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SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #587 ---- 3/9/09
Title: "Biblical Revival -- Part Two (Evidences
There Is The Need -- 4)
Dear Friend and Fellow Pilgrim Partner:
Today I bring greetings from the home of my brother-in-law, Bill Carson, in
beautiful Tucson, AZ where Jo Ann and I are enjoying a time of fellowship and
memories during a twelve-day journey through the State. It will be our
privilege on this trip to have visited with family and friends, and to have
spoken in one of the churches that has supported our ministry for several
years. Jo Ann wanted to visit family that we've not seen in seven years,
and especially to visit with her brother who had lost his wife last year, and
also to see her oldest sister who was confined in a care home with Parkinson's
Unfortunately, as Jo Ann and I were taking a brief break in Sedona, she
received a phone call that the sister she had hoped to see had gone home to be
with the Lord just an hour earlier. So, our trip carries a bit of sadness
with it as we participate in a memorial service for her this coming
Wednesday. We return to our home in Missouri Friday night.
+ I'd appreciate your prayer for me. Last week, just before we
left on this trip, I fell off a ladder, landing on a pile of boxes, metal
storage cases, and small table. I don't recall hitting my arm at all, but
landed on my back. However, my right forearm has been very sore and I've
had some measure of immobility when moving or twisting it in certain
directions. Also, lifting with my forearm is extremely painful.
Because of the trip, I've been unable to see my doctor, and it looks like at
least another week or more before that is possible.
+ Here's an interesting article about membership declines and growth
among various religious groups in the country. What would your explanation
Church yearbook counts fewer Catholics,
Associated Press - 3/1/2009 4:00:00 AM
A yearbook published by the National Council of Churches
says U.S. membership in the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist
Convention declined slightly in 2007. The Yearbook of American
and Canadian Churches says the Roman Catholic Church remained the nation's
largest body of believers, with 67 million members. But from 2006 to 2007, it
lost almost 400,000 members. Southern Baptists -- the second largest U.S.
church -- reported 16.2 million members, a loss of nearly 40,000 from the year
Also reporting declines were the United Church of Christ,
the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and
the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Churches reporting growth include the
Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Assemblies of God, and the Church of God of
Any thoughts as to why this is happening?
Now on to a continuation of our series on revival:
EVIDENCES FOUR AND FIVE:
We began this series by addressing five reasons why I believe revival is
needed in the Church today:
1. Our own bankrupt
condition demands the need for revival.
2. The Great Commission
cannot logistically or mathematically be fulfilled without revival in the
3. The conditions and
snares of the world will swallow us up if we are not revived
4. We cannot survive what
is ahead for us without revival. A carnally minded church or person will
cave in to what we are going to face.
5. Experiencing revival
will hasten the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Over the past two letters, then, I have specifically discussed three
of five crystal-clear evidences that indicate the need for a powerful move of
God. The five evidences are . . . Theological, Historical, Trust in
Artificial Successes, Societal Indicators, and Christian Lifestyle. We've
already examined the theological, historical, and societal evidences, so today
will conclude by looking at some unreliable things we seem to depend on to
gauge supposed successes, and then at the flagrantly compromising way in which
many Christians live their lives, violating God's standard but with little or no
sense of conviction or shame.
+ Artificial Successes
Evidences: My mind is immediately drawn to three mental pictures when
I consider the matter of how the Church seems to so frequently look to visible
material things as a means of measuring its success. First is the
early Roman Church that led eventually to the Dark Ages and
beyond. Secondly, the contemporary church culture as we see
it displayed before our very eyes not only in America, but around the
world. Finally, we examine Jesus Christ's rebuke to such a church in
Laodicea as recorded in Rev 3:14-22. All three project the fact that,
in spite of our best intentions, many followers of Jesus Christ have been
deceived in our day by the exact same temptations that Adam and Eve
faced in the Garden, and which Jesus victoriously conquered at the Cross .
. . that of doing something, having something, or being somebody other than that
which God created us to do, have, and be.
It seems that the criteria which Jesus identified as a standard of
measuring both the spiritual condition and the effectiveness of the ministry of
the church is very different from what we generally use for such
evaluation. We tend to concentrate on size, denominational identity,
facilities, leadership recognition, numerical statistics, growth, and the
like. If we, however, would take a moment to think that through, we could
easily agree that some of the most carnal, shallow, and worldly churches
are also at times some of the largest and fastest growing. The Church has
unfortunately discovered that people generally seek pleasure and comfort before
they seek truth.
The poll noted earlier illustrates our tendency to measure
spiritual vitality by means other than simple Biblical standards of
measurement. Whereas Jesus used criteria such as love, ministry, prayer,
surrender, obedience, and the like. we find ourselves often caught in the trap
of comparisons, calculations, and catchy phrases. This is certainly
nothing new. Paul, for example, had some very strong words to say to one
of the earliest churches to have been planted following the Great Persecution in
Jerusalem, . . . namely the church in Corinth. After only a few
introductory remarks of greeting and affirmation in his first letter to them, he
then weighs in on their worldly condition and their need for a fresh move of
repentance and abandonment to the presence and power of the Christ they
professed to love and follow. Look at what he has to say ----
"I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was
given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in
all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was
confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly
the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall also confirm you to the
end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Cor 1:4-8)
He continues, "Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our
Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but
you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For
I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there
are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is
saying, 'I am of Paul,' and 'I of Apollos,' and 'I of Cephas,' and 'I of
Christ.' Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for
you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" (I Cor
Moving on to the third chapter following his description of his own
ministry, He tells them they are actually conducting themselves as unconverted
people (3:1-3), and then spends the rest of his letter correcting them and
clarifying things regarding ten different matters. Even though they failed
to recognize it, this early infant church was still being guided by the world
system around it out of which it had been birthed, and was looking at outward
evidences to validate its supposed successes when, in actual reality and
practice, they were shallow, immature, and desperately in need of a renewing
that would radically change their values, their attitudes, and their
Compare Paul's instructions to the Corinthian to other churches such as the
Church at Colossae and at Ephesus; it's a far different tone Paul expresses as
he commends them for their maturity, their insight, and their abandoned
obedience to Christ.
Take a look at the scripture to which I referred earlier . . . Rev
3:14-22. Many people believe that the description of the "Seven Churches"
in Asia Minor were actually sequencial eras of time leading from the early
Church days to the condition of the Church just before Christ's
return. Others believe it related to the specific churches that existed at
the time of John's Revelation. Others feel that those seven churches are
representative of the primary types of churches that exist today.
Regardless of who is correct, there is little doubt that the characteristics of
the Laodicean Church certainly fit the condition we see today in much of the
Church. Look at what the Lord Himself says:
"And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the
faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says
this: 'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that
you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor
cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, "I am rich,
and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you
are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to
buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments,
that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be
revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.
"Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and
repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and
opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with
Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My
throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He
who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.' " (Rev
Several remarks help us understand the spiritual deadness of this Church,
so characteristic of many churches in our day. It seems that most of them
expose the fact that this group of people failed to recognize some things that
were true while, at the same time, they concluded some things that were not
First, they had apparently forgotten that God knows the real truth
about them, no matter how hard they try to cover it up with a "form of
godliness" (3:15). Second, they failed to see their own true
condition, and thought everything was great when it wasn't (3:15-17). They
thought they were vibrant and on fire when in fact they were a bland tepid
condition that caused both sides to wonder who they really were . . . neither
hot nor cold, but only luke warm. They thought they were spiritual rich,
when in fact, they were spiritually bankrupt (3:17). They thought they
looked great when in actuality they were a naked embarrassment to the things of
God (3:17). They thought they had everything figured out and saw things in
reality, when the truth was they were spiritually blind and walking in total
The Lord's admonition was simple and precise . . . come to the refining
fires, come to the cleansing blood, come to the covering righteousness, and come
to the healing touch of the One Who is to rightfully be your One and Only First
Love. The Savior concludes with a reassuring commitment, . . .
"I rebuke those I love" . . . , and an impassioned offer, . . .
"Repent! Here I am at the door, wanting in. Open the door!
I'll come in to stay. I'll change you." (3:19-20).
It is clear that these passages bear a striking resemblance to much of
today's Church. Most of us have depended on false measurements to
determine our level of success and spiritual maturity. Perhaps these false
indicators of success or spirituality can be categorized with words such as
Purpose, Possessions, Power, and Motives. You see, it's not as much about
actions and forms and structures as it is about heart attitude. It's about
where the heart has placed its allegiance and devotion. Unfortunately, too
much of the church has affections that are graphically misplaced.
Sometimes it's impossible to discern the Church from the world around
+ Lifestyle Evidences:
Unfortunately, and certainly heart-breaking to our Lord Jesus Christ, many of us
do more than just struggle with periodic temptations to stray. Some of us
have become too comfortable with our surroundings. Like the Children of
Israel in Babylon, we've even hung our harps on the willows of this world,
content to at least endure, and perhaps even feast on the luxuries of religious
Babylon while still clinging to the past awareness of what it used to be like .
. . and should be again.
Tragically, much of the Church is in such a spiritually bankrupt condition
that it has adopted the world's values as not only something to be tolerated,
but even to be acceptable . . . and practiced. We've renamed things,
categorized things, justified things, excused things, and rationalized things so
much that it's almost impossible to find any kind of a "sin"
anymore. Lying and cheating are commonplace, undependability and
broken promises are overlooked as insignificant, disobedience to God's Word is
expected, crude talk and vulgarity are seen as the norm and as unimportant
to God, biblical stewardship is treated as a good idea for some, but only an
option that you can either take or leave, neglect of the poor, widows, and
orphans are excused with the confidence that others will do it, common
Christian civility between fellow believers is seen as an exception and a
luxury, gossip and backbiting go unrebuked, . . . the list goes on and on . . .
and there seems to be no heart to deal with any of it.
So, is it unreasonable to think that the Church needs a genuine awakening
and spiritual shake-up? I believe it's a need of the highest order.
Yesterday, another brother-in-law, also named Bill, preached in the
church services where he and his wife are members. Bill was a successful
Christian business man who had already reached retirement age when God called
him to preach. He and Jo Ann's sister, Dot, have ministered across
America, living in their travel trailer for months at a time. For the past
fourteen years he served as the pastor of a vacation mobile home park church
which they started. Yesterday was my first opportunity to hear him
preach. He spoke on the subject, "Why Do You Love Jesus?", based
on John 21:15-19. In the course of the message, he referred to Paul's
admonition in Romans 12:9 as to how our love for Christ must be genuine.
As is often the case when I am listening to another preacher, I tend to
read the surrounding text. As I read through the rest of that chapter, I
realized I was actually reviewing what the proper lifestyle of a follower of
Christ should be like. Beginning with verse nine, we see (depending
on how you punctuate it) as many as thirty distinct admonitions as to
how we are to conduct ourselves . . . not as an ideal, but as a practical way of
life. Look at what Paul says:
"Let love be without hypocrisy. (12:9)
"Abhor what is evil; (12:9)
"Cling to what is good. (12:9)
"Be devoted to one
another in brotherly love; (12:10)
"Give preference to one another in honor; (12:10)
lag behind in diligence, (12:11)
"Be fervent in spirit, (12:11)
"Serve the Lord; (12:11)
"Rejoice in hope,
"Persevere in tribulation, (12:12)
"Be devoted to prayer, (12:12)
"Contribute to the needs of
the saints, (12:13)
"Practice hospitality. (12:13)
"Bless those who persecute
you; bless and curse not. (12:14)
"Rejoice with those who rejoice,
and weep with those who weep. (12:15)
"Be of the same mind toward
one another; (12:16)
"Do not be haughty in mind, (12:16)
"Associate with the lowly. (12:16)
"Do not be wise in your own estimation. (12:16)
back evil for evil to anyone. (12:17)
"Respect what is right in the sight of all men. (12:17)
possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
"Never take your own revenge, beloved, (12:19)
"Leave room for the wrath of God, (12:19).
enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink;
"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
. . . and, the list continues on into the next chapter. Paul not only
addressed these issues with the believers in Rome, but in similar fashion to
virtually every church and church leader to whom he wrote. And, isn't it
ironic, that these very instructions from the greatest of the apostles, pulsate
with the very teachings of Jesus Himself as He taught kingdom principles to His
disciples and onlookers through the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, and the
kingdom parables. This is not just coincidental. That should be a
clue that something is amiss, and something is critically important.
What Jesus is trying to tell us is that a believer is expected to live a
life that is different . . . a life that will cause an unbeliever to take
notice, Not because of what he claims to believe, but rather in how he lives out
his life on a practical level every day.
And the very absence of these qualities is further indication of just how
desperately the Church needs a reviving touch from God, . . . beginning with
those of us who are identified as leaders in our churches.
Because of the comments of a longtime friend, I am re-evaluating the
appropriateness of the word, "Revival" . . . a word which, incidentally, Jesus
never used, and which cannot be found in the New Testament. My friend's
contention is that "revival" is not what is really needed, but rather it is the
release of the very life of Christ in our lives in ways that transform the way
we think and the way we live. So, is it possible that what we're really
talking about here is the need for the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ to once
again submit itself totally and without revocation to its Head, Christ
Himself? As my friend says, "Nobody acts like Jesus quite like
And that's what the Church needs to experience . . . and what the world
needs to see.
We have the evidence of theology, of history, of false and faulty
measurements of success, of societal conditions, and of the lifestyles of
contemporary Christian conduct.
Some will have read today's letter through the cloud of intellectual
boredom; others will read it as an ideal impossible to realize. Some,
though, may find it to be a probing exercise that motivates them to take notice
. . . and then take action. I hope you are the latter type.
Oh, how a fresh touch from God is needed! Oh, how
desperately we need to allow Christ to return to His rightful rule as Lord and
Master! If that happens, the world will take notice.
In His Bond, By His Grace, and For His Kingdom,
Bob Tolliver -- Romans 1:11
Copyright March, 2009
Life Unlimited Ministries
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Resources on Middle East, Israel, Bible
www.sidroth.org -- excellent website
on Israel, especially evidences of God's supernatural intervention
comprehensive site on Jewish history including famed "Crash Course In Jewish
www.bible.christianity.com an excellent general
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www.livinit.org a super source for
Christian extreme sports witness to youth
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www.e-sword.net ---- one of the best
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