From Dr. Jim Denison:
Learning from the Old West
I’m reading Dreams of El Dorado: A History of the American West by H. W. Brands, a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin. One of the facts his fascinating narrative reinforces on nearly every page is the frailty of life on the frontier.
Settlers moving west were one Indian raid or hard winter from annihilation. Starvation was an ever-present possibility. A broken leg in the wilderness could mean a horrible death from infection or wild animals.
As a result, those on the frontier knew they needed God and each other to survive. Generations facing the Great Depression and two world wars learned the same lesson.
However, our technological and medical advances have insulated us from much of what they faced. The rising secularism and moral relativism that have resulted from our cultural self-sufficiency now threaten our souls.
And our churches as well.
The problem with church-growth seminars
I was called to my first pastorate in 1984, just as the church-growth movement was gaining momentum. The scientific study of growing churches led to identifying best practices that could be emulated in other congregations. Before long, church-growth conferences hosted by megachurches became mandatory for pastors of smaller churches. I attended at least one a year in my early years as a pastor and read the literature produced by this movement extensively.
The purpose of these resources was to identify biblical principles that all churches should understand and seek to practice. The downside, however, was the sense—however unintended by leaders in the movement—that if churches organized themselves strategically, created worship and teaching experiences that appealed to a consumeristic culture, and marketed their services and events effectively, their growth was assured.
The fact is, human words cannot save human souls. You and I cannot convict anyone of their sins or lead them to repentance. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. He will use us to the degree that we depend on him.
If our church growth strategies are submitted to the Spirit in passionate prayer and utter dependency, he will use them for God’s glory. But only then. Otherwise, we are building buildings and attracting numbers, but we are not growing God’s kingdom.
When God gives us “overcoming life”
The coronavirus pandemic proves our mortality. The recession demonstrates the unpredictability and unreliability of wealth and the folly of self-reliance.
However, if we reframe the sufferings we face as an invitation to seek the strength of our Savior, he will redeem them by leading us into the spiritual renewal we need so desperately.
Oswald Chambers observed: “God does not give us overcoming life: he gives us life as we overcome. The strain is the strength. If there is no strain, there is no strength. Are you asking God to give you life and liberty and joy? He cannot, unless you will accept the strain. Immediately you face the strain, you will get the strength.”
We can illustrate this principle physically. To get stronger, we must strain the muscles we intend to build. In the same way, when we develop the reflex of trusting our problems and pain to the power of Jesus, we experience his presence and peace in transforming ways.
“This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope”
Speaking of biblical lament, the writer of Lamentations set the standard with his deep, despairing grief over the destruction of Jerusalem. At one point he testifies of “my afflictions and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!” (Lamentations 3:19).
But his despair leads him to make this decision: “This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (vv. 21–23).
What is the source of your “hope” today?
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From Dr. Jim Denison:
A recent faculty survey at Harvard University found that 79.7 percent consider themselves “very liberal” or “liberal”; 18.9 percent say they are “moderate”; only 1.46 percent call themselves “conservative” or “very conservative.”
Unsurprisingly, 67 percent of white evangelical Protestants believe Christianity’s influence on American life is decreasing. Two-thirds say their beliefs are in conflict with mainstream American culture.
As America Spirals into Chaos, Faith Leaders Summon Christians to ‘The Return’
Pastor Jessip: ‘Our Lord Always Has Remedy for a World in Chaos’
NEW YORK — Faith leaders are calling Americans toward nationwide prayer and repentance as the country spirals downward in a crisis characterized by the desecration of the traditional family, disregard for the sanctity of life, and pornography addiction.
America’s crisis long preceded the coronavirus pandemic, according to Pastor Kevin Jessip and New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Cahn, co-chairs of a grassroots church movement known as “The Return: National and Global Day of Prayer and Repentance
America has compounded her sins for decades, evidenced by an economy that adds $100 million of debt every hour, a culture that witnesses 40% of babies being born to unwed mothers, and 68% of Christian men viewing pornography on a regular basis, Jessip and Cahn write.
Jessip says “The Return” is the American church’s opportunity to humble herself in light of the desperate situation the United States and the world are facing.
“Our Lord always has a remedy for a world in chaos, a remedy he has used for generations to wake up his church, and it is simply this: God raises up chosen men and women,” Jessip said.
“In times such as these, our Lord uses individuals to respond to a world in crisis. He touches his servants in a supernatural way, transforming them and then calling them to a life of total submission to his will.”
Thousands of Christians and several hundred churches and parachurch organizations have booked travel to converge on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on September 26 for a landmark gathering of “The Return” movement.
“The Return” is the American church’s moment to consecrate herself through personal repentance and to position herself to be used as God purifies the bride of Christ, Jessip says.
“When God chooses someone to be set apart for a special, redeeming work, he gives that servant a call — and how the servant responds determines the power and intensity of God’s touch in his life,” Jessip continued. “This is the call to ‘come up,’ and it summons us out of the activities of life and into an unshackled pursuit of God’s presence.”
The call to believers across America and the globe resembles the Lord’s command of Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me”’” (Exodus 9:1).
Jessip says now is the time for Christ-followers to answer this call, just as Moses did.
“Moses prized the presence of God in his life, as have many Christians who have experienced this call — this divine urge to commune with the Lord,” Jessip said. “The Lord is asking you to ‘come up,’ to meet him on the mount and let him fill you anew with his presence.”
“The Return” is for all believers who love the Lord from all denominations and backgrounds. Leaders already on board with “The Return” include Jonathan Cahn and Kevin Jessip (co-chairs), Mike Lindell, Michele Bachmann, Pat Boone, Dr. James Dobson, Mark Gonzales, Robert Morris, Marcus Lamb, John Kilpatrick, Pierre Bynum, Gen. William Boykin, Carter Conlon, Bishop Harry Jackson, Alveda King, Anne Graham Lotz, Pat and Gordon Robertson, Kevin and Sam Sorbo, Stephen E. Strang, E. W. Jackson and many more supporters listed at thereturn.org/faith-leaders/.
Co-chairs of “The Return” Jonathan Cahn and Kevin Jessip have recorded a special video about the event, which already has over a million views. Watch here.
“The Return” is set for 40 days before the presidential election, and on the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower, in the days of America’s founding and dedication to God. Surrounding the “The Day of Return” on Sept. 26 at the Washington Mall will be 10 days, known from ancient times as the Days of Awe, to be set as a special time of prayer and repentance from Sept. 18-28.
Coordinated events within “The Return” movement will also take place throughout America’s cities, towns, houses of worship and homes, as well as in multiple countries around the world, as many believe the nation has been given a critical window of opportunity to repent and return to God.