Do You Really Want God to Rend the Heavens?

By Shane Idleman

Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down!

— Isaiah 64:1

Decades ago, Gordon Cove challenged readers when he wrote, “You have not sought the Lord with ‘your whole heart’ until you have tried a protracted season of prayer and fasting.” Could a lack of prayer and fasting be one of the hindrances to a spiritual awakening? Absolutely! Desperate times call for desperate measures. A full stomach makes seeking God difficult, prayer hard, and worship challenging.

Cove continues, “In many cases, where fasting has been added to the prayers, along with deep consecration and weeping before God, the answer has miraculously come to hand.” Fasting doesn’t twist God’s arm, but it does bend my knee. Fasting isn’t a work; it’s exchanging one appetite for a greater one.

The Spark that Ignites the Flame

My goal isn’t to overemphasize fasting, but it’s clear that fasting has fallen by the wayside and King Stomach is still on the throne. In reading about the spiritual renewals under the preaching of John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Duncan Campbell, Evan Roberts, and the Puritans, as well as those in the First and Second Great Awakenings, I have found that, along with keeping the Word of God front and center, intense prayer and vigorous fasting were the sparks that ignited the flame. God heard the cry of His children. Fasting is more about desperation than discipline. 

Granted, in the same way that we cannot produce a field of corn by making it rain, a spiritual awakening cannot be orchestrated. It’s God’s work alone, but we can prepare the soil of our heart by fully surrendering our lives. God revives those who submit themselves to Him with open and empty hands (Isaiah 57:15).

Jesus said that when He is taken away, His disciples would fast—notice He said, “when you fast,” not “if you fast” (Matthew 9:15; see also 6:16). The excuses range from “It’s not for us today” and the infamous “I’m just not convicted about fasting” to my personal favorite: “Fasting is legalistic.” Leonard Ravenhill was famous for saying, “The things in the Bible that we don’t like we call legalism,” and that definitely applies to excuses about fasting.

A. W. Pink, in Gleanings from Joshua, said, “It would indeed be strange if we apprehended how that on the one hand Canaan was a free gift unto Israel, which they entered by grace alone; and on the other, that they had to fight for every inch of it!” Although we are totally dependent on God, a spiritual awakening will not come without a fight.

In the book of Joel, the people’s provisions had dried up and withered away. They were desperate and despondent, but God didn’t give up on them. To show the magnitude of their sin and the need for humility, God told Joel to consecrate a fast and cry out to Him. Crying out, fasting, and repentance were the sparks that ignited the flame (Joel 1:4–14; 2:12–17).

So Close, Yet So Far

Many people say that they desire a spiritual awakening, but when it actually happens, they are often the first to criticize it. A spiritual awakening, especially in a corporate setting, deeply affects emotions because sin is brought to the surface and spiritual deficiencies are brutally exposed. Unless a person’s heart is tender and pliable, they don’t like those things happening to them. As a result, they develop a hard heart to deep movements of the Spirit. If I had a dollar for everyone who left the church because worship was too emotional and convicting, I’d have a nice slush fund.

I’m shooting you straight: the biggest critics of revival will be those who need it the most. Because the doctrine of the Holy Spirit exposes their complacency and lack of spiritual fervor and fire, they prefer to only talk about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Word. How truly sad it islike a man dying of thirst in a boat on a beautiful lake but too scared to jump inThey are barren, dry, and thirsty yet so close to living water. 

Revival Has a Cost

I’ve released these closing paragraphs a few times over the years. The relevance is so important that I’d like to share it with those who may have never read it:

Nearly a decade ago, I prayed, “Lord, bring revival to the churches,” but I was not ready for the response that followed. After I prayed, it was almost as if God was saying, 

You don’t want revival—it will ruin your schedule, your dignity, your image, and your reputation as a person who is ‘well balanced.’ Men will weep throughout the congregation. Women will wail because of the travail of their own souls. Young adults will cry like children at the magnitude of their sin. With the strength of My presence, the worship team will cease playing. Time will seem to stand still. You won’t be able to preach because of the emotions flooding your own soul. You’ll struggle to find words but only find tears. Even the most dignified and reserved among you will be broken and humbled as little children. The proud and self-righteous will not be able to stand in My presence. The doubter and unbeliever will either run for fear or fall on their knees and worship Me—there can be no middle ground. The church will never be the same again.

Do you truly want revival? It will cost you. National revival begins with personal revival. We must look in the mirror, repent, and turn completely toward God. Take time now, and fully embrace His promises: “Return to Me, and I will return to you. If you seek Me, you will find Me. If you hunger, you will be filled. If you thirst, you will be satisfied.” We think that we are waiting on God, but often, He is waiting on us.*Excerpted from my series on revival and my new book, “Oh God, Would You Rend the Heavens? Understanding and Contending for a Genuine Spiritual Awakening.” More here

Can A Born Again Christian Fall Away and Be Lost?

  by 

Christians have debated for centuries over whether a truly saved person can lose their salvation. Probably the strongest Biblical passage for that position is Hebrews 6:4-6. This is what the text says,

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

 Now, exactly what does this passage mean? It seems to indicate that a saved person who has experienced all the blessings in vs.4-5 can in the end fall away and be lost. In this blog I want to refer you to two principles of Biblical interpretation:

1) Remember that Scripture will never contradict Scripture; and

2) Remember that context rules

Scripture Will Never Contradict Scripture:

That first rule of interpretation about Scripture not contradicting Scripture comes into play because there are other passages in Hebrews which seem to teach the opposite position. Let’s take a look at a few other passages which seem to teach that a born again Christian can’t lose their salvation, because they will persevere in faith to the end.

 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end (Heb. 3:14)

This text speaks about something that has already taken place (have become partakers of Christ) if the following condition is met (we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end). The text is not saying that we will become a partaker of Christ if we go on to hold fast the assurance of our faith until the end. Rather, we have already become partakers of Christ if we go on to persevere in faith. Thus, a person who does not hold fast their assurance firm until the end never became a partaker of Christ. Thus Hebrews 3:14 seems to be saying the exact opposite of Hebrews 6:4-6. Now, two mutually exclusive positions can not both be true. Either one of them is wrong, or both are wrong, but both can’t be true. Either it is possible for a true believer to fall away and lose their salvation, or it is not possible for a true believer to fall away and lose their salvation, but it is one or the other.

Furthermore, Hebrews 10:14 says, For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (ESV).

If it is true that Jesus’ offering up of Himself on the cross has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified, then it is not possible for those same persons to fall away and lose their salvation. For those who are indwelt, regenerated and sanctified by the Spirit, they possess a perfect standing before God based on the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, and it is “for all time”! They were not perfected until they fall away, but for all time.

Hebrews 13:20-21 tells us,

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen

This text mentions the “eternal covenant.” Well, in Jeremiah 32:40 we also read of the “everlasting covenant”, which I would presume refers to the same thing. What is the nature of the everlasting covenant?

I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me.

This covenant includes two things:

1) God will not turn away from them to do them good; and

2) Those with whom this everlasting covenant is made will not turn away from God because God will put the fear of Him in their hearts.

Now, if God promises that He will never turn away from them, and that they will never turn away from Him, what is our only conclusion? That these people will never fall away and be lost.

I’ve said all of this to highlight our first principle of Biblical interpretation – “remember that Scripture will never contradict Scripture.” It appears that Scripture is contradicting Scripture. But that’s just it. It must be only an appearance of a contradiction. Our understanding of one or more of these texts must be wrong, because God who inspired all of these texts is a God of truth, and doesn’t contradict Himself. So what are we to do? We need to go back to the drawing room, and decide if we have understood Hebrews 6:4-6 correctly.

Context Rules:

In order to do that, let’s utilize our second rule of Biblical interpretation – “remember that context rules.” So, let’s go back and look at the context of this passage to see if we can uncover any clues as to its proper interpretation.

Hebrews 5:11-14 – in this section we discover several things about the recipients of this letter.

1) they were dull of hearing

2) they should have advanced to teachers by then

3) instead they needed someone to teach them the elementary principles of the Word of God

4) they were spiritual infants and unable to consume anything except for milk

5) they were spiritually immature.

Now, remember the whole situation in which this letter was written. The Letter to the Hebrews was written to Jewish believers who were being tempted to forsake Christ and go back to Judaism. That’s why all the way through the author keeps emphasizing the word “better.” Christ is better than the angels, better than Moses, better than the Aaronic priesthood, He brings in a better covenant, a better hope, better promises, and is a better sacrifice. The author of this letter is urging these new Jewish believers not to forsake Christ and go back to Judaism, for that would mean their spiritual destruction.

Hebrews 6:1-3 – Here the author exhorts his readers to press on to maturity (vs. 1). In other words, they must make progress in their faith. They should have been at the point where they could be teaching others, but were still spiritual babies. They needed to mature.

Hebrews 6:4-6 – Notice that vs. 4 begins with the word “for”, which tells us that the author is giving us a reason why the readers must press on to maturity. It is because if they have received great and precious privileges and blessings, and then have fallen away, they are lost forever. This is a very serious and solemn passage. The author of Hebrews is urgently exhorting his readers to mature in their faith and bear fruit of their salvation, because it is possible that some of them who do not do this may “fall away” and prove that they were never truly saved to begin with.

But you might be thinking, “Brian, how in the world can verses 4-5 be speaking of a person who is not truly saved? Well, let’s look at them. What are these great blessings they had experienced?

1) Enlightenment

2) Tasted of the heavenly gift (probably the gift of the Holy Spirit- Acts 2:38)

3) Partakers of the Holy Spirit

4) Tasted the good word of God

5) Tasted the powers of the age to come

Notice that these readers had “tasted” several of these blessings. Is it possible for someone to taste something, swish it around in their mouth for a while, and then spit it out? Of course it is. No doubt these readers were participating in a Christian church in which the gospel was preached (enlightened, tasted the good word of God), and the power of the Holy Spirit was manifest (tasted the heavenly gift, partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasted the powers of the age to come). So, if we were to boil down these blessings we could reduce them to two – the gospel was proclaimed and the Spirit was working. And these professing Christians had continually heard the Word and seen the Spirit work. Yet, there was still the possibility that they could “fall away” and find it impossible to be renewed again to repentance.

Many find the expression “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance” to be ironclad proof that these people were truly saved. After all, they had already repented. However, in 2 Cor. 7:10 Paul says, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Evidently there are two kinds of sorrow – one leading to salvation and the other leading to death. Just as there is a saving faith which ushers in a life of good works, and a non-saving faith which does not usher in good works, so there is a true repentance which leads to salvation and a worldly repentance which is merely regret for the misery their sin has caused them.

The author goes on to say, “since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.” Note the little word “and.” These people had once put the Son of God to open shame by valuing other things of the world more than Him. Then they professed faith in Christ and conversion. If they fell away after that, they would be doing the same thing they had done originally, by showing that they valued the rituals and laws of Judaism more than Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 6:7-8 – Notice again that vs. 7 begins with the word “for.” That tells us that he is going to explain what he meant in verses 4-6. Here he gives a little parable of two different kinds of fields. Both of these fields received abundant rains. However, only one field brought forth useful vegetation, while the other brought forth only worthless thorns and thistles. The first kind of field receives a blessing from God, while the latter is close to being cursed and ends up being burned. The author is explaining the person in vs. 4-6 who received the abundant rains of hearing the Word of God, and seeing the works of the Spirit. However, if he did not produce fruit in his life his end would be that of being “cursed” and “burned” (Mt.25:41). This brings us to the final piece of context which we need to examine.

Hebrews 6:9-12 – The author says in vs. 9, “But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.” The author believed that his readers were the fruitful and blessed field, not the barren and cursed field. Notice how he puts it – “we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation.” Now, what are the “better things” he’s referring to? Fruitfulness and persevering faith! And, notice that these are the things that “accompany salvation.” When an individual receives salvation, he will produce fruit, and he will persevere to the end, which is exactly what Hebrews 3:14; 10:14; 13:20-21 and Jer. 32:40 all teach.

So, to sum up, I believe that Hebrews 6:4-6 is a strong, sobering, warning for any professing Christian who seems to remain in a spiritually immature condition, rather than pressing on to maturity, bearing the fruit of the Spirit, and persevering in faith to the end. To any professing Christian who has heard the Word of God continually, and seen the powers of the Holy Spirit, and then falls away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance. Why? Because they have already received all the light they can receive, and then they have turned their backs on it, and deserted Christ to go back from where they came. They have proven that the things of the world are more valuable to them than Jesus. Thus, repentance becomes impossible for them. [ The author seems to outline an unpardonable sin of falling away which seems to contradict the teaching of the Prodigal Son  Luke 15:11-31 ]

I hope this blog is more than an exercise in Biblical Hermeneutics for you. I hope it gives us all a needed and sobering reminder that true saving faith always results in a transformed life, and that we “must show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end (Heb.6:11).” None of us want to hear those terrifying words out of the mouth of our Lord, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness”!

Original here

God’s Holiness, Your Wholeness

by Skip Heitzig | December 29, 2020

If ever there was a religious sounding word, it’s holy. Regardless of the context, most people probably hear it and think of cathedrals, stained glass, candlelight, and the sound of monks chanting. Step outside, and holiness evokes a desert landscape wandered by bearded men in sandals.

Most of the time, our understanding of God’s holiness makes Him seem unapproachable, even unpleasant. He’s up there, we’re down here, and all we can do is hope He grades on a curve. The prophet Isaiah’s vision of God fits that profile: he saw the Lord “high and lifted up,” His robe spread throughout the temple, with six-winged seraphim crying out, “Holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:1, 3). Isaiah’s reaction was fitting: he cried out, “Woe is me, for I am undone!” (v. 5).

The apostle John’s vision of the same awe-inspiring scene in Revelation 4 offers a few more details but echoes the same proclamation from the angels: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty” (v. 8). Though we might say that holiness is God’s most unpopular attribute, it is His most noteworthy one to the heavenly hosts, worth the emphasis of triple repetition.

Heaven’s cry is not “love, love, love” or “grace, grace, grace.” It isn’t “wrath, wrath, wrath” or “justice, justice, justice.” Those are all key aspects of God’s character and nature, but His only attribute that merits such a superlative highlighting is His holiness. The Bible calls God holy over 630 times. His holiness separates Him from all of His creation. There is no one like Him, perfect in all His ways. And as Isaiah discovered, His perfection magnifies our imperfection.

But Isaiah also discovered that God is not aloof in His holiness. While Isaiah lamented his “unclean lips” (v. 5), an angel touched his corrupt human mouth with a live coal from the altar. It was a symbolic gesture of purification, and a necessary one, since God’s holiness cannot abide the presence of unholiness. It also pointed to the ultimate cleansing that God would provide through Jesus Christ.

That leads us to an important truth about God’s holiness: He doesn’t destroy the unholy but declares us holy through the blood of Christ. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). In other words, God’s holiness includes paying the price required to allow us into His presence. His holiness informs His love, grace, and mercy, and it satisfies His justice and wrath.

Like Isaiah, when we have the humility to recognize the gulf between us and God, we will respond with repentance and gratitude. We’ll embrace what God has done for us in Christ, and the smoke surrounding God’s holiness will clear: we’ll see that His holiness makes our salvation possible, empowers us with purpose, and guides us to wholeness.

A relationship with God is transformative; He loves us the way we are, but He loves us so much He won’t leave us that way. This is where our sanctification—growing in holiness—comes into play. When you grow in holiness, you’re after not perfection but pursuit. You want to pursue the God who pursued you, and you want to let others know that His holiness leads to our wholeness. And just like the angels in heaven who never tire of God’s holiness, you’ll come to a place where you’re captivated by His perfection, driven to glorify Him in all things.

http://www.connectwithskip.com/devomail/read/daily-devotional/2020/12/29/god’s-holiness-your-wholeness

This Is God

by Skip Heitzig | December 15, 2020

I remember the night I met the woman who would become my wife. I was at a friend’s apartment in Southern California, and I saw her from across the room. She confidently walked up to me, put out her hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Lenya.” On our first date, she told me about her background, her hopes, and her dreams. Thus started a long, lasting, and very satisfying relationship.

The best way to get acquainted with someone is to get firsthand knowledge from them about who they are. Essentially, that is what Moses did to God in Exodus 34. Moses asked to see God’s glory, and God answered his request not with an appearance, but with a list of attributes. In this foundational passage about who God is, we see two aspects of His personality: His designation, or who He says He is, and His description, what He says about Himself.

First is His designation: God began by naming Himself. “And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God'” (v. 6)—or Yahweh, Yahweh El in Hebrew. El is the generic term for God, but Yahweh is specific, and it means I am. This is the name God used when He introduced Himself to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3: “I AM WHO I AM” (v. 14). The repetition here was to emphasize to Moses that this was the same God who spoke to him back then.

What does the name I am tell us about God? It means He is the self-existent one, the only noncontingent being in the universe—that is, He doesn’t depend on anybody else for His existence. It also refers to his eternal nature. God is not the great I was or I used to be; He is the great I am. And it highlights His active existence—that He is involved with humanity, not detached or aloof.

In the Bible, a person’s name was far more than just an identity tag. The Hebrew people believed there was a connection between a person’s name and a person’s nature. Whatever they were named was often brought to bear with their character. So this is God’s character, reputation, and authority—His designation: Yahweh, Yahweh El.

That brings us to God’s description of who He is: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation” (vv. 6-7). What a description, isn’t it?

Here’s how Moses responded: he “made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped” (v. 8). God introduced Himself to Moses—”Hi, I’m God. Here’s what I’m like”—and Moses worshiped. All teaching of the Scriptures should lead to this; good theology is the foundation and impetus for true worship. That’s why I tell worship leaders every chance I get, “Make sure your songs are filled with good theology.”

Do you, like Moses, make haste to worship the Lord every time you learn more about Him? It’s the fitting response, and it’s one of the keys to a long, lasting, and satisfying relationship with Him.

http://www.connectwithskip.com/devomail/read/daily-devotional/2020/12/15/this-is-god

VIDEO All Eyes On God

By Jack Hibbs

As evil increases in the world around us, a great awakening is also taking place. People are asking questions about God and what will happen next. The great news is that there is comfort and peace for those who turn their eyes to God.

Once a persecutor, now a Christ follower—former Muslim finds Jesus during Ramadan

May 11, 2021 by Lindy Lowry in Asia

hen you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart (Jer. 29: 12-13).

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened (Matt. 7:33-34).

The words of God in the Old and New Testaments remind us that our God wants to see all of His creation come to a saving knowledge and trust in Him through Jesus. And that when we seek Him and His Kingdom, we will find Him. While the holy month of Ramadan is often a month of increased pressure for Christians whose faith stands out more than usual during this time, God continues to work in peoples’ hearts and bring them to Him. During Ramadan, many Muslims will earnestly seek God through prayer and fasting and the practice of giving charitable gifts.

In Central Asia believers, especially former Muslims, live under increasing persecution from a variety of sources, from dictatorships to a surrounding culture generally dominated by Islam. In many of these contexts, being a Jesus-follower is extremely difficult. But we know that God is not slowed by dictators or cultures—Jesus has the power to break into any context and change hearts and lives.

From persecutor to Christ-follower

A few years ago, Christians, especially those from a Muslim background, were the No. 1 target for Roman*, a devout Muslim in Kazakhstan. He considered them “betrayers of the real faith.”

“By ‘betrayers,’ I meant Christians with a Muslim background,” he says.

Roman had no problem confronting, challenging and persecuting Christians. He was like many fasting Muslims during Ramadan who intentionally confront Christians, drilling them with questions about their faith with the purpose of tripping them up and even making them question their faith.

Last year during Ramadan, Roman went a step farther to express his devotion to Islam. He decided to pay a visit to the local Baptist church in the area for the sole purpose of interrupting “betrayers of the real faith.”

“I went to the church service during Ramadan because I considered myself to be a devout Muslim,” he says. “I [wanted] to prove my faith to Allah.”

Roman walked through the church doors, sat down and began to make his plan. But as the church service started and the pastor began to speak, Roman couldn’t force himself to do what he came there to do. He couldn’t bring himself to stand up and cause a scene. The words he heard the pastor say touched him too much.

“For the first time I heard about a God who loved me,” he says. “I never knew the Almighty God loved me even though I am not perfect.” 

The surprising and healing truth of a God who loves His creation unconditionally began to wash away a lifetime of guilt.

“That thought [of being loved even though I’m not perfect] seriously never entered my mind. I always felt guilty. I felt that I had to earn His attention.”

The words Roman heard that day focusing on love, mercy and forgiveness grabbed the heart of the persecutor. And then something happened he never expected: tears, prayers to Jesus, repentance and joy. Sitting in that church service in a Baptist church, the man who had devoted his life to persecuting Christians became a follower of Jesus. Roman’s story isn’t unlike another former persecutor of Christians who 2,000 years ago penned the words we read and cling to today:

“For I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Says Roman: “I never want to go back to the Muslim faith.”

The nearness of a God who listens

Like Roman, Fatima was also a devout Muslim from Central Asia until last year’s Ramadan. In Muslim-majority Chechnya where she lives, persecution of Christians continues to escalate.

Every night for more than five years, Fatima had prayed for relief and healing. Fear and anxiety had taken over, which had led to continuous nightmares and sleepless nights.

“Muslim prayers didn’t help me,” Fatima says.

Knowing how she was suffering, one of her friends, Indira, came to see Fatima during Ramadan last year. Indira told her friend about the Jesus she had found. Then she invited Fatima to come to a Christian meeting–a secret homegroup.

“For several weeks, I refused to go,” Fatima remembers. “I considered myself Muslim and was afraid that it would be a betrayal of Islam to meet Christians, especially during the pure and holy month of Ramadan.

“But I couldn’t deal with my [emotional] condition any longer and decided to go. Everything I heard in that meeting touched my heart, but I refused to accept Jesus, as I didn’t want to be guilty of leaving Islam. After two weeks, I understood that my [Muslim] faith couldn’t help me. I knew I needed to do something or else the devil would slay me. I went again to the homegroup and accepted Jesus into my heart and asked Him to heal me and my life.”

That experience, she says, was strangely surprising.

“I expected to feel guilty about betraying Islam,” she explains, “but there was no guilt. When I came home, I felt peace and joy. That night, I slept so well—no nightmares, no fears and no bad thoughts.

“And I couldn’t stop thinking: What if my friend Indira had not visited me that Ramadan when I was in such a critical condition?’ Now I pray for my parents to accept Jesus. I know that it is possible for Him to touch their hearts even though they are Muslims.”

In Jesus’ name

In another area of Central Asia in Turkmenistan, Hadija* also is thankful for a caring friend. * She is an emergency health care professional in her village. Her husband, a devout Muslim, forced Hadija to pray and fast during Ramadan. In his mind, he would earn more favor in the eyes of Allah if he could teach his wife how to be a “good Muslim.”

Knowing that Hadija’s husband oppressed her, Hadija’s Christian friend came to visit her during Ramadan last year and eventually shared her faith and the gospel with her hurting friend. Hadija learned from her friend that she could pray any time in Jesus’ name and that God would hear her and answer.

“That was such an amazing revelation,” Hadija says, “that my Great God and Creator could speak to me! It touched me so deeply.”

But what was next? Hadija was still living with a husband who forced her to participate in Muslim rituals. That oppression had only increased with Ramadan.

Hadija knew that making a public confession was a fatal decision. “My husband would have killed me if I converted,” she says.

When the time of next prayer came, Hadija went through the motions of spreading the mat and kneeling alone in the room to say her prayers. But she felt she couldn’t pray like she did before. Instead, Hadija took the Injil (the New Testament in the Turkmen language) and started to read Scripture.

Suddenly, her husband came in. Hadija could only hide the book in her long dress. Hadija pretended to be saying Muslim prayers, but when he went out, she prayed in the name of Jesus.

“Now I pray in the name of Jesus every day,” she says quietly yet joyfully. “I hated the Muslim prayers as they were always something I was forced to do. Now I like praying so much and do it anytime and everywhere. It heals my heart and fills me with love for other people.”

*Names changed for security

VIDEO One Man. One Nation. One God.

George Washington was a remarkable man. We know him as a respected military general, founding father, and U.S. president, but he was also a mighty man of God. Join Pastor Jack at Mt. Vernon as he shares about this extraordinary patriot’s life.

If you love America, are you really a ‘white Christian nationalist?’

By Owen Strachan

These days, the younger generation is encouraged to despise their American birthright. According to this worldview, the United States was a force for oppression in centuries past, and racism, baked into the very structure of the republic, constitutes the true narrative of the American people. And what is this worldview’s solution to our country’s alleged ills? To tear down the existing order, cleanse it of its sins, and reeducate the youth such that they become activists against democracy, free speech, and free thought.

This new mentality is driven by what some call “wokeness.” As I detail in my forthcoming bookChristianity and Wokeness, being woke means “waking up,” per the tenets of Critical Race Theory, to the reality of structural racism and inequity in a society. This entails standing against institutions that mediate oppression through power dynamics—institutions like the family, the church, and the nation-state. There is much to say about wokeness’ anti-institutional commitments, but we shall concern ourselves here with the distinctively anti-national nature of the movement, and the fact that it targets religious people explicitly. Today, defending American ideals and history means one is painted as a proponent of “white Christian nationalism.”

The argument commonly goes that the evangelical movement has lost its moral compass by choosing to support conservative political candidates. Instead of standing for equity, justice, and fairness—buzzwords of the modern ideological revolution—the church allegedly chose to back xenophobia, narrowness, and tribalism.  Wokeness has offered Christians the salutary chance to be “antiracist,” but according to many prominent media voices today, Christian conservatives have rejected this move, instead lending their support to the “white Christian nationalist” movement, thinking they are patriots while actually being racist extremists.

This criticism is fierce, as one can see. It is not playing for a draw. But in this brief piece, I believe it is worth responding to the criticism for the good of the rising generation. I want America’s young people, especially Christians who believe in the power of the Gospel, to hear a stronger and sounder word than these lazy bromides. Let me briefly list out a few responses to the ideology mentioned above.

First, it is not wrong for a Christian to love their country. Every believer is called to love their neighbor as themselves (Mat. 22:34-39), and a country is essentially a great mass of “neighbors.” Does this mean we will love every country the same? No, it will be harder to love a tyrannical state than a free one. Further, America’s real failings as a nation temper our enthusiasm and keep us from enshrining this body politic as perfect. Nevertheless, it is good and right for a believer to seek the good of the city in which they live (Jer. 29:7). There is much to be thankful for as an American citizen. If you and I can be thankful for our local community or a city we treasure, why can we not love our country?

Second, it is right that we be engaged as believers in our country. We are called to pray for kings, honor the emperor, and submit to government as much as we can (1 Tim. 2:5, 1 Peter 2:17, Rom. 13:1-7). All this activity is expressly Christian; we perform such duties not as secularists, but as born-again believers. Christians of all kinds should live in these ways. It is not “white” people who are called to engage our community and country in some form, but all Christ’s church.

Third, it is wrong to identify “white” people as national oppressors in our time. America has real historical failings in terms of slavery and Jim Crow, failings supported by groups of “white” people in days past. And surely “white” people in our day need Jesus just as anyone does. But wokeness would have us see the American church, which does include many “white” people, as a present-day racist force acting to oppress people of color. Could “white” people fall prey to such evil? Yes, any person of any skin color or background could. But is the evangelical church inherently and incurably racist today? This is a claim that is regularly made, but it should be read as a statement of slander rather than a statement of fact. A group that is majority “white” does not automatically an oppressive body make.

The fever dream of many columnists, that a militantly racist body of extremist “white” fundamentalists waits just beyond the city gates to take back America, is downright silly. A whole lot of “white” Christians do want America to thrive, yes. But this does not mean they wish to oppress other people; I am linked up with evangelicals across America, and I don’t know anyone who has this goal. If they did, I would try to talk them out of it!

Fourth, supporting conservative politicians does not make you hateful. It does not make you a “white Christian nationalist.” Over and over, Christians who want their country to flourish have been labeled in such terms for voting for candidates of a Republican or conservative bent. The vast majority of Christians I know supported such candidates in past days because they are ardently pro-life, pro-religious liberty, anti-big government, anti-progressive agenda, and pro-free market. They do not have anything close to an evil vision of America that would ruin the lives of people of color. Nor do they wish to impose a ferocious theocracy on any who dare disagree with them. Instead, they want people of all kinds to be free, prosperous, and able to worship God.

The stereotypes about “white Christian nationalism” will likely endure. There are very well-paid and highly connected journalists and leaders who make such arguments, and all too often they serve as a kind of “house evangelical” for elite media. It makes sense why this would be so. Wokeness is the imperial ideology of our age and standing against it is no popular move in our time. On the political front, it works neatly and nicely to denounce a huge and diverse group of people as promoting the evil specter of “white Christian nationalism.” Sadly, different professing Christians are glad to serve this odious cause.

I encourage Christians, and especially younger Christians, to shake off such name-calling. Be a principled Christian young man or young woman. Serve your local church. Trust and follow Christ, the crucified king. Be “salt and light” in your community, on your campus, wherever God puts you in this land (Mat. 5:13-16). Learn American history, both the regrettable parts and the serious accomplishments. Live without fear. Know that God is good, is building his church, and that whatever the media and academicians may label you, if you are in Christ by faith, you will have your vindication on the last day.

Owen Strachan is the author of Christianity and Wokeness (Salem Books, July 2021). He is Provost and Research Professor of Theology at Grace Bible Theological Seminary, hosts The Antithesis podcast, and is a Senior Fellow for Biblical Worldview at the Family Research Council.

https://www.christianpost.com/voices/if-you-love-america-are-you-really-a-white-christian-nationalist.html


Your Life’s Every Detail

by Skip Heitzig | January 12, 2021

We’re all familiar with the incredible story of Joseph in the Bible. It’s a riches-to-rags-to-riches tale that shows us the massive scope of God’s providence. Providence is when God intervenes in natural law—the chain of cause and effect that governs our lives—to bring about a supernatural result.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Joseph’s story is that, while God was working out the enormous, nation-changing, top-leader-level ramifications of everything that was happening, He was also taking care of the most personal, faith-building character details, too. Nothing is too big for God to handle or too small to escape His notice.

Joseph knew that and believed that. And because he trusted God, he was able to look beyond his circumstances and live with a higher purpose. He lived in tune with God’s faithful sovereignty—but not because the details themselves harmonized; they didn’t. Betrayed by his own brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused and jailed, and forgotten in prison, Joseph couldn’t have looked at everything he suffered and said, “This all makes perfect sense.”

This is where we see the difference between looking at life horizontally and looking at life vertically. Joseph’s brothers looked at life horizontally—within their own tainted hearts and at the turmoil around them. Joseph, on the other hand, lived with a vertical view. He learned to wait on God’s timing and trust God’s sovereignty and goodness, especially when things went wrong. The contrast between these two ways of living is summed up in Proverbs 29:25: “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.”

It’s natural to slip into self-preservation mode when we’ve been wronged, but it’s supernatural to look for God’s hand in the hardship. Joseph overcame the default setting of looking out for himself by instead listening to God, trusting His promises, and obeying His words. And at the end of it all, he could tell his brothers, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

Joseph believed that God was in charge—not him. He believed that God uses bad events to bring about good results. And he believed that God uses people to help other people. He funneled the gracious love God had showered on him to bless his brothers and preserve his father Jacob’s family—through whom the Messiah would eventually come.

God cares about the big picture, but He cares equally about you and your role in His story. Do you believe that He uses your suffering for good? That He is big enough to take the bad things from your past and weave them into something better? God is with you in your pain; let Him use it to bring healing and restoration, redeeming it into something of great value and beauty.

http://www.connectwithskip.com/devomail/read/daily-devotional/2021/01/12/your-life’s-every-detail

Right Around Here

Right Around Here

By David Jeremiah

There’s a famous story about a prospector who sold his farm so he could look for diamonds. He wore himself out searching the world for the mother lode, finally dying in despair. Later, the man who had bought the prospector’s farm saw a flashing stone in the backyard stream. He fished it out, admired it, and put it on his mantel as an interesting curiosity. A visitor identified it as a diamond of remarkable size. The farmer recalled seeing other such stones in his creek, and his farm became one of the most productive diamond mines of all time.

The first man traveled the world looking for acres of diamonds when they were in his own backyard the whole time.

There are acres of needs in your own back yard.

SHARE ON:We don’t always have to travel afar to find the delights we seek. Sometimes they’re in our own backyard. It’s remarkable how much money we spend taking in the wonders of distant places, while at the same time overlooking nearby points of interest—natural beauties, fun drives, local history, unexplored backroads, nearby attractions, pleasant neighbors, and neighborhood restaurants.

The same dynamic is true when it comes to living in confidence in a chaotic world. We long to make sense of it all and solve the global problems we see at a distance—they certainly need our attention. When we think of the staggering needs of nearly eight billion people across seven vast continents, we’re overwhelmed. The world is distressed, and the combined burdens of humanity can weigh heavily on us.

But remember—the world starts at our doorstep, and that’s where to begin serving the Lord. That’s the pattern Jesus suggested in Acts 1:8: “You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Our influence should begin in our own Jerusalem—our own home and our own hometown.

Just as there are undiscovered sites around you, there are uncovered needs closer at hand than you realize. There are acres of needs in your own back yard. A part of the ultimate staycation is looking around to see how God can use you “right around here.”

God’s Plan for the World Begins With You

Every stranger is a potential mission field.

SHARE ON:Psalm 139:16 says that all our days were written down in advance in God’s book. The important thing isn’t what we’re going to do for the Lord at a later time or in another place. We’re to serve Him today, right here, where we are.

I read about a man who wanted to plant a church, but his dreams didn’t work out. To make ends meet, he started driving for Uber and Lyft. He soon learned God wanted him to love every single person who got into his car. “I just tried to display the goodness of God to my riders,” he said. “Every day, I felt challenged to plant seeds for the Lord with each rider.”

When he picks someone up, he starts a general conversation, asking the Holy Spirit to guide the way, and he takes the Gospel conversation as far as seems wise. “I’ve given rides to alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes, atheists, sick people…. I’ve bought people meals to help them feel loved, cleaned them up after they passed out, and had hour-long discussions after we reach their destination.” He now thinks of his car as a mobile sanctuary.1

God is present right where you are—right around here.

SHARE ON:It can work the other way too. I have a friend who keeps small New Testaments with him and he looks for opportunities to give them to Uber and Lyft drivers, along with a generous tip. “Maybe you have some downtime between riders,” he says. “Let me give you something interesting to read.”

We simply need to pray each morning: “Lord, what do You want me to do today?”

God’s Plan for the World Starts at Home

That kind of attitude starts at home, right where we live. “Lord, how can I serve my family today? What do you want me to do under my own roof?” One woman I know had a sign over her kitchen sink that read: “Divine Service Conducted Here Three Times a Day.” Those who share your roof need your divine service, your godly cheer, and love.

Even those who live alone are nevertheless homemakers, and the environment around us reflects what’s happening within us. Building a clean, cheerful surrounding reflects the nature of God who surrounds us with the beauty of nature.

Now more than ever you can serve others without even leaving your home. Notes, messages, video calls, social media platforms, cooking, baking, and entertaining—all these can become rich ministries. Long before the Lord’s Church expanded to Samaria, Caesarea, Antioch, or Rome, the believers in Jerusalem were “continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house,” as “they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:46).

God’s Plan for the World Involves Nearby Strangers

You probably have strangers near at hand too, maybe more strangers than acquaintances. Every stranger is a potential mission field. One day, a lawyer asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) Jesus told a story about a traveler who was attacked by thieves only to be left bleeding in a ditch. The one who saw him, cared for him, and helped him recover—that was his neighbor. 

In other words, the neighbor we’re to love might be the needy stranger we pass. I’m not saying we should necessarily give money to every homeless soul at every intersection. We have to help others in the wisest way—but help we should! The needs at our doorsteps are greater than ever, and God can give us the wisdom and wherewithal to be like the Good Samaritan on a daily basis.

Along the way, we’ll be sharing the message of Jesus. Some years ago in Shanghai, a young man named Will Wang wanted to improve his English, so he struck up a friendship with an American expat named Nick. One day, Nick told him, “I used to be a pretty bad man on the streets…. It is [the] God of the Bible who has transformed me into what I am today.” As Nick spoke openly of his faith in Christ, Wang was impressed. But having grown up an atheist, he resisted the Gospel. Later Wang moved to Detroit for university studies. Here he met more Christians, but he still felt that the Bible was a book of fairy tales.

One day Wang filled up his car with gasoline and drove off, leaving his wallet on top of his vehicle. He lost $900 in cash, along with all his credit cards and ID. In his frustration, Wang blamed God for the loss. But the next day a man showed up in the dormitory, asking for him. The man had found Wang’s wallet and was returning it. Wong thanked the man profusely, but he asked, “Why would you return my wallet back to me with the money in it? Most people wouldn’t return it.”

“I’m a Christian,” the man said. “God wants us to love each other as brothers and sisters. I hope what I have done to you today, you will do to others one day.”

That encounter led to something more than a wallet. It led Wang to receive the riches of the Lord Jesus Christ. “It was a divine set up,” Wang said. “It immediately changed my heart at the moment. I felt so touched, and at that moment I instantly believed in God.” The young Asian man was baptized and soon began leading a Bible study.2

We can reach foreign nations “right around here” on our doorstep, sometimes just by staying the course, being honest and loving to strangers, as Jesus was. If you can’t cross the ocean with a passport in your hand, perhaps you can cross the street with a pie and a smile.

T. S. Eliot once said, “The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started.” Most people enjoy traveling, but often our travels are restricted—by financial limitations, health concerns, world conditions, tight schedules, or providential hindrances. It’s of no concern. In serving the Lord, you don’t have to be anywhere but where you are right now. Look around. God is present right where you are—right around here.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the world, but be burdened for your neighborhood. It’s full of diamonds in the rough—people who need to be discovered and loved. They are in your own backyard.

1“The Mobile Sanctuary,” The Christian Heart, November 9, 2020, https://thechristianheart.com/the-mobile-sanctuary/.
2Roxy Photenhaur, “Lost and found wallet filled with cash led to faith,” God Reports, December 7, 2020, http://godreports.com/2020/12/lost-and-found-wallet-filled-with-cash-led-to-faith/.

https://www.davidjeremiah.org/magazine/article/right-around-here-252