Yesterday, a spiritual mentor of mine--and a beloved friend--advised that I reference some Christian writers who might be pointing to similar things that I'm pointing to in this blog. It would be something to ground what I'm trying to say. It would show that I'm not going rogue, the suggestion being that if what I'm getting is truly from God then surely God must be speaking the same things to someone who has a prominent voice. Perhaps they have caught a vision of the problem but have focused on a different facet of that problem, but surely there is someone of reputation who has given a heads up on such a topic.
"But I reference the Bible," I said, indignant about the idea that the Church would demand the word of man to verify the Word of God.
"It's just a suggestion," he replied. "There are a lot of people that get a lot of wacky things from the Bible. I'm just saying that it might help ground your argument a bit. It would show you read and that you have an understanding of different voices in the Church."
I told him that I wasn't hip on the idea. I do read. I do have understanding of different voices in the Church. In fact, I have five bookcases, three of which are taller and wider than me--all full of books. I've read most of them. I've always had an issue with "proving" myself. I've always had an issue with "jumping through hoops." But I also told him that I would chew on it. It's inevitable that I do such things. It's how my mind works. I tend to not write off anything until I have a good reason to write it off.
Last night, as I sat in my chair, deciding whether to read a bit of a book or go to bed, it struck me to grab a book. Perhaps my mentor and friend was right. I turned around and a book caught my eye, but it didn't feel right. It was a book of which I had only read a few chapters. It was nothing special, nothing that moved me much. But there was a book next to it that caught my eye. The Prophetic Church: Wielding the Power to Change the World by R. Loren Sandford. I had read a book by him before, Understanding Prophetic People. To a big degree, I could relate with it. I was especially moved by the concept of "the dark night of the soul," which he delved into in a later chapter. But I hadn't yet read The Prophetic Church. I grabbed it and opened it up. As I read the second sentence of the first chapter, I was overcome with a sense of wonder.
Revival is surely coming and will touch many thousands through churches and ministries willing to receive it, but bluntly stated, I do not believe we will see sweeping culture-changing revival in North America and the Western world despite the prayers of those of us who understand the need and desperately long for God to send it.
Immediately, Jeremiah came to mind. Sandford's words are much like those of Jeremiah, who was continually told by God to quit praying for Judah. It was too late. Judgment was already decided. Sandford seemed to be feeling the same about the West in general and America specifically. I've said that God isn't moving through the halls of world power anymore. He was at one point in history, but his creative power has left that building. I've said that it's time to quit mourning Saul and move into what God has for us. Sandford's statement echoes such a claim.
After two sentences into the book I was amazed. Perhaps my mentor and friend was being led by the Spirit in his suggestion after all. I kept reading and two pages later I was struck again.
. . . the most significant reason we will not see a sweeping culture-changing revival in North America is that our culture and our nation(s) have made a firm decision concerning morality and the role of God in our society that cannot or will not now be reversed.
A repeat of the last several words might be in order: that cannot or will not now be reversed. There isn't a whole lot to say here other than that I was quite surprised to find that the one book I picked had such things written in the first three pages. As far as I was concerned, it was God who moved me to choose that particular book.
Today, as I was reading the Bible, I came across the letter to Thyatira in the second chapter of Revelation. Verse 20 caught my attention.
Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and beguile my servants to commit sexual immorality and to eat things sacrificed to idols.
Immediately, I thought that there must be more than meets the eye in this passage. Paul confronts the issue of food sacrificed to idols in 1 Corinthians 10:23-33. To make a potentially long story short, if we don't know it's sacrificed to idols, we should have no issues with eating it; but if we know, we should stay away from it. It's a black and white issue, but there is wiggle room. Paul writes as if to say that a religion should not be built around avoiding food sacrificed to idols. So why the seeming contraction in the letter to Thyatira?
This got me thinking about the concept of "sexual immorality," as it as mentioned in the above verse. It struck me that God very often describes idolatry as sexual immorality, especially through the prophets. As I was reading Jude last night, verse seven stuck out to me in quite a similar way.
as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire .
Immediately, Ezekiel 16:49-50 came to mind.
Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.
The only thing in this verse that could be any kind of reference to "sexual immorality" is the word "abomination." But there are deeper issues in the mix here than physical "sexual immorality." If we read the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 honestly, we would have to say that people of that place were more about violence and power than they were about sexual immorality. We commonly recognize rape as not so much a sexual crime, but as a violent crime. It is said that the rapist is addicted to the rush of power and control he has over his victims. It's not about sex. It's about violence and power. Such was the case in Sodom and Gomorrah, if we take the scripture of Genesis 19 for what it actually says. The heart of men who wanted know the angels carnally was the heart of the rapist. There was a much deeper problem in that time and place: a rejection of God. They didn't need God. They only needed themselves. God had been pushed out of the picture. Hence, they were serving idols. And the imagery of sexual immorality comes back into play. God views his people as his lover. It follows that when we go after anyone or anything other than him as our source, he is jealous. We're cheating on him. (As a disclaimer, I'm not making this point to claim that physical and literal sexual immorality is not a sin. It is. But its root lies deeper than itself.)
So, to my surprise, I picked up another book tonight that shocked me just as much as Sandford's had shocked me last night. This time, I picked up Intoxicated with Babylon: The Seduction of God's People in the Last Days by Steve Gallagher. I got a hold of this book about a year ago. I started reading it and was impressed. But I became too busy with ICMI to finish it. My procrastination had gotten the best of me! When I grabbed the book back out tonight, I wasn't sure what to expect. I had an idea that it was about the Church in America going in a very bad direction, but I didn't remember the details. But in the context of the "sexual immorality" question, the very first page spoke very clearly to me. It was a foreword written by David Ravenhill. I will share a few excerpts from the first page of the book.
Maintaining a "love affair with the world" is akin to having a mistress. . . The modern-day Church, especially in the West, has its own mistress, having fallen head-over-heels in love with the world. The average believer can talk for hours about "the things of the world" but try asking about their relationship with the Lord and they quickly run out of words. The Bible says "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.". . . James refers to those who love the world as adulterers.
In regards to the fact that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks," think on how much the Church in America speaks of how we need someone other than President Obama to turn America around, to save the Constitution, and protect the rights of the people. "Turn our country around." We religiously avoid the word "save." We sugarcoat our idolatry. Just like last night, I was taken aback again tonight. It was too much. It was like God was once again confirming that this message I'm sharing on this blog is indeed from him, and also that the suggestion my mentor and friend gave me was indeed Spirit-led.
So in this blog, I give you these two references. Sandford claims that the darkness in the cultural centers of the West is established, implying that attempts to reverse it by means of the cultural centers is futile. The darkness has gripped the power centers of the Western world, especially America. (That is Sandford's claim as viewed through my lens; more on the issues of "my lens" at the end of this post). I agree with Sandford. It's part of the message I'm sharing here. Our power isn't of the world, but of the Spirit. We can't usher in morality with economics or politics of any stripe. It is what it is. I believe God is calling his people away from those avenues. I believe God is saying, "Come out of her, my people," and I believe he is telling us to do that now. If the Church isn't going to shine the light of Christ to confront the darkness, if the Church insists on utilizing Old Covenant methods to confront the darkness, then God is going to continue to allow the darkness to increase to force us to pick sides. Are we hot or are we cold? We can't have it both ways anymore. We either choose the world or we choose the Kingdom.
Ravenhill, in his introduction to Gallagher's book, mentions that there is a deep root of a problem in the Church in America: our love of the world, our dependence upon the world, our adultery and sexual immorality against our God. If we compare God to a lover, we can also compare Christ to a King, for, after all, both comparisons are more than just comparisons--they are the truth. Could it be that in turning to political figures and parties and systems--kings--we are committing treason against our real King?
I know I've written over and over on these issues. But they need to be given serious consideration. The old ways that have given the Church prominence in America aren't working anymore. I would submit that the reason is because God's grace and presence and power has lifted from those ways. He's calling us away from them.
I was watching a video last night of John Piper interviewing Louie Giglio. Giglio was speaking of the revelation he received when God gave him his calling. He said something beautiful and especially meaningful to me about his "revelational moment."
When I say revelational moment, I mean it's a moment that, when it happens, every page of scripture now comes through that lens.
I can relate with that. Every page of scripture I read comes through the lens that informs this blog. And that lens was birthed out of a revelational moment. It's what God has given me to share. I pray that God speaks to those who read it, that he would cause them to seek him and not men, not just for eternal salvation, but for temporal security and safety and provision as well. We weren't called to ease and comfort and security of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We were called to a narrow road of death to self, as slaves to Christ, all the while carrying our crosses as Christ carried his.
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