I didn't want to get too deeply into the specifics of the Houston situation because for me it quickly became the source of an idea for getting the Church out of what seems to be paralysis in the face of every move made by the left, as if we just have to sit back and put up with it. I've been guilty myself of giving up and thinking Well, the Church was born in the Roman Empire which persecuted them, and it looks like we're just going to go back to being ruled by a pagan government that wants us gone, and persecution is good for the Church after all; the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church and all that. And besides this is the end times and prophetically we're right on schedule... Which is all true. But lately I think there may be ways to fight it after all and that's what's been preoccupying me.
THE HOUSTON CHALLENGE TO THE CHURCH
Just to say a few words about what's going on in Houston. First, the Mayor and City Attorney of Houston both denied knowing anything about the subpoena until the controversy was underway, and both affirmed that religious freedom is not to be infringed, and claim that wasn't their intention, it was just a matter of a badly chosen word, the word "sermons." What did they intend to say? Just "any and all communications," no emphasis on sermons. Supposedly this is for some kind of study, not an attack on pastors, just a necessary study connected with Houston's new equal rights ordinance that some pastors were strongly opposing. It is dubbed "the bathroom law" because it provides that public restrooms be available to either sex according to their preference, to allow access for transgendered individuals to the facility where they are most comfortable. No regard for how comfortable the majority may be with this arrangement, or the strong possibility that predators would take advantage of it.
About the denial, it isn't true that the mayor respects freedom of religion, which has been shown by the publication of a tweet of hers on the 14th that said "If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game." Clearly she is definitely targeting the Church for "hate speech" or violations of gay rights. I'm not sure what law makes political speech in the pulpit a crime, but if it is a crime we shouldn't tolerate this state of affairs any longer. I'm grateful for the recent discussions from many sources of the "Black-Robed Regiment" which proves that the early American clergy considered it a duty to preach on the politics of the day, which ought to be a model for the clergy in all times.
As for the "bathroom law" it's obnoxious and obscene and should be stopped in its tracks. This is a violation of public decency. When I was in rehab for my hip replacement summer before last I was shocked both by having a male nurse on some shifts, which made me decidedly uncomfortable, and by one incident where I was drying off after a shower and a nurse rushed into the bathroom saying she was going to bring a man in to use the toilet and needed to pull the shower curtain around me. I felt violated quite frankly. When he was behind his own curtain I rapidly dressed and left. The nurse commented that I "sure didn't like it" when she did that, did I, obviously implying I was the one out of order, not she. I'm a dinosaur and we're supposed to move with the times. Separate bathrooms is old fashioned, passé, a relic of an oppressive age. Do we protest or do we just let it all roll over us? Protesting takes work, it causes bad feelings, it's easier to just try to live with it, not make waves. So we back off. Wimp that I am, I said nothing more about it.
So on to today's news:
Newsmax today reports that Mike Huckabee wants all pastors in the nation to send their sermons to the mayor of Houston, any and all sermons, not specifically sermons on homosexuality or gay rights, and all those hearing him (see video) to send her a Bible. I've got to say this hits me as a useless gesture and a waste of Bibles. Huckabee says some good things about what the right to freedom of religion means and how this mayor is violating it, but in my opinion his solution is no solution. At best maybe it could show her that there are a lot of Christians in this country who disagree with her, and maybe that would have some effect.
THE CALL TO UNITE BEHIND THE HOUSTON PASTORS RAISES A TENUOUS BUT REAL HOPE FOR REVIVAL
But no, this just gets me back to Michael Brown's suggestion that pastors preach on homosexuality to support the Houston pastors, and I'd still like to see this sort of thing be considered as a way to deal with the problems we've been facing in America. I can see lots of plusses to such an action. It would aggressively defy the threatened repression of specific Christian teachings which is a violation of our First Amendment rights, it would give pastors strength in numbers who may be intimidated by such threats, and if the congregation supports the pastor and prays for the success of his preaching and prays against the repression of Christian teaching, we are also calling on God whose power we need to accomplish anything at all. Besides the goal of supporting the Houston pastors I allowed myself to expand on the suggestion to include all the problems America has been facing, dedicating a Sunday to each perhaps, although the specific method is something the pastors would have to determine, but some dedicated time when churches preach and pray in one voice across the nation against the evils we've all been only too aware of lately, especially perversions of American law that have been undermining the nation for decades now.
And just thinking along these lines reawakened my dormant hope for revival. It's dangerous to have this hope reawakened because of the disappointment that follows when we work for revival and it doesn't happen. I think I have a better grip on why it doesn't happen and that's good, but it doesn't mean the obstacles can be overcome. When I started my blogs I had the occasional rush of hope for revival that would deflate rapidly under a sense of the obstacles that would have to be overcome, back then mostly the specter of the "holy laughter" and other disruptive charismatic phenomena that were so prominent in recent "revivals;" along with the naysaying of a portion of the Church who believe God has given up on revival and now only seeks judgment on a sinful nation.
So my first thought was what a futility it is when I saw that David Ravenhill is continuing his father Leonard's preaching on the need for revival in America. A few decades ago Leonard Ravenhill preached many sermons and wrote many books trying to wake up the American Church to pray for revival, one titled America is Too Young to Die, all good and true preaching on a very important subject. You can find his preaching at You Tube. But what a disappointment when you know people were trying to follow his lead and nothing happened. No revival. Some bogus charismatic "revivals" but nothing like the Great Awakening that changed a nation, nothing like the revivals in Wales and the Hebrides that morally transformed those communities and left an indelible impression of the power of God on all who experienced them. Years later Martyn Lloyd-Jones still spoke of the impact of the revival he had experienced as a young man. It makes you yearn for the experience, but then you run up against all the reasons it probably can't happen.
Kay Arthur, who leads Precept Ministries Bible studies put out a call to pray for revival a few years ago to her Bible study members across the nation and the idea thrilled me. I did a couple of blog posts on it. That many people praying concertedly for revival surely ought to bring us revival. But it didn't.
So even thinking the thought of revival now comes with a cloud of gloom over it that I have to keep shaking off. If none of the pastors responded to Michael Brown isn't that already a sign we can't get a unified Church on any issue in America today? In earlier times you could get a revival if just one church was involved, or even just a few people started a prayer meeting focused on revival. I think it was the Hebrides where a powerful revival occurred when the elders of a church met to pray a few nights a week and were joined by a couple of elderly ladies praying in their home, a powerful revival that had people flocking to the church who hadn't even heard of its prayers, just drawn by the Holy Spirit. Then in New York City a man advertised for people to come pray for revival at a location he rented downtown and only a few showed up at first but then thousands and ultimately over a million. I've kind of given up on that model of starting small, thinking the churches across the nation have to share in the desire and the work to bring it about. But maybe that's the Pollyanna element, maybe one just has to start where one can start.
I've been doing some minimal fasting and praying lately about the horrors of the daily headlines and I believe God has been rewarding my paltry and inconsistent efforts. I wake up early with my head full of thoughts along the lines of my latest blog posts. This morning I woke up with thoughts about what hinders a revival.
Leonard Ravenhill also wrote a book titled Why Revival Tarries. It's an indictment of a prayerless Church, prayerless pastors, prayerless Christians. Here's Page One of the book. And you can get a feeling for it by reading the Reviews of it at Amazon. It's a powerful book, it makes you very uncomfortable. One reviewer says it changed his life. Some of us just get overwhelmed by it, we can't do what he asks so we sink into deeper gloom. That includes me. He makes you feel terrible about it. I can't sustain the deep protracted prayer life he asks for though I admire it and wish I could. I've tried. I won't bore you with my futile efforts. They are something like closing my eyes, gritting my teeth and trying desperately to fend off alien thoughts with frantic flailings. I've come to think we may need revival to give us the ability to pray in depth. I occasionally succeed at the little my lazy American self feels up to and hope God will make more possible. Ravenhill's book may spur others on to the depths of prayer but I have to limp behind them, and I think there are many others like me. So I say let's just do what we can, even a little may be blessed by God and one thing we know: the more we have the more we will get, that's a principle Jesus taught that could keep us from giving up.
If we did pray as Ravenhill wants us to I'm sure God would finger all the problems in the Church that are hindering revival and move us to deal with them. But I'm sort of suspecting that the reason we can't pray in the depth we should is the same reason revival isn't happening: We're under spiritual oppression because of the sins of the Church. My own answered prayers lately are giving me some idea of what we're up against.
The thought of them, as usual, takes the wind out of me. But here goes.
WHAT HINDERS REVIVAL
1) The main one, that I keep bringing up over and over, is ecumenism. I have the impression from somewhere that even Leonard Ravenhill didn't take a stand against the Roman Church. He may have tolerated it or been ambivalent about it, I'm not sure, but I don't recall his ever denouncing it. Billy Graham might have had an influence on him, he had a lot of people fooled, but we have to denounce Graham in no uncertain terms for his acceptance of Romanism, for sending Catholics from his Crusades back to the Roman wolf, and also for his horrifying admission to Robert Schuler that he thinks some people are saved who never heard of Christ. You can find this at You Tube. And we need to repent of all ecumenical prayer gatherings. I think this is absolutely crucial. Jonathan Cahn preaches a solid gospel sermon but doing it at an ecumenical gathering is as good as burying it six feet deep. God will not hear us if we hold hands with the followers of Baal, even if they are very nice conservative people we agree with on most other things. If they are Mormons or Catholics or whatever they are, they have to come out of their false Churches before we can fellowship with them on a spiritual level. If we want revival in this nation we HAVE to come together as a pure Christian body free of the influence of false doctrine. We can be nice about it, we just can't have it.
So I'm thinking it's possible that if Ravenhill was at all open to Roman Catholicism, even possibly for the sake of friendship with Billy Graham, he may have put the brakes on his own call to revival.
2) But I know for sure that he was open to the Charismatic Movement, like so many of us who believe God could still move in miraculous power and long to see it. But a lack of discernment in that area could also have stifled his call to revival, because the Charismatic Movement is based on false doctrine. They have a false idea of the Gifts of the Spirit and it is a big mistake to equate God's continuing will to bless us at times supernaturally with the particular beliefs of Charismatica. I do think most Charismatics are saved people and doctrinally orthodox on the most important points, but they are also particularly accepting of Roman Catholicism, and I also have to take the position that because they promote the false teachings about the gifts of the Spirit that they shouldn't be part of preaching and prayer for revival. I think of Michael Brown who called for the pastors to unite with Houston pastors and I feel bad about it but I couldn't include him in this effort toward revival. He says he regularly prays in tongues, it's part of his private devotions. He's deceived, he's not talking to God. I don't doubt his salvation, I don't doubt his orthodoxy on foundational doctrine, but any effort toward revival needs to be free of doctrinal problems wherever we can identify them.
I know this is going to offend a lot of people, which is one big reason why I have so little hope of success in seeking revival. We can't have revival if we don't do our utmost to purify the Church.
But wait, it gets worse.
3) The other thought that keeps coming to mind, apparently in answer to prayer, that is guaranteed to offend a great number of people, is that one hindrance to revival is the presence of sin in the churches, and the one sin that is in all the churches these days is divorce, and especially remarriage after divorce. I know that this is justified on the basis of scripture in many churches, for instance that sexual betrayal is preached as justification for divorce and remarriage. I'm not sure even that interpretation holds up (isn't dying to self the most central of all the commands to us?), but could it possibly be the reason for all the many divorces we see in the churches? Battering and abuse seems like a justifiable cause, although scripture doesn't mention it and as far as I know it's not a very common reason anyway. I can't determine the best interpretation of the scriptures on this subject, I haven't studied them closely enough but even if I had it wouldn't be my place. Different churches have different levels of strictness about it. I've strongly felt that some justifications are so lenient they amount to permitting sin in the congregation, but it's a feeling or impression and I don't want to try to defend it. All I want to say is I think the Lord has an objection to some of it, maybe all of it, and that if He does it could definitely interfere with efforts toward revival. How would we find out? By fasting and praying. This is what every church should do with any policy that could be controversial. God will reveal the truth about the controversy if the prayer is sincere. You have to be willing to accept the answer He gives. It could be very disruptive of the church, but each church would have to deal with it according to the Lord's leading.
If we want revival it's going to cost.
I had to get all that said, I feel strongly that the Lord has pointed to these three areas in particular as needing Reformation before we can begin to expect Him to send us Revival. Others need to fast and pray to come to their own conclusions about it.
Later I have to add 4) Denial of Biblical Inerrancy has to be identified and shunned. Sad to say this is one of the things that was on my mind when I woke up early this morning, one of the things I believe comes from God in answer to my prayers to understand what hinders the revival we need to answer the deteriorating culture. And I forgot to write it here. Absolutely crucial. It's really all of a piece with "Liberal Christianity" too. Those individuals and churches who hold these views, who deny that God's word is inerrant and therefore affirm all kinds of worldly and ungodly positions, cannot participate in this revival effort. It's one of the things we need to preach down, denounce in preaching and prayer, like the rest on the list I've been putting together here.
Revival has a purifying effect in itself, it stirs up everybody's conscience and leads to personal reforms of all kinds, but in our current situation it seems we need to do some reforming on our own before we can think of being blessed with revival. But I feel optimistic that it's possible, if we were to do these things God could very well respond with revival.
5) and 6) I also have two other issues that are the subject of separate blogs that I believe could make a big difference too, the Bible Versions issue and the woman's head covering. There's unfortunately not much likelihood of convincing many of my views on these, but I'll just put it out there that if everything else is done and revival is still not happening it might be worth the experiment of women wearing scarves in church and the church using only the King James Bihle. Just a thought.
There could of course be other problems that need reform before we can have revival. I'll probably be thinking about it.
KNOWING WHAT HINDERS COULD HELP, OR OVERWHELM US
It has to help to have some idea what may be hindering revival, when before we've had no way of explaining our continual defeats. There is always hope in having a direction that could conceivably be followed even if a difficult one. The particular issues I've identified are of course not likely to persuade many so in the end revival could well be prevented anyway as it has been for so long already. But if even a few churches agreed to these things we could possibly have a local revival at least.
Maybe not many Christians even want revival. But what if it's the only way we could possibly push back the pagan influences that have been overwhelming us lately? That's the context in which I think God brought these things to my mind.
I'll close this by saying we should be a David Church and I have some hope that we could be:
1 Samuel 17:26 And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?But at the moment instead of being a David Church that stands up to Goliath, we're the ones who bring reproach on Israel by fleeing from him.