hypocrites there’s an imitation of theological depth.  Don’t get me wrong, they may have “deep” Bible studies and the preaching may be accurate; but when it comes to living it out it doesn’t happen.  In fact, it’s the theological knowledge coupled with an inconsistent life that makes such people hypocrites.  Now the dedicated may not be able to define prevenient grace, and they may not know how to conduct a word study; but they get into the Word and they live it out to the best of their understanding, trusting that God will work in them to will and act according to His good purpose (Philippians 2:13).  Perhaps such believers are the generation of those who seek God.

“Who may ascend the hill of the LORD ?
Who may stand in his holy place?

He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false.

He will receive blessing from the LORD
and vindication from God his Savior.

Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
Selah”  -Psalm 24:3-6, NIV

God bless!

Josiah

Looking at Ezra 4 through chapter 5 we find that those opposing the rebuilding of God’s Temple succeed, at least for a time.  It should be noted that they succeed through manipulation and making false charges (if the Temple is rebuilt, a revolt will ensue).  But we should expect nothing less from such people.

Ultimately, however, we see Haggai and Zechariah step up to the plate.  They prophesy in the name of God, and work is continued on the rebuilding of God’s Temple.  Of course, further opposition is faced.  Undoubtedly the question of “Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and restore this structure?” is familiar to many of us (5:3, NIV).

I believe there are a growing number of prophetic voices today saying “Look, we must rebuild the Church”.  At least I hope and pray there are.  Obviously many people will want to discount this, they will want to disregard what is said.  Some ruler’s of the synagogue will say we shouldn’t question their authority, others will disregard us as pie-in-the-sky idealists, some may even discount us as overly-energetic teenagers (and several of the authors of this blog are).  But in the end, that doesn’t matter when we know the work God has called us to do.  God will watch over us and this work will not be stopped.

“Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.”  -Martin Luther King Jr., Letter From a Birmingham Jail

God bless!

Josiah




Moving from Ezra 3 to Ezra 4 we see the true beginning of the work of rebuilding.  It started with the altar, and the rest followed.

At the end of Ezra 3, the people worship as the foundation of the Temple is laid.  Those who hadn’t seen the first Temple rejoiced and praised.  Those who had seen the first Temple wept.  This is an interesting dynamic.  The younger people were filled with hope at the building of a temple.  The older people remembered the glorious old days and wept.  Undoubtedly we’ve all heard or read about the revivals of old, those amazing days when God’s Spirit worked mightily through men like Smith Wigglesworth.  We’ve all heard of Finney, of Campbell, of Whitfield, of Edwards.  It’s easy to look back and become focused on those things.  We may even weep because those days are over.

Maybe it’s just my youthful ignorance and bliss, but I’m convinced the greatest days for God’s people are still to come. I believe God’s greatest work remains to be seen.  Jordan is parted, the Ark is on its’ way through, but it remains to be seen if God’s people, if the up and coming generation will follow.  This doesn’t exclude older generations, it’s just most of them who will follow have already followed.  They’re not the ones on the banks of Jordan.  Though don’t get me wrong, they play an important part in what will happen in these last days.

But with all the excitement of this foundation being laid some problems arise.  In Ezra 4:1-5 some troublemakers claiming to be sacrificing to the God of Israel come and want a part in rebuilding the Temple.  Can you imagine the detrimental effects this would have had?  Once these guys got their foot in the door they would corrupt the sacrifice, the worship, everything.  They would have defiled God’s Temple and I imagine mixed it with pagan worship.

Of course, in today’s Church there are already many pagan elements and many things keeping the Church from being all that it is called to be.  But as we attempt to rebuild, many people who are actually enemies of God have come in claiming to worship at our altar and be serving our Lord.  Among these groups are:

1.  Political parties: We in the Church are more active politically then spiritually.  We’ve relied on political power and force to accomplish the will of God.  No number of bans in the country will stop alcoholism, drug use, immoral sexual practices (porn, pre-marital sex, same-sex sex).  If we truly want to see those things stopped we need to spread the Gospel.  Those things are heart-conditions, and no law gives anybody power to overcome sin; in Christ alone is the answer to the great social questions of our day.  Political parties have only hurt the Church, and we’ve foolishly followed immoral leaders with integrity as deep as tropical ice.  Am I advocating we don’t vote?  Of course not.  What I am saying is we can no longer blindly align ourselves with any specific party.  The Church can be on no party’s side, because no party is on God’s side.

2.  Televangelists: Benny Hinn, Morris Cerullo, Mike Murdock, Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer et. al., I’m calling you out.  You have used the Gospel to make money, in your greed you have exploited God’s people (see II Peter 2).  “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God.”  -Ezra 4:3, NIV.  These false prophets take just a hint of truth but pollute it with their “prosperity Gospel”.

I will not apologize for what I write here.  Some of the doctrines these people teach are blasphemous, it goes well beyond a mere disagreement.  Benny Hinn claimed that Jesus would physically appear at one of his crusades, he even asserted he may have footage of Jesus Christ.  Joel Osteen won’t even publicly affirm John 14:6 and say that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no man comes to the Father but by Him.  Creflo Dollar reportedly rides around in a Rolls Royce provided by his congregation.  Let me tell you something, I believe he will answer on Judgment Day as to why a Rolls Royce was worth more than starving children in Ethiopia or people faced with genocide in Darfur.

3.  Emergents: It may surprise people that I say this, but the Emergent Church is way off track.  Progress can not be equated with superficial ecclesiastical changes coupled with the abandonment of sound Biblical doctrine.  Brian McLaren has done incredible damage to God’s people.  It’s amazing that Frank Viola would write Pagan Christianity and then assert that men like Brian McLaren are his friends.  McLaren promotes more pagan practice and doctrine then the whole of the Church has since Constantine.

When people start calling the Cross a “distraction” we have a tremendous problem.  I will fully grant, and I have asserted on this blog, that the modern pulpit is full of hypocrisy, that the Church is pretentious, that we’ve abandoned true Biblical community, and that we need massive and substantial reform.  But this will not be achieved by forsaking Christ.  Indeed, McLaren and many Emergents are just as bad if not worse then the Institutional Church only on an opposite end.  My friends, I’m afraid many Emergents really have no part in our work of rebuilding God’s Temple.  I must state at this point that there are many types of “emergent” and “emerging”, and in this section I’m referring only to those who compromise God’s Word and the sufficiency and supremacy of Christ’s work.  If you are an “emergent” of the Eddie Gibbs variety then as far as I can tell, welcome aboard.

In our zeal to rebuild God’s Temple, the rebuild the Church, we must not ever compromise.  We can not associate with false prophets and teachers for the sake of numbers and power.  Remember Elijah on Carmel, the winner here will be the one who’s God answers by fire.  Numbers play no part in determining what God can do.

God bless!

Josiah