Footsteps on the Stairs

Footsteps on the Stairs

It is possible that something like this could happen today?  I think so.  How about you?

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Jeremiah sat alone in the empty meeting room feeling a growing sense of despair.  The meeting had been announced to begin at noon— with lots of advertising and many people contacted.  But not a single person had showed up.  It was now nearly 12:30 and his growing sense of failure was almost overwhelming.  Why had this meeting with such a noble purpose turned out to be such a dismal and depressing disappointment?

The U. S. was in dire straits.  The economy was crashing; banks were failing; factories were closing; railroad companies were going bankrupt; unemployment was skyrocketing; and the nation was being divided largely along lines of politics and justice.  Added to the bleak economic picture, the American church was losing attendance almost weekly and the general spiritual condition of the country was extremely apathetic.

jeremiahlanphierBurdened by the terrible spiritual and economic condition of the nation, Jeremiah Lanphier, a Christian businessman, decided to invite others to join him in a noonday prayer meeting on Wednesday, September 23, 1857.  The meeting was to be held on the third floor of the Dutch Reformed Church on Fulton Street in downtown New York City.  Jeremiah worked hard to get the word around so that as many as possible would know of the gathering where they could come and pray about the economic and spiritual condition of the nation.

At 12:30 all seemed lost; the prayer meeting would not happen.  Apparently no one cared or believed that prayer could make a difference.  Sitting alone in the empty meeting room, Lanphier was surprised to hear the welcome noise of footsteps on the stairs and a moment later one person arrived.  In the next few minutes several more arrived and a total of six were present for the first prayer meeting that became known as The Laymen’s Prayer Revival or the Revival on Fulton Street.

Those at that first meeting were encouraged and they came back a week later— joined by others for a total of forty-two who gathered for prayer.  A few weeks later it was decided to have a prayer meeting every day at noon, and within six months over ten thousand men were gathering for prayer each midday in New York City.

The prayer revival that began on Fulton Street burst out of New York and flooded across the country.  From the tiny town of Hell Corner, New Hampshire, came reports that a prayer revival was born and hardened sinners were repenting.  In Chicago two thousand men met daily for prayer in a downtown auditorium.  Four thousand men were praying daily in Philadelphia and in other cities such as Waco, Texas, and Louisville, Kentucky, thousands more were gathering daily for prayer.

In Charleston, South Carolina, a Presbyterian pastor called for and led an evening of prayer for the nation.  At the appropriate time, the pastor rose to dismiss the crowd— but no one would leave— and the prayer gathering continued until after midnight.  Two months of nightly meetings followed with the crowds numbering 1500 to 2000, with hundreds of people turning to the Lord.

fultonstreetrevivalNot only were prayer gatherings being held throughout the nation, with large numbers of people coming into relationship with Christ, but God’s presence was being felt throughout the land.  Ships coming into New York harbor reported that when they neared the dock they were suddenly aware of the presence of God.  On one ship the captain and thirty of the sailors were converted right before the ship docked.  On the battleship North Carolina, anchored in New York harbor, four sailors knelt for prayer deep in the bowels of the ship.  Other sailors noticed them and began to mock what they were doing when suddenly they were gripped by the presence of the Lord and they too knelt to ask for forgiveness.

It is estimated that between October of 1857 and October of 1859, the churches in America received two million new converts as a direct result of the Prayer Revival.

The similarities between the conditions in America in 1857 and today are strikingly clear.  The nation then was in all kinds of economic and financial difficulty, as it is today.  The nation was deeply divided in 1857 over the injustice of slavery, and today our nation is just as divided, just as bitter and vitriolic, over politics and justice.

And then we have to compare the state of the church in 1857 to that of the church today.  If we are honest about the general spiritual condition of our nation, we have to conclude that it is at a low ebb.  Put aside the hyperventilating of a few telling us that, “Everything is okay!”  Yes, the number of megachurches is rising but at the same time, church attendance across the nation is dwindling and more churches are closing than are being opened.  Recognize that the Christian media have not done what they said they could and would do— evangelize America— and have largely isolated themselves in the “ghetto” of cable T.V.  There is no great move of God in our nation!

Will you join me in praying for revival in our land?

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This is from David Patterson.  You can read more about him at his blog, For Family and Friends.

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When the Church Imitates the World

When the Church Imitates the World

The following warning from AW Tozer was made almost 50 years ago and still rings true today.  Lord, bring us back to true “spirit and truth” worship and not let us be satisfied any longer with imitating the world and its fallen, carnal, pagan form of entertainment disguised worship.

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From AW Tozer:

tozerFor centuries the Church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was.  For this she was abused roundly by the sons of this world.  But of late she has become tired of the abuse and has given over the struggle.  If she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment, she may as well join forces with him and make whatever use she can of his powers.

So today we have the astonishing spectacle of millions of dollars being poured into the unholy job of providing earthly entertainment for the so-called sons of heaven. Religious persons now carry on “services” so carnal, so pagan that they can hardly be distinguished from the old vaudeville shows of earlier days.  And for a preacher or writer to challenge this heresy is to invite ridicule and abuse from every quarter.

When the Church joins up with the world, it is no longer the true church but a pitiful hybrid thing, an object of contempt to the world, and an abomination to the Lord.  We must have a new reformation.  There must come a violent break with that irresponsible, amusement-mad, paganized, pseudo-religion which passes today for the faith of Christ and which is being spread all over the world by unspiritual men employing unscriptural methods to achieve their ends.

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Podcast 235:  The Man and the Myrtle Trees

Podcast 235: The Man and the Myrtle Trees

The first of the eight visions revealed to Zechariah tell a harrowing tale of disappointment and disillusionment to those who are waiting for God to keep His promise. But as you dig deeper into the vision of the Man and the Myrtle trees, you find that God has not failed them but gives them incredible promises and declarations of what their future will be like.

In fact, according to Zechariah 1:13 the Lord answered the questions with “good and comforting words.”

I don’t know about you, but I could use some good and comforting words from the Lord. Listen and be encouraged from a prophecy to Zechariah that is just as relevant today as it was 2,500 years ago.

This following is a study of Zechariah 1:7-17.

To download the notes for this message, click – HERE

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Podcast 234:  Return to Me and I Will Return to You

Podcast 234: Return to Me and I Will Return to You

The book of Zechariah begins with one of the most challenging and frightening conditional promises found in Scripture.

First, there is God’s statement of their condition:  “The Lord has been very angry with your fathers.”

Then, the wonderful and frightening promise:  “Return to Me,” says the Lord of hosts, “and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts.”

But the flip side of this promise is also true.  If they won’t return to Him, then it logically follows that He won’t return to them.

Sounds like much of the church today.  Keep listening.

The following is a study of Zechariah 1:1-6.

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Reading Between the Lines

Reading Between the Lines

gracetoyou-200A number of years ago I received this monthly newsletter and resource offering from John MacArthur’s Grace to You Ministry.  The offer is a teaching called, “When Believers Stop Believing: Portrait of an Apostate.”  And, quite honestly, it was pretty good.

But what intrigued me was the intro to the letter promoting the offer.  It went like this:

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Dear Friend,

It grieves me to bring you sad news from within our own ministry family about someone who has walked away from the Lord.  Several months ago, we received a shocking, heartbreaking letter.  It was from a long-time listener and supporter of Grace to You named Steve.  His short note explained in stark, simple language that he has rejected Christ, turned his back on the church, and wants nothing further to do with our ministry.  He wrote:

Over many years I have been blessed to receive free tapes, CDs, and books from your ministry.  Thank you.  At the time, I really appreciated them.

Now I no longer believe in the God of the Bible or in Jesus Christ.  Ten years of full-time ministry proved to me that there is no God and that the God of the Bible does not care. I now reject Christianity and have come to peace.  What was at first a great loss has now turned to joy, peace, and freedom.  I did not leave the faith because of some extreme sin.  I left because the God of the Bible, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are all a fantasy.  I’m happy I now live in the real world.

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He goes on for a couple more paragraphs stating that he feels guilty about those he led to the faith in the Lord back when he was deceived and asked to be taken off all mailing lists, etc. MacArthur, rightly so, then springboards into a discussion of apostasy and ends with offering an hour-long Q & A with Phil Johnson about the very question at hand— Why Do Believers Stop Believing?

macarthur-225Great question.

But something else bothered me about Steve’s letter… other than the obvious account of a man rejecting the saving grace of our Lord.  No, there was something more.  There was another question— a nagging question, just under the surface, that needed to be answered.  And not with some theological discussion about the definition of or the signs of apostasy.

But something simple, just one word. “Why?”  Yet, the answer was so deceptively sinister.

“What caused Steve to lose faith in the God of the Bible?  Did God somehow fail him in his time of need?  Did Jesus lie to Steve, betray Steve, ridicule Steve, or abandon Steve?  Did the Holy Spirit refuse to give Steve the gifts that He seems to give to everyone else?”

I don’t think so.  There must be more.

“Did Steve find errors in the Bible?  You know, passages that have been fraudulently inserted into the Scriptures by others to lead us astray into believing that Jesus is, in fact, God?  Maybe Steve found the body of Jesus buried somewhere in the Judean countryside?  Maybe he has proof that the resurrection was staged, or that Peter and Paul were fictional characters, or that the Gospel is nothing more than feel-good pabulum?”

Maybe.  But I still think it was something else.

Did you see what Steve said proved to him that there is no God or the God of the Bible doesn’t care?  Let me show you once again.

Now I no longer believe in the God of the Bible or in Jesus Christ.  Ten years of full-time ministry proved to me that there is no God and that the God of the Bible does not care. I now reject Christianity and have come to peace. What was at first a great loss has now turned to joy, peace, and freedom. I did not leave the faith because of some extreme sin. I left because the God of the Bible, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are all a fantasy. I’m happy I now live in the real world.

That’s right.  It was ten years of full-time ministry.  Ten years of working in a church or para-church organization with believers just like you and me.  It was ten years of seeing people who profess to know and love Jesus treat others so shamefully.  It was ten years of gossip, slander, backbiting, broken promises, political intrigue and all the other hurts that take place within the walls of ministry.

Ten years— ten long years of all the stuff Love Jesus, Hate Church is all about.

But for Steve, his final story will most likely be Hate Jesus, Hate Church, not because God failed, but because of the horrible, degrading things good people do to good people— all in the name of the Lord.  And Steve concluded, probably after weeks and maybe years of agonizing prayer, that God doesn’t care.  That God won’t, or can’t, take away Steve’s pain.  That God just turns a blind eye to what takes place in full-time ministry.

Or, that God must not exist .  Because if He did, He would do something about all the hurt and pain and disappointment Steve, and tens of thousands just like him, suffered those ten years.

Pain, most likely caused by Christians Steve had to deal with during 10 years of ministry.

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The following excerpt is from Love Jesus, Hate Church:

ljhc-book-175For most of us, the idea of church often conjures up the image of stately red brick buildings with tall, white, majestic steeples that point like an arrow straight into the heart of God.  For others, church gives us the warm, cozy feelings of nostalgia, the pleasant memories of good-times long past.  We fondly think of Sunday school with its Picture Bibles, flannel graphs, warm cherry Kool-Aid, and hard oatmeal cookies.  We remember Christmas plays and living nativities and shepherds’ costumes made from mom’s best bath towels and dad’s favorite pale-blue robe.  There was VBS and sword drills and Tootsie Rolls and Labor Day picnics and… well, the list can go on and on.

Church was portrayed as a place of safety and security, a living sanctuary where Christians could take shelter from the oppressive hurt and abuse the world tends to dish out on its inhabitants.  It was a place of worship, a place of love, of acceptance, and mutual ministry.
The Church was the one place on earth where you never feared being hurt or mistreated or misunderstood or belittled or needlessly offended or persecuted or slandered or wronged or berated.  Why?
“Because church is just like one big ol’ happy family.  Right?”

Well, not always.  Not really.
Every Sunday, hidden among masses of people that dutifully file in and out of church services across the land, there is an ever-growing army of disgruntled and disillusioned Believers that carry with them the battle scars they received on the frontlines of Church.  This group of walking wounded, their Purple Heart in hand, are interwoven into the very membership fabric of our congregations.  They’re disguised, cloaked, concealed behind a well-dressed façade that smiles and says, “How are you today?  Just fine.  And you?” and then moves on.  They’re detached.  Wary.  Reluctant to allow the pain they’ve experienced in Church be inflicted upon them, and their families, again.
“Don’t come any closer.  Stay back.  I don’t want to be hurt again.”

And this group just keeps getting larger.
Church splits, moral failures, deacon’s meetings, gossip, financial budgets, “the pastor didn’t call me when I was sick”, arguments, hymns versus choruses, young versus old, family church dynasty versus the “new kids on the church block”, building programs, tithing, pride, the annual Church Business Meetings, “look, those people sat in my seat”, and King James going one-on-one with everybody else… ah, you name it.  They all take their toll.
It’s like a young man or woman who has lost their virginity and is desperately trying to right the wrong, trying to turn back the clock in a futile attempt to make things like they were once before.
Well, you can’t.  You can never go back to the way it was before.
Once the bottle is broken and the innocence is spilled, you can never put it back into the bottle again.  You never move from Love Jesus, Hate Church to Love Jesus, Love Church.  There’s no round-trip ticket.  No return fare.  It’s simply a one-way ride from intimacy to disengagement, from reckless abandon to cautious reserve, from child-like delight to disillusionment and despair— or, in other words, from love to hate.
And every day it seems the ranks of the Love Jesus, Hate Church army swells. *

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So what do we do about the church?  Nothing.  We just live our lives out the way Christ called us to and allow Him to take care of His church.

We pledge to be different— and we do it for His glory!

Adveho quis may.  Come what may.
Will you join with me? Come what may.

To read Love Jesus, Hate Church, click – HERE

* From the chapter, Rescue Those Who Are Perishing, page 94.

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