Archive for May, 2007

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Revival Is Not Far From the Heart of Teens

May 30, 2007

I have been involved in two revivals first-hand. My initial experience was when I became a Christian during the so-called “Canadian Revival” of 1971 in Western Canada. It was a startling revival, filled with signs such as healing, prophecy and miracles, along with a deep sense of conviction of sin. The second revival I experienced as a pastor when my small congregation tripled in size due to the outpouring of the Spirit of God. In that revival, we saw miracles, marriages restored, hearts renewed and a general sense of worship and awe.

In both cases, it was the teenagers that reacted most fervently to it all. I learned later they were the ones praying hardest for God to pour out his Spirit.

I have many books on revival in my study. As I searched them the last week or so (mainly because my heart yearns for true revival in Sacramento) I read about so many revivals that were born by the midwifery of prayer through teenagers. One of those accounts is from Duncan Campbell, a man known for being at the center of two great Scottish revivals: Midargyl and the Hebrides Islands. But at one point between the two revivals, he personally fell away from the power of God and was not used by God very much at all. It is during that time, he recounts what changed his heart and readied him for the second revival. It was his teenage daughter:

Then one day…oh, how I thank God for that day…my young daughter came to me…thank God for her…a girlie of sixteen years of age—she came to me and said, “Daddy, I would like to see you in your study. I’ve been praying for you, Daddy. I want to speak to you.” And she took me to my study, and she threw herself on my knees, as daughters sometimes do. She put her arms around my neck, and I can still see the tears streaming from her eyes, as she said, “Daddy, when you were a pilgrim in the Faith Mission, after the 1st World War, you saw revival in Scotland. You saw revival! Daddy, how is it that God is not using you in revival today? Tell me, Daddy, when did you last lead a soul to Christ?”

Thank God for faithful daughters! And I tell you, dear people, that shook me. Oh, it shook me! I knew! I knew! Campbell, a convention speaker…Campbell, the evangelistic minister…in his study smashed and broken by a question from his daughter.

Listen, I was booked to address the Keswick Convention that year. I went to the convention. Oh, the deceit of the human heart. I went to the convention and I had my address. And I was so thankful when it was over. The words kept ringing in my ears, “When did you last lead a soul to Christ? When did you last lead a soul to Christ?”

Determined to Leave the Ministry

Then God in His own wonderful way moved Dr. Tom Fitch to depart from the address that he had prepared and give his own personal testimony. Dr. Fitch gave his personal testimony and I went home resolved that unless God would do something for me and give me back what I lost, that I certainly would resign from the ministry. I was absolutely decided on that!

So, in going home, I said to my wife and daughter, “I’m going to my study and I want you to leave me alone. I’m going to seek a meeting with God.”

And I went to my study. I shut the door. I put the rug down on the floor in front of the fire and I lay on the rug. I cannot take time to tell you all that God said to me in that hour. I’m thankful to say that He spoke to me the word of pardon, and the word of forgiveness, and the word of re-commission.

I cried, “God, won’t you give me again what you gave me on the battlefield?” And listen, friends, God did it!

My daughter came in at 2:00 in the morning. She lay down beside me and she said, “Daddy, whatever it costs, go through with God.” And I said, “Sheena, I’m going through whatever it may cost.”

Cost to Pride

And God knows what it cost me—to stand in my pulpit the following Sunday and make a public apology for pretending what I was not in the midst of my congregation. Five of my office bearers left me within a week. They wouldn’t have a fool in the pulpit.

Oh, that may happen. It sometimes happens, you see, in revival, that there’s a subtraction before addition.

Baptized with Love and Power

But listen, friends, as I lay there, God the Holy Ghost came upon me. Wave after wave came rolling over me until the love of God swept through me like a mighty river! So much so, that there were moments…now listen, my daughter beside me put her hand on my shoulders and she prayed, “Oh, God, keep his reason to Daddy.” I was never more sane in my life! But I was so wrought upon by the Holy Ghost that I cried and I laughed and I prayed.

If you know teenagers who love Jesus, will you have them read this with an open heart. God seems to choose young people to do his bidding because often us oldsters get used to religion that we have forgotten the radical nature of revival.

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Manipulating Truth

May 29, 2007

In a recent entry on Christianity Today’s popular blog, “Out of Ur”, the author quoted a popular Emerging Church leader Darrin Patrick from a message he gave at Marc Driscoll’s Re-Emergence conference held in Seattle. In that message, Patrick quotes a number of statistics that he has supposedly gleaned from Focus on the Family and Barna Research Groups concerning divorces among pastors. The startling result he claims is that 50% of all pastoral marriages end in divorce. This is now the fourth time I have read that statistic in the past few months and at least I know where he got it from.

As far as I can tell by exhaustive research, he made it up!

I first heard about the stat from a message on Driscoll’s podcast site. When I originally heard it I intinctively knew it wasn’t true. I know a lot of pastors and I have sat on committees where we helped struggling pastors with their marriages. The numbers did not even come close to half the pastors I know. Then, in the next few weeks, I saw the same stat show up on a couple of pastor’s wives websites which are dedicated to helping the pastoral marriage. I decided to do some research.

I contacted the websites of the pastor’s wives circle and they directed me back to Driscoll for the stat. I contacted their office, but they couldn’t tell me where he got the stat. I then read something by Barna, where he says that he doesn’t believe the long-held stat about all marriages ending in divorce at a 50% clip is even close to true. He goes through the evidence and shows that the numbers are skewed, but we can believe more accurately in a figure of 25%. His research team has done the statistics on this and concluded that church-going people have an even lower level of divorce, not exceeding twenty per cent. This is what Barna says in public, so I was really skeptical now.

If the average church attender divorces twenty per cent of the time, are we to believe that pastors do it more than twice as often?

Then I checked out the site where Christianity Today got the information from Darrin Patrick. Patrick refers the readers to Marc Driscoll’s site, who then refers the readers to Darrin Patrick’s site. If you’re confused, let me end the confusion. From all I can figure, either Driscoll or Patrick made up this statistic. I know why they would do it. Their subject at the conference was the pastor’s family and all the stresses laid upon it. They were trying to show how much we need to have support as pastors for one another. I won’t call someone a liar, but someone at that conference gave “evangelastically” improved statistics.

It wouldn’t be the first time that has happened, I venture, even from the pulpit. So what is wrong with stating such wayward stats? Just this: they tend to become reality the more you use them. Barna warns that the inaccurate measurement of divorce statistics for society in general may have made divorce more palatable to the ones who read the statistics. It is amazing how much better we feel about something if we read that everyone else is doing it. Our mothers asked us that age-old question: “If all your friends jumped off the bridge, would you jump off too?” We all know the answer to that, don’t we? We might.

I believe that if this misguided figure of 50% pastoral marriage failure keeps getting put out there for public consumption, some poor pastor and his wife might consider it as an option where they might not have thought of it before.

Scary what misinformation can do, isn’t it?

UPDATE: in reviewing the comments here, I have spent several more hours checking out sites that you, the readers, have sent me. In over 40 contact points, the information still comes out the same: Someone has made these statistics up. It may not have been Driscoll or Patrick, but no one has yet shown a set of original research stats that can definitively say pastoral marriages end in divorce at a 50% clip. I am not even sure how they would be able to measure that. They can’t do it through census data. And when people marry, they are not required to announce their profession. At last check, our denominational headquarters has never been asked for the statistics on divorces within our group of pastors – and we are the ninth largest organization of pastors in America. I doubt anyone has done the study. It would take years and be exhaustive and everyone in the pastoral profession would have heard something about it. Believe me, we are a very clandestine group – everything gets around very quickly when it’s really happening. In 1985, Leadership magazine began doing a survey about pastors and inappropriate sexual activity. Though I was never interviewed, I heard from at least a dozen guys they were doing it. The results also surprised a lot of non-pastors, but none of the pastors. And this was on a subject that most people would have had to answer anonymously (a much harder statistic to collect by the way).

The long and short of this discussion is that I would like someone to show me where this study was done which shows pastoral marriages ending at a 50% rate. Then I will go quietly into the night and start a ministry to help save pastoral marriages (or at least start a country-wide prayer meeting to pray for pastors).

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Asking Evolutionists To Own All Their Theory

May 25, 2007

Stephen Webb, professor of religion and philosophy at Wabash College has written a dead-on article in the latest issue of “First Things” Journal about the ultimate implications of Evolutionary theory and its proponents.

His first paragraph really lays down the hammer:

The dirty Darwinian secret is now out of the closet: If evolution is true, then it must be true about everything. Most Darwinians used to be very restrained about the relevance of their theory for cultural and moral issues, for obvious reasons. If evolution is true about everything, then randomness and competition are the foundations for the highest human ideals as well as the lowest organic life forms. Scientists have trouble enough restricting Darwinism to biology. What if that restriction is unscientific? What parents would want their children being taught that Darwinism explains not only speciation but also altruism?

In the rest of the article, he discusses the views of several biological and non-biological evolutionists. It appears that Evolutionists have finally braved the world of implication and reality. Instead of confining their theory to what may have happened in mankind’s history, they now bring the whole theory to where you and I live.

Now they are beginning to ask the questions that they should have asked a century ago: What makes us love, have babies, work at the jobs we do, go to church, give to the poor, spend our money or save it, go to war, value beauty and end our lives? They try to explain these things following two primary conceptual straight-edges:

1. What mankind holds onto makes us stronger
2. Anything which makes us weaker as a species eventually disappears.

What you get when you read the implications of evolutionists is that we are completely determined by our biological destiny and there isn’t a blasted thing we can do about it. They are more Calvinist than Calvin and less optimistic. Ultimately, we are determined only by our genetic makeup and the fittest will ultimately (and should ultimately) survive.

What they have failed for a century to admit is that there is no reason for any of us to recognize right or wrong. If we simply encourage everyone to do what they want to do, the resulting species of man will be stronger and more able to survive what the Universe will throw at it. It explains why the Turkish people in 1915 killed 2 million Armenians and why the Hutus and Tutsis used each other so sadistically in 1994. Apparently they needed to be “culled from the herd” as good evolutionary nomenclature would frame it.

If that sounds like a rude, brash and heartless paragraph, remember that it represents Evolution at its most bold and honest moment. There is no real reason to do anything to help another person unless that somehow biologically is your destiny. Then you have no choice but to help them. Don’t talk anyone out of suicide, unless you want to…and that isn’t anything you can claim as a virtue…you are simply helping out the survival of the human race. But perhaps you would allow another person to die because he ought to be eliminated from the human race as a weakling.

This, by the way, is the same logic used in World War 2 when the scientists in Germany proposed that all mental patients be incinerated along with those with spinal cord injuries. These were the weaklings diluting the purity of the Aryan Race. Selective attempts at Evolutionary manipulation have been condemned, but no one has ever explained what makes these genocidal experiments wrong by evolution standards. Aren’t the strong surviving? Aren’t the fittest proving it by their victory?

Christianity stands opposed to Evolution, not just on scientific grounds, but because it does not meet one basic minimum standard for the human race: It gives us no internal sense of hope or freedom. There is no hope in Evolution because we have no way of believing that our lives mean anything at all or that we aren’t one of the weaker parts that need to be eliminated. There is no freedom because our biology already determines how we will act, feel, think and decide.

Christianity says that God loves us, protects us and offers us a better way in relationship with Him. His rules are laid out to protect the weak and give hope to the hopeless. Darwinian Evolution would allow the weak to waste away.

Now that all the cards are on the table, which hand would you rather play: Evolution’s or God’s?

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I Could Be A Weatherman…

May 19, 2007

…or many other professions for that matter, if I based it upon the expertise coming from the National Weather Service.

Here is what they say about the weather in the Midwest during June:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Temperatures and precipitation in the Midwest have an equal chance of being above or below normal in June, the National Weather Service said in its latest monthly forecast released on Thursday.That pattern could linger through August for the nation’s key grain growing regions, U.S. weather forecasters said. Regions which could have a hotter-than-normal summer include the East and West Coasts and the coastal areas on the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, June precipitation on the coasts could be either above or below normal, the Weather Service forecast.

Let me take a crack at the stock market: “During June, stocks have an equal chance of going up or down”. Or the NBA playoffs, “Detroit, San Antonio, Salt Lake or Cleveland may win the championship”.

My name may or may not be Mike and I may or may not have written some part of this.

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Freakonomics is Right Again

May 15, 2007

One of the books I loved last year was Freakonomics. The authors attempted to explain societal phenomena by looking at pieces of data that no one else was examining. For instance, they sought to see a connection between falling violent crime rates and abortion rates. The authors, for instance, had predicted that violent crime would begin to fall in the mid-90s and level off around 2003/2004. That is exactly what happened. Government would love to tell you it was because of their programs and ground-breaking initiatives. Instead, because of abortion rates, less babies were born to single-parent and poverty-stricken homes, thereby causing the population to fall below the critical mass needed to raise crime rates among the groups most likely to commit crimes.

They also predicted that in 2006, the violent crime rate would rise. Unfortunately, they were right again. Go to this article to see the results. One paragraph is very telling:

Many youths have little parental oversight and are too easily influenced by gang membership and glamorized violence in popular culture.

As you read that, know what you’re seeing: “little parental oversight” means a working mom and no dad. “Influenced by gang membership” equals poverty and minorities and father figures among gang membership.

How did Freakonomics predict this? They looked at when the abortion rate started to fall. And then they just added 16 years to that number and here is where we are at.

How can we interpret this? As one who does not think abortion is a viable option for society’s ills, it is a disturbing trend to say the least. There is no doubt at all that violent crime is heavily tied to increase in gang membership. And the link between poor, single-parent families and gang involvement is also well established. As with many things in life, the real answer is more complicated than a few numbers can answer for us. It is a spiritual condition that has deteriorated since the late 1950s. I see four contributing factors:

1. A church in the 1950s that was more concerned with educating children in Bible stories than in teaching parents how to raise their kids.

2. A society that wanted to marginalize God so that the “free love” and drug cultures could be dominant. Well, the consequence of those moves is unwanted pregnancy, drug addiction and single-parent households.

3. The abortion debate that has lost its moral center for both sides at times.

4. The loss of a prayer focus in churches for the culture. Instead, prayer is now focused upon the needs of people instead of society as a whole. We are more concerned with being prosperous and praying the “Prayer of Jabez” instead of praying for the school down the block. Our prayer warriors used to be lead by our retirees in churches. Now those same people are watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune every night.

I just hope that Freakonomics is wrong in its next few predictions.

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An Explanation on my Weight

May 11, 2007

As many of you know, I grew up and lived in Canada until about 17 years ago. One thing that has troubled, confused and pummeled me in recent years is that I weigh about 15 pounds more now than when I was living in Canada.

Theories abound on why this is. But this new one is my favorite. Read it here.

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This Story Will Grip Your Heart

May 8, 2007

Here is a posting of a story that I cannot get out of my mind. Tip of the hat to Michelle Van A. who told me about it:

Update: Here is an audio version of this story with slides. It might be easier to take in as Frank Jenner reads the story! But if you’re a reader, follow below:

This all started a number of years ago in a Baptist church in Crystal Palace in South London. The Sunday morning service was closing and a man stood up at the back and raised his hand and said: “Excuse me pastor can I share a short testimony?” The pastor looked at his watch and said “You have three minutes.” The man proceeded with his story: “I’ve just moved into this area. I used to live in Sydney Australia. Just a few months back I was visiting some relatives and I was walking down George Street. You know where George Street is in Sydney going from the Business Area out to the colonial area. A strange little white haired man stepped out from a shop doorway, put a pamphlet in my hand and said: ‘Excuse me sir, are you saved, if you die tonight are you going to heaven?’ “I was astounded by these words. No one had ever asked me that. I thanked him courteously and all the way home to London this puzzled me. I called a friend and thank God he was a Christian and he led me to Christ.”
The Baptists love testimonies like that. Everyone applauded and welcomed him into their fellowship.

The Baptist pastor flew to Adelaide, Australia the next week and 10 days later in the middle of a three day series in a Baptist church in Adelaide, a woman came up to him for some counseling. He wanted to establish where she stood with Christ. She said “I used to live in Sydney and just a couple of months back I was visiting some friends in Sydney and doing some last minute shopping down George Street. A strange little white haired man stepped out of a shop doorway and offered me a pamphlet and said ‘Excuse me madam, are you saved, if you die tonight are you going to heaven?’ “I was disturbed by those words. When I got home to Adelaide, I knew this Baptist church was on the next block from me. I sought out the pastor and he led me to Christ. So I am telling you that I am a Christian.”
The London pastor was now very puzzled. Twice in two weeks he had heard the same testimony. He then flew to preach in the Mount Pleasant Church in Perth. When his teaching series was over the senior elder of that Church took him out for a meal and he asked the elder how he got saved. “I grew up in this church from the age of 15. I never made a commitment to Jesus, just hopped on the bandwagon like everyone else. Because of my business ability I grew up to a place of influence. I was on a business trip to Sydney just three years ago. An obnoxious spiteful little man stepped out of a shop doorway, offered me a religious pamphlet and accosted me with a question: ‘Excuse me sir, are you saved, if you die tonight are you going to heaven?’ I tried to tell him I was a Baptist elder. He wouldn’t listen to me. I was seething with anger all the way home from Sydney to Perth. I told my pastor, thinking that he would sympathize, but he agreed. He had been disturbed for years knowing that I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus, and he was right. My pastor led me to Jesus just three years ago.”
The London preacher flew home and was soon speaking at the Keswick conventions in the Lake District and he threw in these three testimonies. At the close of this teaching series, four elderly pastors came up and explained that they too had been saved between 25 and 30 years earlier through that same little man on George Street, offering them a pamphlet and asking that same question.

The following week he flew to a similar Keswick convention in the Caribbean to missionaries. He shared the same testimonies. At the close of his teaching three missionaries came forward and said that they had also been saved between 15 and 25 years earlier by that same little man’s testimony and the same question on George Street in Sydney.
Next he stopped in Atlanta, Georgia to speak at a Naval Chaplain convention. Here for three days he spoke to over 1000 Naval Chaplains. Afterwards the Chaplain General took him out for a meal and he asked the Chaplain how he became a Christian. “It was miraculous. I was a rating on a Naval battleship and I lived a reprobate life. We were doing exercises in the South Pacific and we docked at Sydney harbour for replenishments. We hit King’s Cross with a vengeance. I was blind drunk, got on the wrong bus and got off in George Street. As I got off the bus, I thought I saw a ghost as this man jumped out in front of me, pushed a pamphlet in my hand and said, ‘Sailor, are you saved, if you die tonight are you going to heaven?’ The fear of God hit me immediately. I was shocked sober, ran back to the ship and sought out the Chaplain. He led me to Christ. I soon began to prepare for the ministry under his guidance. I am now in charge of 1000 chaplains who are bent on soul winning today.”
Six months later that London pastor flew to a conference for 5,000 Indian missionaries in a remote part of NE India. At the end the head missionary took him to his humble little home for a simple meal. He asked how he as a Hindu came to Christ.

“I grew up in a very privileged position; I worked in the Indian Diplomatic Mission and I traveled the world. I am so glad for the forgiveness of Christ and blood covering my sin. I would be very embarrassed if people found out what I got into. One period of diplomatic service took me to Sydney. I was doing some last minute shopping, laden with toys and clothes for my children. I was walking down George Street when a courteous white haired little man stepped out in front of me and offered me a pamphlet and said ‘Excuse me sir, are you saved, if you die tonight are you going to heaven?’ I thanked him very much but this disturbed me. I got back to my town, sought out our Hindu priest. He couldn’t help me, but he advised me that to satisfy my curious mind, I should go and talk to the missionary in the mission home at the end of road. That was good advice because that day the missionary led me to Christ. I quit Hinduism immediately and began to prepare for ministry. I left the Diplomatic Service and here I am today, by God’s grace in charge of all these missionaries who have together led 100.000 people to Christ.”

Eight months later that London Pastor was preaching in Sydney. He asked the local Baptist Minister if he knew of a little elderly white haired man who handed out tracts on George Street. He replied, “Yes I do, his name is Mr. Jenner, although I don’t think he does it any more because he is so frail and elderly.”
Two nights later they went to meet him in his little apartment. They knocked on the door and this tiny frail old man greeted them. He sat them down and made them tea. He was so frail that he was slopping the tea into the saucer as his hands shook. The London preacher sat there and told him of all these accounts from the previous three years. This little man sat with tears running down his cheeks. He told them his story.
“I was a rating on an Australian warship. I was living a reprobate life. In a crisis I really hit the wall. One of my colleagues, to whom I gave literal hell, was there to help me. He led me to Jesus and the change in my life was night to day in 24 hours. I was so grateful to God; I promised God that I would share Jesus in a simple witness with at least 10 people a day. As God gave me strength I did that. Sometimes I was ill and couldn’t do it, but I made up for the days I missed it at other times. I wasn’t paranoid about it. I have done this for over 40 years. In my retirement years, the best place was on St. George Street where I saw hundreds of people a day. I got lots of rejections, but a lot of people courteously took the tract. In 40 years of doing this, I have never heard of one single person coming to Jesus until today.”

You know, I would say that he has to be committed To show gratitude and love for Jesus to do that for 40 years and not hear of any results. That simple little non-charismatic Baptist man witnessed to perhaps 147,000 people. I think that God was showing that Baptist pastor from London was the tip of the tip of the tip of the iceberg. Goodness knows how many more had been arrested for Christ, doing huge jobs out in the mission fields.
Mr. Jenner died two weeks later. Can you imagine the reward when he went home to be in Heaven? I doubt his face would ever have appeared on Charisma Magazine. I doubt there would ever have been a photograph and a write up in Billy Graham’s Decision magazine. No one except a little group of Baptists in Sydney knew about Mr. Jenner, but I tell you his name was famous in Heaven. Heaven knew Mr. Jenner and you can imagine the welcome and Red Carpet and the fanfare that he received when he went home to Glory.

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