Living Confidently in the Sick Society

The following photograph is one that I took at the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at the Cincinnati Museum Center in February 2013 with their permission to display it on a blog for personal use. This is a series of small idols which were found in the outlying towns of Israel and Judah during the time of the Old Testament prophets, and it corroborates their declarations about what was happening in their times. In their day it was literally a ‘build your own god’ movement out of wood, stone and clay, and their choices were for a Yahweh with the characteristics of a pagan god and only the name of the one true God. Or the idols show that they would make their preferences for one or more of the pagan gods around them who wasn’t as picky on matters of personal morality and integrity as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

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The prevalence of idolatry in ancient Israel and Judah during the time of the Old Testament prophets is a factor which is often rightly mentioned in current preaching and teaching as the reason for the judgment of ancient Israel and Judah. This judgment of God culminated in the destruction by the Assyrians of the northern kingdom of Israel, centered in the city of Samaria, in 722 B.C.E., then in the destruction of Judah in two phases, in the judgment from the Assyrian emperor Sennacherib which destroyed the outlying cities and towns but which God stopped short of Jerusalem in 701 B.C.E., and then in the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians under their emperor Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.E. And certainly idolatry was at the heart of God’s indictment against Israel and Judah during these years.

There was, though, another count in the indictment which often goes overlooked: the decline in personal honesty and trustworthiness and the pervasive cheating and deceit in business matters and personal matters among his people. These were indications of how far they had departed from the one true God, and their society became more and more sick as a consequence.

The prophet Micah saw the decay of devotion to God around him and the decay of his society, and spoke strongly to the people in his day about the consequences that would come because of it. He lived about seven hundred years before Christ, and he spoke to the people of Jerusalem, in the southern kingdom of Judah, which had become a house divided and a society at war with itself. The root was that they had neglected and then abandoned God. The consequence was that sins against God had infiltrated into all aspects of their lives, and this was defiling and destroying civil institutions and families. And to those in the midst of this situation, Micah gave them guidance on the need for godly wisdom that their circumstances made more necessary than ever. Their times were difficult, and growing more difficult, but the times were certainly not hopeless. The greatest reason for hope always remained, in the almighty, all loving and all wise God of Israel, the God of the Bible. So in all that they were experiencing as their society started to crumble around them, what was called for was not despair and despondency but rather a continued faith and a confident expectation of the mighty intervention of God himself.

These words of Micah still speak to us today, because we see the same kinds of conflict happening, and the same kinds of sins still infiltrating our society and causing decay and rot throughout. While many cast off restraints in their self centered definition of freedom, there is still the same hope in the God of the Bible for each one who has been born again of the Spirit of God through faith in God, and that means that there is always good reason to remain steadfast in faith in God. Even though scripture does indicate that society will become sicker to the point of terminal illness as the end approaches, there is still every reason to remain confident in God. This is the direction for the attitude and actions of the people of God in all ages, from the encouragement of the prophet of God to remain faithful to god, and from the personal declaration of the prophet himself of his own abiding faith and expectation in the God of the Bible.

“How much heartbreak is mine!
I am like someone gathering fruit in summer, like someone picking the last few grapes of this year’s vintage,
There are no grapes to eat, no early figs for the longings of my soul.
The people who were serious about God have been obliterated from the land, and there is no one left with a modicum of honesty.
Everyone left waits in murderous ambush, each one waits for his brother with a net. The highest bureaucrat expects favors,
The judge wants bribes, and the political bosses dictate their own whims,
They all make their little plots and schemes together. The best one among them is like a briar, the most honest one like a prickly hedge.
The day your watchmen predicted, the time of God’s judgment, has come, now is the time that they all get lost in their own confusion.
Do not put your trust in a neighbor, do not even trust someone that you may know well.
Even with the wife who is in your close embrace watch your words.
Because a son shows contempt for his father, and a daughter places herself above her mother
And a daughter in law places herself above her mother in law, and so a man’s enemies are the people in his own dwelling.
And so I am looking for the LORD, I am waiting for God my Savior!
My God will hear me!”

(Micah 7:1-7, Dale’s translation).

The people of God must live wisely in the midst of the sick society. Dissatisfaction with the circumstances can mean an honest lament over where things have deteriorated, but still there is wisdom from God available, even when there is disappointment and disillusionment with other people as we live our lives in the middle of the sick society. The people of God can look out upon all the deterioration and depravity and yet find that there is a path of wisdom from God for them in the midst of all that. The circumstances are heartbreaking, though, to the person who knows God.

The deterioration of society to become the sick society is one where even the institutions intended to restrain evil and wrongdoing become accessories to the performance of evil. Rampant sin means the perversion of justice in those offices which were intended to preserve justice. While there has always been some injustice in human society, something can happen where someone realizes that he or she is living in the sick society, and this realization breaks the heart when it comes. All that is left is a lament for civil society as it is. 

The prophet begins with a lament, about how it seems like all the good stuff is all used up and all the good times are gone, and that he is left with nothing around him that gives him hope:

 “How much heartbreak is mine!
I am like someone gathering fruit in summer, like someone picking the last few grapes of this year’s vintage,
There are no grapes to eat, no early figs for the longings of my soul.”

The prophet is feeling like everything good has been sucked out of life. His ministry began in the time of Jotham, one of the godly kings of Judah who reigned in Jerusalem as his capital city, continued during the long reign of Ahaz, who was one of the most ungodly and incompetent kings from the line of David to reign in Jerusalem, and concluded during the time of Hezekiah, who was one of the most godly kings from the line of David. He seems to lived and prophesied roughly about the same time as Isaiah, but may not have lived until the time of the invasion of the Assyrian king Sennacherib that Isaiah 36-39 describes, and which happened in 701 BCE. This description of his disappointment may reflect the realization that the good times for the kingdom which happened in the early years of Hezekiah were going to come to an end, that the restoration and revival which had come with Hezekiah would give way to the judgment on the outlying cities and towns of the nation of Judah.

This description is of his emotional reaction to the sin of his people and the coming judgment of his people. He expresses this with the traditional poetic form known as lament. Earlier he had begun this book of prophecy with a lament and the lament in this current passage is reminiscent of lament of 1:8-16. Though his lament was a traditional poetic form, it is nevertheless heartfelt, and with it the prophet shows the scriptural response to heartbreaking circumstances that he was seeing. In his own society he was seeing a sick defiance of God which was daring God to take action and do something. In fact he shows us that for a godly person, witnessing a decline in personal morality throughout one’s own society is something well worth mourning over, and it is something that is worth giving one’s own heart into grieving over the evils that must provoke the holy God of the Bible as well.

We always want the joy and happiness in life, but if we look at the world and our times with the lens of scripture, we may find great reasons for sadness and sorrow. That’s why there is such a strong current of lament in the Old Testament Psalms and prophets, and why you also see lament in the New Testament also. It’s the appropriate emotional and spiritual reaction when a godly person looks out and sees a decline in godliness around himself or herself. And certainly there will be times when churches and societies increase and decrease, prosper and decline, as time goes on. So the reaction of disappointment and grief to the decline and impending judgment of God is as appropriate to godly people as satisfaction, peace and joy when the gospel spreads, people come to Christ and the church is built up. Somewhere some people get the idea that following Christ means nothing but joy, peace and happiness and that there’s something wrong with us if we experience disappointment and grief in this world. But that’s looking for the cause in the wrong place often enough – for a godly person looking out at this world the disappointment and grief may well be the sign of something really right with himself or herself – the growth in personal holiness and being able to look out at this world with a focus based on and guided by the absolute holiness and righteousness of God himself.

”The people who were serious about God have been obliterated from the land, and there is no one left with a modicum of honesty.
Everyone left waits in murderous ambush, each one waits for his brother with a net.”

Micah lamented the loss of the people who were serious about God from those who were supposed to be the people of God. His contemporary Isaiah lamented the same thing (Isaiah 57:1-2 59:1-12 for the lament). They may have been thinking about the loss of faithful, believing Israelites such as Barzillai the Gileadite (II Samuel 17:27-29, 19:31-39). What they were seeing were that the generation which had remained faithful from the days of Jotham through the reign of Ahaz to the reign of Hezekiah were dying off, and the generation which had grown up during the reign of Ahaz were gaining ascendancy. They were seeing the generation which had known previous security was giving way to a much more self concerned, self seeking and rapacious generation – those who were the children by relation shared little of the faith of their fathers. While there will always be such individuals in families who do not follow the faith of their parents, the prophets of God realized that some kind of line had been crossed in Israel and Judah during their lifetimes. And soon the judgment of God fell upon Israel and Judah: first upon Israel in the days of Hezekiah, in 722 BCE, and then upon Judah through the Assyrians later in the reign of Hezekiah, in 701 BCE.

The tripwire for the coming judgment was given as the withering of personal morality and trustworthiness in comparison to the standards of God which were held up in the Word of God. The judgment would come not just for the rampant idolatry and the attendant sexual immorality which had grown in the past generation (the connection in the ancient world between idolatry and sexual immorality was well known throughout the Old and New Testaments). The judgment would come for the cheating lifestyle: the person who is trying to cheat God out of his due glory under the Word of God that “You shall have no other gods before me,” his family out of their due honor and loyalty under “You shall not commit adultery”, and fellow human beings out of due honesty and fairness under, “You shall not murder . . .  you shall not steal . . . you shall not bear false witness . . . you shall not covet.” It would not be too much to say that one of the greatest generations had become the cheating generation.

This is a common and pernicious delusion that can take hold of a person, a family, a generation, a nation: that God doesn’t care about my personal integrity. From this delusion even the people who may claim to know the holy and righteous God of the Bible may descend to taking unfair and immoral advantage of others and using others for one’s own benefit at their expense. Yet this does come from idea that a person can build your own God. The people of Israel and Judah had come to the point where they thought that they could building a God for their own tastes from bits of the God of the Bible and the pagan gods from the people around them. So they came up with a God who looks the other way and doesn’t care about sin – not a holy God who cares about the holiness of his people. And unfortunately, this has been the same delusion that has infected believers throughout the ages, from professed believers in the USA around the late 1800s and early 1900s, to the late 1960s to the late 1970s, and now since the past decade as well.

The prophet then went on to expose how the decline in personal morality among those who were to be the people of God in Israel and Judah was corrupting the institutions of civil justice. The corrupt ruling class would lead the way for the nations which were heading insanely into the judgment of God.

“The highest bureaucrat expects favors,
The judge wants bribes, and the political bosses dictate their own whims,
They all make their little plots and schemes together. The best one among them is like a briar, the most honest one like a prickly hedge.
The day your watchmen predicted, the time of God’s judgment, has come, now is the time that they all get lost in their own confusion.”

Micah was describing what was happening with corrupt ruling class over the people of God and how they were daring the judgment of God. Isaiah also decried this, and and spoke about the coming time of judgment from God (1:23, 10:1-4). Micah’s words echo of his more graphic indictment of the predatory leaders earlier in his prophecies, in 3:1-12.

“And he says,
“’Hear now, you leaders of Jacob, and you judges of the house of Israel,
isn’t it proper for you to know justice,
you who hate what is good and love what is evil?’
. . .
‘Hear this, heads of the house of Jacob and judges of the house of Israel,
who detest justice and pervert all that is right,
who build Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with injustice?
Her leaders render judgments for a bribe, and her priests pontificate for profit,
her prophets read tea leaves for money.
Yet they still rely on the LORD as they say,
‘Isn’t the LORD in our midst? Nothing bad will come upon us.’””

(Micah 3: 1-2, 9-11, Dale’s translation)

The ruling class of ancient Israel and Judah, the corrupt officials whom Micah and Isaiah addressed, did not have just a secular responsibility to the nation. While in the Old Testament there is some sense of the consent of the governed, but also the ultimate responsibility of the government and the ruling class in particular was their responsibility to God and the Word of God. In the most real sense the only true theocracy the world has ever seen as was ancient Israel, especially under the godly kings, and the times of godliness were the times that the nation looked back to as the golden ages, especially the times of David and Solomon. What happened was their sense of responsibility to God and their people gave way to a cynical ‘What’s In It For Me?’ mentality, where doing anything at all in connection with their responsibilities for honesty, fairness, justice and mercy under the Law of God gave way to not doing anything except what was in their own personal advantage. But the judgment of God would come upon them, and the mark of the judgment would be their own cluelessness and their own confusion as things started to turn against them.

This abuse of human institutions meant to protect the weaker from the stronger came through the disappearance of godly and honest people from the ruling class as it became more and more corrupt. Those who were in the place of judgment and enforcement of justice themselves were falling into the deceit and greed of the society as a whole, of the society which had neglected, disregarded and disdained the God of the Bible. The corrupt ruling class were using their positions for the pursuit of personal gain and cashing in, and as such were a bitter disappointment to those who were still around who still trusted and followed the God of the Bible.

The injustice in the sick society is very much the responsibility of those in authority, of the corrupt ruling class: the responsibilities of the office are discharged no better than the personal morality of the officeholder. Too often men and women even within the people who claim to know and follow the God of the Bible have shown far too little concern over the moral convictions and personal morality of public officials, whether those officials were elected or appointed. Yet the personal moral compass of those officials has a great bearing on whether the execution of the office becomes the enforcement of genuine Biblical justice and mercy in line with the God of the Bible or the enforcement of the whims, pipe dreams, folly and immorality of others. Yet compare the reason why Governeur Morris encouraged George Washington to become accept the presidency of the United States during its infancy: “The exercise of authority depends upon personal character. Your cool, steady temper is indispensably necessary to give firm and manly tone to the new government.”

This shows very much the corrupting power of sin. Sin can turn the people in the institutions, both religious and secular, intended by God to restrain sin, into the weapons of its own warfare. And this infection of sin in the cheating generation can weaponize the civil and even the religious leaders and institutions to speak and act contrary to the righteousness and holiness of the God they claim to serve. So then, even within the professing church of Jesus Christ, within the vocational ministry and denominational hierarchy, the infiltration of this subtle idolatry, to make the generation following a faithful generation the cheating generation, can defile the ministry of church leaders. This same kind of ‘What’s In It For Me?’ mentality can infect the church as an institution as well within the vocational ministry and a denominational hierarchy. And the cheating infects the professing church as well when its leaders start to follow the idolatries and follies of the cheating generation. And the decline begins as the presence of the holy and righteous God begins to withdraw from ministries, churches and denominations which once reflected his character and experienced his power to save to the uttermost.

This shows, then, another pernicious delusion that often takes hold of those who seek and attain political power: that God doesn’t care about how I deal with others in the conduct of my civic responsibilities. It is the delusion that my personal morality and integrity in the execution of my office do not matter before God. The ruling elite becomes influenced by the behavior of others in the ruling elite – they can see others of the cheating generation doing what God has condemned, and they then eagerly follow them to make sure that they get their own pieces of the pie. And indeed so many times this abuse of political power for personal gain becomes rampant simply because  those in power and part of the ruling elite see others ‘getting away with it’ and they simply want to do what they can to get their part of the undisclosed benefits. Giving and receiving bribes and working to keep on funneling benefits to myself and my family at the expense of others becomes a normal way of life among the ruling elites.

So this build your own God mentality  can come up with a God who looks the other way and who does not care about the integrity and justice of those who pursue and receive political power. It can change within one generation, when a faithful generation gives way to the cheating generation. But this politics for personal profit will ultimately be exposed, according to the words of Jesus himself in Luke 12:2: “For there is nothing which has been concealed which will not be brought out into the open, and hidden which shall not become known.”

But this is not the whole story yet — the prophet of God then went to describe how deeply the decline in personal morality was infecting the family of the cheating generation. What was happening was horrible betrayals, with family members ratting out each other, so that no one could ever be certain of the loyalty even of a spouse. In the sick society, even family and friends are of little or no support. When the loss of truthfulness and integrity penetrates a nation and a generation, it means the loss of trustworthiness, and so within the family itself there is rampant betrayal and conflict.

“Do not put your trust in a neighbor, do not even trust someone that you may know well.
Even with the wife who is in your close embrace watch your words.
Because a son shows contempt for his father, and a daughter places herself above her mother
And a daughter in law places herself above her mother in law, and so a man’s enemies are the people in his own dwelling.”

The infiltration of the trend of society into the family circle makes the family a prime area of conflict in the cheating generation. Where there should rather have been mutual love and respect, disrespect and conflict are rampant among the cheating generation. What the prophet is describing is role reversal –  where personal arrogance results in contempt and disdain for family members and ultimately the betrayal of family members. And as far as what would be expected to be normal and praiseworthy behavior – go to the book of Ruth and contrast the humility and respect of Ruth for  her mother in law Naomi with the behavior that the prophet describes here.

Yet there would be betrayal rather than support for family members among the depredations of the cheating generation against their neighbors, even to their closest earthly neighbors. Even more, the repeating pattern of deceit and aggression among the cheating generation means that family life itself becomes a bitter disappointment. The moral that the prophet drew was that even among one’s own family members the person who seeks to follow the God of the Bible must watch his or her words and be careful of what he or she says. Thus the godly person must watch his or her back even while he or she is standing for God in the middle of the cheating generation. It is a situation where love and fidelity are sacrificed, and anything you say can and will be used against you.

So this highlights another pernicious delusion that can come from the build your own God mentality: that God doesn’t care about my loyalty to my family members and how I treat them. I can still pursue my dreams and fantasies of plenty and power and personal glory despite what it means to my family members, my closest neighbors in this world. In fact, this drive to plenty and power and personal glory often builds greater disruption and conflict within families as ambitious and ruthless family members build unholy and unrighteous internal alliances for and against other family members with those who are outside the family circle. Instead of mutual love and respect within the family, having to deal with the repeated pattern of deceit and aggression means that family life itself, intended from the beginning by God to be a blessing, a source of enjoyment and happiness, becomes instead bitter disappointment and disillusionment.

And where there is lukewarm devotion to God at best among so many with only a vague kind of religiosity – the result seen in the past hundred years in the United States and the result of liberal theology that compromises and explains away Biblical truth and dead orthodoxy which fails to live out Biblical truth – it is no wonder that the restraining influence of the church of Jesus Christ wanes. Then the infiltration of tolerated and indulged sins into the family, the increase of material good without devotion to God, gives way to an onslaught of social evils. The children may only have the bad example of the mistakes, follies and sins of lukewarm parents, and they may fall into drugs, out of wedlock pregnancy, idleness and unemployment and despair and suicide. But the responsibility of each one before God remains, and he is there and he is not silent.

So the people of God who are standing for God in this situation find may this to be the way of wisdom with untrustworthy family members. They need to be extremely careful with what they say. The situation calls for guarded and carefully weighed words – to tell the truth but not necessarily full disclosure – as the shrewdness necessary for someone who has to watch his or her back in one’s own household. And even more, this is also noteworthy as one of the problems of a church that has probably grown too large, or a church which is declining, is that professed believers become untrustworthy as well among themselves. They fall into the habits and practice a lot of petty backstabbing and backbiting, sometimes with vicious little bits of second hand gossip that are decades old. But this becomes necessary in the wake of the build your own God mentality – it calls for extreme caution in dealing with those who can come up with a God who does not care if they bear false witness against and betray the members of one’s own family.

This, then, is also something especially that believers in Jesus Christ need to note. Jesus himself, during his earthly ministry as Prophet and Teacher, referred to these same verses and said that they would continue to be characteristic of times of persecution for his church afterwards:

“Do not think that I came to push peace upon the earth; I came not to push peace but a sword, because I came to divide a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother and the bride against her mother in law, and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. The person who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and the person who love son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me,  and whoever does not pick up his or her cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. The person who finds his life will end up losing it, and the person who loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).

During the times of the sick society and the cheating generation, there is still one thing left for the person who knows, trust and follows the God of the Bible. Despite the moral insanity of the sick society and the cheating generation, God himself remains an unchangeable and unshakeable source of security. No matter what, continuing in trust and confidence in God will always be appropriate. Only through God can discouragement, despondency and hopelessness be turned to hope, trust and confidence.

The faith that is secure in God looks forward to his intervention in the sick society. The people who follow the God of the Bible can then live with confidence in his wisdom, power, compassion and justice, and they can live with the realization that however bad the situation is and however bad it may become, God is greater than that situation, and he is never at a loss.

The prophet himself held up a lantern of the kind of faith in God that the situation was calling for:

”And so I am looking for the LORD, I am waiting for God my Savior! **
My God will hear me!”

The prophet showed the people of God to look to their God beyond all the circumstances and to wait for his solution, for his salvation in the midst of the sick society. He showed them to look to God, that whatever the wrong being done in the present, that God will judge and overrule that evil. Moreover, that time of waiting will also be the time of God’s patience in offering his mercy and the opportunity for repentance before he imposes his justice upon the unrepentant. The man or woman of God in these circumstances will then imitate the patience of God as he or she waits upon God, with the expectation that God’s wisdom will mean perfect timing for the time that he intervenes in the world that he created, which he rules and for which he takes the ultimate responsibility that justice will be served.

Note that the prophet had no schemes or resources for any changes in himself that he could do for the reformation of the sick society. The situation was so beyond the prophet and the people who followed the God of the Bible that all that they could look for was his solution to the sick society. So the prophet went on with the assurance that his prayers would make a difference since he was going to the God who would make the difference. He could say with confidence, “My God will hear me!”

As the sick society starts to unravel and disintegrate at the fringes and within, the way of the people of God has always been to trust in God and to seek him earnestly and diligently in prayer. No matter how difficult the times become, there is always an immovable basis of security in our God. He is the true and living God, the Almighty and the Eternal, who never changes. So then, he is our source of our confidence and security when we have been placed in the midst of the sick society. And the way of the godly then is to take refuge in prayer, to give full confidence to God in all the troubles of the current times. They turn to the one true God, the God of Israel, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, since he will not betray or disappoint.

And this turning to the God of the Bible will mean turning away from the gods that we try to imagine out for ourselves. The statement of confident faith of the prophet exposes the problem with the ‘Build Your Own God’ mentality: the gods we build out of our own preferences and imagination can’t hear us. They aren’t real and cannot answer us. They bring out God’s continuous taunt to those who try to build their own gods: go ahead and cry out to them and see if they can save you. And those who try to build their own gods find out quite quickly that made up gods cannot save them in the time of trouble.

But the person who turns to the God of the Bible will quickly find that he is not like our imaginary gods at all. That person will find that the God of the Bible is quite willing to be called, “My God” by the people who give themselves entirely to him and seek to live in harmony with him throughout their lives. They will know that know that his presence gives the incentive to pray and the assurance of answered prayer, as they live with him and they grow closer to him in intimacy, love and trust. They will know that the God of the Bible is a God who genuinely hears the prayers of his people, and who trust that, “My God will hear me!” when they pray to him. They will know that there is no deficiency in his ability to intervene in our world and in our lives and in his willingness to hear and answer prayer. All that he was waiting for was the simplicity of faith that trusts him wholeheartedly, to receive his answers for our lives and our world. And this will then mean actual prayer to God who hears, in response to his many invitations to pray. It will mean that our prayers are not vague expressions of hope but the actual expression of our genuine faith and reliance on what God can do and is willing to do and will do. As A. C. Dixon once said, “When we rely upon organization, we get what organization can do; when we rely upon education, we get what education can do; when we rely upon eloquence, we get what eloquence can do; and so on. But when we rely upon prayer, we get what God can do.”

So the times of disintegration in the sick society are the times which simply call for continued confidence in God. Because of the eternal, almighty and faithful God, there is never a reason to give up any hope when we look out at the situation we see in our world. When we experience bitterness and disappointment because of what we see around us, it rather calls us to seek his intervention in our lives and in our world. The need is to continue to  be in prayer to the God who truly hears and answers prayer. No matter how difficult the times become, there is always an immovable source of security in our God. He is the true and living God, the Almighty, the Eternal, who never changes. Therefore he is the source of our confidence and security, and he becomes the one to whom we turn as well to change the sick society around us.

Then let us continue to pray to our God for a revival in our churches, that our generation and the generations to come may come to a full experience of God the Savior through his Son Jesus Christ. Let us ask for the transformation of our sick society through the mighty working of the Holy Spirit, first among the believers in our churches, and then among those who have not received his salvation in our society. Let us have that reliance upon God for his work of conviction, of cleansing and of reconciliation between God and man. Let us seek for the revival of the love of Christ among us to where we see the reconciliation and restoration of families. There are known cases of people who prayed for thirty and forty years for revival, and God did answer them and brought transformation. I would hope that we would not have to wait that long, but still we can persevere with the assurance that our God will hear us.

The God of the Bible remains the same despite whatever happens in the society around us. Thus his people can remain confident in him no matter what occurs, because he is faithful and mightier than every situation. And this calls us in our day, in our sick society, to continue to in faith and prayer in our day, to wait upon God because God will hear us.

So remain in prayer, and in the way of faith in God in the midst of the sick society. Continue to look for change to happen, from the God who know and changes the human heart, hardened and sick as it may be and as it may become in the sick society. Look for his revival and spiritual awakening to come upon our sick society.

And finally, each one of you, make certain that you have taken the most urgent and necessary step to place your deepest confidence and ultimate security in God alone. I mean make certain of your own eternal salvation before God  through Jesus Christ. Enter the reconciled fellowship with him through repenting of your sins and placing your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior now and for all eternity. Make certain that you can stand before God not because of anything that you have done but solely and entirely upon the death of Christ upon the cross for you, for your own eternal salvation. The security in God for all eternity is for those who have been reconciled to him through Jesus Christ. If you don’t know how to do this, simply take every word I have written in this paragraph and address it back to God in prayer, that that is what you want from him – eternal pardon and acceptance with him through faith in Jesus Christ alone – and state to him that you are now, at this very moment, repenting of all your sins and placing your trust in Jesus Christ alone for your eternal salvation.

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Three Links For Your Consideration

During the 1980s I was greatly blessed by the monthly circular Herald of His Coming and the many articles from classic authors on prayer, revival and sanctification which it contained. I recently checked, and they are now online! The URL is Herald of His Coming.

Another circular which blessed me during those years was Pulpit Helps. The past issues up to December 2009 are now online: Pulpit Helps, but the circular itself has been superseded by Disciple magazine.

Where Has a Generation of Psychology Based Family and Marriage Ministry Brought Us?

In the early 1970s, revival began to sweep a number of churches from different denominations in central Canada. Known as the Canadian revival, as the Holy Spirit swept through these churches, professed Christians were confessing their sins to God and man and entering into a fresh and revived relationship with God and with each other. Marriage and family reconciliation and renewal was a prominent effect of this revival. One teenager explained it this way: “When we saw our parents getting serious about right with God, we started getting with God ourselves.”

At about the same time, James Dobson started a new ministry called Focus on the Family. His commendable motive was, “Families are hurting.” The son of a Nazarene minister, he included a very definite focus on Biblical teaching and evangelical conversion, but also incorporated a number of aspects of secular psychology from his own background, most notably the self esteem teaching. Though for generations there had always been evangelicals who had degrees in psychology and psychiatry, since psychology itself had been part of the philosophy, religion or theology departments in many universities, the psychological perspective seemed to become a more prominent part of addressing marital and family issues than ever before, especially after the wide circulation of the film series “Focus on the Family” in the late 1970s to the early 1980s.

So, since the late 1970s, it’s seemed like when there are marital and family issues, the pastor, the Bible study leader and the Sunday school teacher have given way to the Christian psychologist – either through quotes, repetition / research  / plagiarism, or the use of media such as films and videos. Every day there are a number of programs on Christian radio stations with Christian counselors and psychologists that deal with Christian and family issues. So how effective have the Christian psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors been in dealing with family disintegration within the evangelical church? Anyone familiar with the occurrence of unreported abortions, unwed pregnancies, divorces and remarriages, affairs and parent/child discipline problems in most churches could say that there have been a number of individual success stories, but that by and large, the people who attend evangelical churches tend to be not very far behind the secular culture. The thing is that while families within our churches are still hurting, probably more of them are hurting now than a generation ago, and the explosion of psychologically oriented family and marriage ministries does not seem to have done that much to stem the tide.

Here’s where I think that we’ve lost something in our ministry to churches and families due to seeing the problems as having solutions that need to come from the psychologists. I think that we’ve lost the realization of what God himself can do by himself through the Holy Spirit in the lives of his people to produce family and marital reconciliation and tried to do more through a psychological orientation than the results overall would warrant. And I think that we’ve taken on far too many formulas based upon human insights – sometimes ultimately from secular sources that have a very different starting point than a Biblical understanding of the world and of God , mankind and sin —  and a direction based on human understanding, motivation and effort toward satisfaction in this life. So the emphasis seems to have shifted away from marital and family issues as being part of trust in and obedience to Christ as Lord, the disciplemaking ministry of the church, and the sanctifying ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Even more, this can take the form in marriages and families of a psychologically based legalism and judgmentalism. This is where spouses, potential spouses and family members make performance based demands and judgments based upon what he or (more likely) she found in the writings or teaching of a Christian psychologist. And often enough, the other person has never had a chance to hear or read, understand or evaluate according to scripture these expectations and judgments of his or her personal failings, and so may be being pressured and browbeaten to behavior which he or she has not subjected the scrutiny of scripture or even his or her own conscience before God. So, in this way the Christian psychology and counseling ‘industry’ may unwittingly be actually instigating further conflict in families and marriages that are already shaky. And those who may have come out of failed marriages may thus be left with a deep bitterness on how the other person has failed him or her based on their lack of performance up to the expectations from the Christian psychology and counseling industry rather than a humble scriptural examination of his or her own failures and responsibilities.

Just as much, this may also form the often unstated goal of a psychologically based personal perfectionism.  Much of the goal of the pop psychology from the 1970s onward seemed to be directed toward the goal of being happy, perfect and complete in this life (see the goals of the California based Human Potential Movement) and pathologizing people who weren’t. So, the tendency is to give people the impression if they weren’t happy, perfect and complete, emotionally expressive and secure by the definitions of the Human Potential Movement there is something wrong with them that can and should be fixed. And often enough, there may be the idea that if someone is going through a difficult time, or even vaguely bored or dissatisfied, that there’s a solution to be found through pop psychology. And certainly the covers of so many books in the field seem to promise exactly that. So, the first thing that needs to be considered critically, in the light of what scripture says about this fallen world and fallen human nature, is whether there is an explicitly stated or heavily implied goal or promise of human perfectibility or being able to achieve a personal utopia in one’s family or personal life through the psychological diagnoses and formulas.

So, following are the ways in which I think that the psychological orientation falls short of what God has done through two millennia by the Word of God through the Holy Spirit.


The psychological orientation lacks the authority of scripture as the basis of change.

The basis of the psychological orientation comes down to research which came from fallible human beings. It may have been done according to the scientific method, but it still required fallible human beings to understand, interpret and pass on the results of this research. But sometimes it does come from other sources such as the southern California Human Potential movement or even Buddhism (Psychology Today magazine has featured the Dalai Lama on its cover before, for instance).

The danger is that this may wander into the error that Paul warned against in Colossians 2:8: “Watch out that no one makes a captive of you through philosophy and empty deceit according to the traditions of other people, according to the basic ideas of the world, and not according to Christ.”  Rather, the authority for the believer is the Word of God, and it is sufficient to make a believer complete in godliness without any support from psychology and psychiatry: “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17).


The psychological orientation lacks the overriding motive of love to Christ as the emotional impetus to change.

Too much of what I’ve heard from psychologically based teaching does not rise above mere human selfishness as a motive to change. The goal too often does not seem to rise above the desire for me to feel good and for me to get what I want out of my life, marriage and family. There is too little mentioned on the scriptural motive to do all this stuff out of love for Christ for the glory of God: “The person who has my commands and keeps the is the one who loves me; and the one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will manifest myself to him . . . If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. The person who does not love me will not keep my words, and the word you heard is not mine but that of the Father who sent me . . . In this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples” (John 14:21, 23-24, 15:8).


The psychological orientation lacks the personal responsibility to Jesus Christ as Lord as the reason for personal responsibility to change.

Again, the tendency of much teaching from the psychological orientation is to furnish material for resentment and blame-shifting in personal relationships. Often, when it hits the natural stubbornness of human nature, the recipient does not apply it to himself or herself, but to others – the focus is not to what I need to do but what someone else needs to do or needed to do. And so, this becomes often enough, picking at the speck in another’s eye: “Why do you say to your brother, ‘Let me pick out the speck in your eye, and, look, there is a plank in your own eye? Hypocrite, first pull out the plank in your own eye, and then you will see clearly to pull out the speck in the eye of your brother” (Matthew 7:4-5).

Ultimately, though, the personal responsibility is rather to Jesus Christ personally, and this will mean taking not a ‘you first’ but a ‘me now’ where there are matters that someone needs to address: “But we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ , so that each one of us may receive for the deeds done while in the body, whether good or bad” (II Corinthians 5:10).


The psychological orientation lacks the power of the Holy Spirit as the purifying power for change.

Ultimately, the psychological orientation relies upon the power of the fallen human nature to change. This means that it falls into the self effort / human performance trap of Galatians 3:3: “When you began with the Spirit are you now to be made complete by the flesh [the direction and power of fallen human nature]?”: Rather, the need is to find and live in the power of the Spirit of God to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ in our thoughts, motives, intentions, words and deeds: “But we all, reflecting as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Corinthians 3:18).

The Hateful Heart

Updated!

In reading I John this morning, it’s striking how much the aged apostle warned not only against false doctrine, but against false lifestyle. He defined false lifestyle not only as habitual disobedience but also as persistent and habitual hatred of another believer – another brother or sister – in Christ. See further such passages as I John 2:9-11, 3:11-15, and 4:19-21. Upon reflection, if I were again to be in the position of having to be the pastor of a small, struggling church, I would preach on at least one of these passages at the beginning of my ministry. I think now that one of the reasons that these churches become these small, struggling congregations is that there is at least one person with a persistently hateful heart toward other believers that is poisoning the fellowship.

It’s also striking to me how little preaching and teaching I can remember in the North American church that warns against the hateful heart. Yet there is abundant apostolic warning about it. In fact, the apostle Paul in Titus 3:3 describes the unregenerate life as one of living in “malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” Moreover, he places it among the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:20. Yet, as far as I can tell, the average evangelical believer has probably heard more preaching and teaching that contain warnings about lust (that usually start with David’s midnight glance at Bathsheba) than even one on the terrible danger of the hateful heart. Unfortunately, this is normal when sin is treated as simply a matter of outward conduct, as not doing something which is socially embarrassing in modern evangelical circles. Unfortunately, the hateful heart is not something that can be overcome with the usual prescriptions of the modern evangelical self help tendencies. And I think that the abuse of others which has often gone unrecognized and unrebuked in the modern church may well be because of a failure to recognize this reality: the hateful heart is the malicious heart which is the abusive personality.

There’s a question that I have from all of this: Who left hatred off our list of sins?

For myself, I would say that the most serious and striking warning apart from the clear teaching of scripture to avoid hate another came from the account of Betsie ten Boom’s warning to her sister Corrie not to let her heart given in to hate, even as they lived through the horrors of Ravensbruck. It’s worthwhile to continue to read the book and show the movie of the Hiding Place even if only for that one warning. Warnings about letting hatred infect the heart also have come from Dr. Martin Luther King and John Perkins. Dale Galloway’s 1970’s book, Dream a New Dream, also contained a tremendous warning against hatred. And these warnings highlight one of the ways that hatred is spread, as a reaction to the hatred and abuse of another person.

I think that one big reason why there is so little warning about the hateful heart given in current preaching and teaching is that there is simply too much credit given to ‘good intentions’ among modern evangelicals. Yet this is the camouflage of choice for someone who is acting in persistent hatred: the claim to have ‘good intentions.’ So, here is what Solomon had to say about ‘good intentions’:

“He who conceals his hatred has lying lips,
and whoever spreads slander is a fool”

(Proverbs 10:18).

“A malicious man disguises himself with his lips,
but in his heart he harbors deceit.
Though his speech is charming, do not believe him,
for seven abominations fill his heart.
His malice may be concealed by deception,
but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly

(Proverbs 26:24-26).

So, in other words, scripture does not command believers to take someone at his or her word whose conduct demonstrates malice, envy and hatred, even if that person sometimes acts cuddly and charming, and claims to have ‘good intentions’ for the target of this kind of conduct. Rather, scripture here explicitly says not to believe the claim of good intentions. Rather, it’s reasonable to observe that genuinely good intentions most often result in  mistakes that can easily be repaired with a simple apology and clarification of a misunderstanding, not in long term, habitual malicious and slanderous conduct.

One of the reasons why hatred can infect a church is simply a failure and often a refusal to recognize the symptoms of the hateful heart. These are simply the persistent habits of hateful treatment of other people. Recognition of these patterns of conduct isn’t acting as the final judge on what is in someone’s heart, but rather recognizing what Jesus said about, “Out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). How can anyone make a credible claim to ‘good intentions’ for another person when they persistently subject that person to and instigate others to subject that person to:

  • Constant ridicule and mockery (what does scripture say about ridicule and mockery?)
  • Constant deceitful and malicious contradiction (what does scripture say about deceit, subterfuge, dissembling and lying?)
  • Constant spitefulness (what does scripture say about malicious conduct?)
  • Consistent display of disdain and contempt toward the target
  • Malicious stalking of the target to gather information, disrupt life and legitimate pleasures, and recruiting of other people to monitor the target and report on his or her contacts with other people and activities (this kind of stalking and spying is evident throughout the Psalms, and was characteristic of Saul’s hateful treatment of David and Tobiah’s attempts to outmaneuver Nehemiah)
  • Constant demeaning of the actual character and achievements of that person
  • Exploitation of life tragedies and known disappointments for further sadistic abuse (how often does this happen throughout the Psalms, that someone gloats over and attempts to exploit the afflictions of the Psalmist – to deliver cowardly kicks to a person when he is down?)
  • Slander of the person’s character and personality – (in this day and age, this may include slanderous attribution of mental illness or trumped up difficulties – malicious embellishment, exaggeration and fabrication — to give a false justification that the target deserves the hateful treatment – or it may include blaming the target – projection — for the actual sins of the person with the hateful heart).

Moreover, genuine Christlike love does not consist in words but in deeds (I John 3:18). In these cases of claims of ‘good intentions,’ the words are camouflage. The other words and deeds demonstrate the presence of a hateful heart, for “Love does no harm to its neighbor” (Romans 13:10).

It’s been my observation that churches which have a long term, stable ministry develop a way of dealing with people who demonstrate hateful conduct over a period of time. Hateful conduct has a way of spreading among naive and immature believers and hateful people tend to try to recruit others to their wicked schemes. Simple rebuke and correction, though, can often bring a genuine believer to his or her senses – something like, “I’ve been hearing a tone of contempt and disdain for this brother or sister in Christ when you talk about his or her ‘problems,’ and it seems like you are trying to darken his or her reputation more than be of genuine help. I think that you should spend some time praying for this person, and apologize for the way you’ve been talking about him or her behind his or her back” – though it takes some scriptural nerve and Spirit led conviction to do this. Sometimes, though, the hateful person and his or her henchpersons end up leaving of their own accord if over a period of time their conduct is rebuked and they end up not getting their own way – these are cases where their disappointments are well deserved, and the body of believers may charitably hope that they eventually learn from their disappointments. Sometimes – and thankfully, few times – it takes strong discipline and expulsion from membership by the elders, upon the basis that this hateful conduct is divisive and falls under the directions of Paul in Titus 3:10-11. Note also these scriptural directions of the fellowship of believers on how to avoid hateful conduct when it seeps into and poisons a fellowship:

Hebrews 3:13: “ . . . encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

Hebrews 10:23-24: “ . . . let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Hebrews 12:15: “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Note that the bitter root or root of bitterness, as in the King James Version, is a person who leads others astray and away from the path of godliness; the term is pulled from Deuteronomy 29:18.)

Ephesians 5:6,11: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them . . . Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, who who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also will be tempted.”

The apostle Paul’s description of the hateful nature of the unregenerate person in Titus 3:3 describes two of the reasons that people find for hatred of others. Here are those two, with some others:

  • Dislike of something about that person. This can sometimes open admission of hatred for that person, that kind or class of person. This would include any kind of class or racial prejudice. In many cases someone may openly admit this in a milder form: he or she is a person or type of person “ . . . that I have problems with” – that expression should be a red flag and should not be glossed over if it is freely admitted, especially if it’s in a setting like a small group where others can counsel and pray about the problem of dislike and potential and probable hatred for another believer in Christ. The reaction of other believers to these kinds of statements should be in accord with Galatians 6:1 rather than a blithe tolerance.
  • Envy of something that the other person has in some way that the person with the hateful heart may feel deprived of. Again, Galatians 6:1 gives the appropriate reaction.
  • Vengeance for some perceived wrong done against oneself or someone that a person wants to protect, such as a friend or family member. The scriptural reaction is not to take vengeance!
  • Exposure of the sin of the hateful person by correction or simply by the consistent Christian life of someone who is following Christ with all his or her heart. The convicting words and sinless life of Jesus was the reason that he gave for the undeserved hatred dealt to him (John 15:18-25), and it can be behind the hateful treatment of a believer who is following Christ with integrity and love (I John 3:12-13).  If this is the reason why when a believer known for his or her consistent Christian life becomes the target of hatred, the presumption cannot be that he or she deserves the treatment – particularly if the treatment contains such insinuations such as he or she being such a ‘goody two shoes.’ While some believers may well be self righteous and ‘holier than thou,’ the presumption cannot be, in the light of scripture, that that kind of epithet is always justified. Moreover, a believer in Christ can expect this treatment from the backslidden in a church fellowship and the world without Christ in general.

Another of the characteristics of the hateful heart is overkill: the malicious behavior against the target becomes more pronounced, exaggerated and persistent than any of the excuses or justifications would warrant, and eventually it becomes evident that the hatred is all that there is behind the malicious behavior. It’s been my observation that this deep, persistent and self justifying kind of hatefulness is especially characteristic where the hateful person actually knows that there is no justification for the malicious behavior than his or her own hatred.

Here are some scriptural ways to dealing with hatred and the roots of hatred:

  • Forgiveness and refusal to retaliate (‘get even’) for genuine and perceived slights, hurts and injuries
  • Refusal to judge, especially in the sense of the unfair application of one’s own likes and dislikes, preconceptions and prejudices to another person
  • Contentment in what God has given, can give and may yet give as a barrier against envy
  • Prayer for the supernatural, Holy Spirit power to love as Christ has loved us (Ephesians 3:16-17)
  • Commitment to the way of loving others at all costs
  • Redirection of one’s hatred to its true purpose, to a hatred of sin, and the sin in one’s own heart first of all and most of all.

There are two final observations that I’ve found from I John.  The first is that the hateful are spiritually blinded (I John 2:11). Usually others will find that whatever comes from their lips that sounds spiritual and Biblical is second hand; it comes from listening to and stealing the words of another’s spiritual experience and Biblical diligence. In fact, reading the Bible for themselves and spending time in prayer alone with God is usually something repulsive to believers who have become enmeshed in hatefulness. Even more, pastors who become hateful grieve the Holy Spirit and usually end up destroying their own ministries, even if they don’t end up in scandalous sexual sin. Their preaching becomes a litany of mockery, ridicule and controversy, that entertains some and grieves away many others. What they have done is descended from being someone for whom the Word of the Lord is his delight to standing in the way of the sinner and sitting in the seat of the mocker (Psalm 1). Rather,scripture itself calls for turning away from all that is hateful to be able to receive the Word of God profitably into one’s heart and soul: “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (I Peter 2:1-3).

Finally, the most important observation and most serious for every professed believer in Christ: a hateful heart is eternal evidence against the reality of one’s conversion and a spiritual disease which testifies against the genuineness of a person’s regeneration (I John 3:14-15, 4:20). I would not mention this at all if it had not come with scriptural justification and apostolic authority. It’s one of the realities which the apostle John warned against, and it’s something that someone who takes the Word of God seriously in its plain sense must take seriously as well. This is something that I write with no pleasure and with all the seriousness that I can. It’s something against which a believer needs to fight with all that is within him or her through the power of Christ in the Holy Spirit, so that he or she does not allow hell to have an earthly outpost in his or her hateful heart.

This, then, will be one sign that genuine revival has come to a believer, a church or a number of churches: the purification of hateful hearts to the loving holiness and clarity of Christ.

All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Finney on Being Filled with the Spirit

Another classic chapter in Charles G. Finney’s Lectures on Revivals of Religion is ON BEING FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT. It bears reading in its entirety, after reading his previous chapter on HOW TO PROMOTE A REVIVAL. It’s worthwhile to see the reasons that he gives for believers not being filled with the Spirit:

  • Pride.
  • Hypocrisy.
  • Worldly mindedness.
  • Shallow confession of sins.
  • Neglecting known obedience.
  • Resistance of the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
  • Not wanting to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
  • Not praying to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

If we wonder why there seems to be so much conformity and superficiality among many in the modern evangelical church, we can say that many are not filled with the Spirit and walking in the Spirit daily. It bears re-reading Finney again. His chapter is convicting, of course, but more than worth the time to read and consider what he had to say.

Revival Starts with Yourself

Charles Finney, in his classic Lectures on Revivals of Religion, had a chapter on HOW TO PROMOTE A REVIVAL. It was not about public relations, or promoting your church with the ‘awesome power of ADVERTISING’! (Yes, there was once a circular to pastors that did promise that). Rather, he pointed out the need for believers to get themselves right with God, and into a path of consistent obedience and abiding in Christ.

Many believers today wonder why their personal growth is stunted and why their church is continually being fractured and losing people to other churches. Too many focus on the outward conformity of churchianity, of attendance and participation in church activities, and even seem to think that they are earning some kind of ‘extra credit’ with God if they hold an office or participate in some upfront ministry. They usually reply, when confronted with the need for cleansing of their lives to experience the fullness of God’s presence in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, that they are doing all that they know. Perhaps they should look further at what Finney had to say. Here is his list of what keeps a believer from experiencing personal revival.

SINS OF OMISSION

  • Ingratitude.
  • Want of love to God.
  • Neglect of the Bible.
  • Unbelief.
  • Neglect of prayer.
  • Neglect of the means of grace.
  • The manner in which you have performed those duties.
  • Your want of love for the souls of your fellow-men.
  • Your want of care for the heathen.
  • Your neglect of family duties.
  • Neglect of social duties.
  • Neglect of watchfulness over your own life.
  • Neglect to watch over your brethren.
  • Neglect of self-denial.

SINS OF COMMISSION

  • Worldly mindedness.
  • Pride.
  • Envy.
  • Censoriousness.
  • Slander.
  • Levity.
  • Lying.
  • Cheating.
  • Hypocrisy.
  • Robbing God.
  • Bad temper.
  • Hindering others from being useful.

It would be best for anyone who wants to know more to read what Finney actually had to say: HOW TO PROMOTE A REVIVAL. He himself often came back to his list regularly, every time he started to feel his heart grow cold. It’s an idea worth consideration.

Revival and Ministry to Those Going Through Deep Waters

Fellow members of the body of Christ who are going through deep waters will always need fellow believers to minister to them. That’s one of the things that I’ve treasured about my brothers and sisters in Christ at the Chapel Hill Church in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio; when I was going through a hard time, they didn’t leave me suffering in silence but were there to listen and pray with me. I’ve observed with sorrow that sometimes when someone is going through a difficult time, other believers stand back gaping like rubberneckers looking at an accident on the expressway. Usually all it takes is five to ten minutes to listen, comfort and pray with someone, and that small demonstration of the love of Christ can weld a person to a church for a lifetime.

I think that many of our churches new seem to have be missing out on what I remember as a much more vibrant ‘Body Life’ from many churches in the 1970’s. It seems to me that we’ve lost a lot of the openness that was there in the past to share personal needs and testify to the grace of God in meeting a need or overcoming a sin. I think that the tendency now may be much more to see a person who is candid about a need to be a group ‘fix it’ project, ‘damaged goods’ or simply ‘weird.’ This indicates to me more and more the desperate need for revival in many of our churches, of the kind of revival of love that the 1973-1974 Canadian revival was.