Some members of my church gathered near the altar last Sunday to pray for those affected by the recent school massacre in Connecticut. Our pastor had a list of the victims, and he asked that we mention each of the families by name.
It wasn’t easy to read that list. It included Daniel Barden, age 7; Charlotte Bacon, 6; Olivia Engel, 6; Chase Kowalski, 7; and Jack Pinto, 6. A total of 20 children died in the shootings, plus six adults, including Victoria Soto, the brave first-grade teacher who herded her students into a closet when the gunman approached her classroom. She was 27, the same age as my oldest daughter.
Some people in my church found it too difficult to pray out loud. That’s understandable. But how exactly do we pray when tragedy strikes?
GOD TV aired a live broadcast featuring Steve Hill of the Brownsville Revival of the 1990s and Nathan Morris of the current Bay Revival, together with pastor John Kilpatrick, the host of both spiritual outpourings. Below are some photos Hill sent us from the historic event.
The Brownsville Revival ran from 1995 to 2000, attracting more than 4 million people to Pensacola, Fla. Often televised on GOD TV, it was characterized by passionate salvation messages from evangelist Steve Hill, a call to holiness from Kilpatrick and worship led by Cooley.
TheBay Revival started in Daphne, Ala., in July 2010. It overflowed to the Mobile Convention Center and is now on a city-to-city tour of the USA. It is recognized for its many miracles, radical preaching from British evangelist Morris, teaching by Kilpatrick and original songs written by Marrow.
My feelings, following the results of the 2012 presidential race, are not predicated on the relative merits or either candidate. They are borne with facts that are true of Americans' lives at this time in the 21st century; some of which are flavored by choices by our seated president's words and actions, but not without difficulties that may be attributed to either of our presidential candidates or their parties. In short, our vulnerabilities and weaknesses as a nation—economically, spiritually, morally or otherwise, have a deeper root than the failures of human management or policy.
It is in the light of that preamble that I make this statement: The re-election of President Obama is yet another landmark of history that reveals the inevitable flow of events which increase in depth and spread when the church mistakes its mission. As one incident, the election outcome holds the portent of being a prophetic announcement of the impending end of the significance of the church in America, unless ...
... Unless a reawakening of Christ's body in America occurs, which heeds the "first of all" priority Paul, by the Holy Spirit (1 Tim. 2:1-2), assigned to the church's ministry of prayer and intercession for leaders, peoples and nations, no administration or political party will be capable of a solution to our nation's essential problems.
Just telling our societies that Jesus is what they need isn’t enough
In the current vitriolic and polarizing culture-war atmosphere, a Sermon on the Mount emphasis of giving mercy, going the second mile, turning the other cheek, and forgiving “70 times seven” would serve the cause of Christ far better than an angry stance that smacks of, “We’re Christians and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
Recently I was at a stoplight, and the car in front of me had a bumper sticker that read: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” The statement is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. Of course it’s overstated and far too much of a glaring generalization. But I find little comfort in that.
When I saw that bumper sticker, I wanted to get out of my car, walk up to the driver and apologize. I wanted to say something like: “I know. We have been far too unlike our Christ. Please forgive us.”
We live in a world where much is wrong. And what is most wrong with the world is not the politics or the economy or who happens to be living in the White House. What is most wrong with the world is the human heart.
The greed and pride and lust of the human heart are the epicenter of all that is wrong with the world. We should realize this by now.
As followers of Christ, we are not so much called to know the answer or preach the answer as much as we are called to be the answer. This is how we are salt and light (also found in the Sermon on the Mount). We are to model the answer by being Christ-like in a Caesar-like world. This is what the Sermon on the Mount is all about.
The narrow (and difficult) way of the Golden Rule demands that we consider and not use others. The Golden Rule of considering others by giving them love, respect and mercy is the narrow gate that leads to salvation. Not because this is how salvation is earned, but because this is how salvation islived.
Using other people as objects to satisfy our self-centered agenda is absolutely the highway to hell—it is the kind of life that leads to the utter and final ruin of the human soul. When creatures created in the image of God cooperate with sin and Satan to use other image-bearing creatures as objects to satisfy their own greed and lust, they conspire to erase the image of God from their own souls. This is what Jesus is trying to save us from in teaching us the narrow way of the Golden Rule.
This is the Sermon on the Mount—to choose the Christ-like way of giving over the Caesar-like way of taking. To give mercy to the undeserving. To forgive the offender. To turn the other cheek to the enemy. To go the extra mile with the oppressor. To give the cloak to the scoundrel. To give cheerfully to the beggar. To forgive again and again. Seventy times seven.
This is the narrow way that Christ invites us to follow Him on. It is a hard and difficult way. But because it is Christ who invites us to follow, it is also possible.
Above all, it is the way that leads to life. Do we dare believe this? To be Christians means that we do believe this. And not only do we believe it; we live it. We live it in community with others who share our faith in Jesus Christ. Even more significantly, we live it in fellowship with the One who promised to never leave us or forsake us and to be with us on the narrow road to the end of the age.
Brian Zahnd is pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Mo., and the author of What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life and the new Unconditional? (Charisma House) from which this article is taken.
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