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On Nov. 21, 1980, when the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas burned, survivors were brought into the Convention Center, where our Crusade meetings were being held. In an interview, Governor Robert List talked about the good times at the MGM only 24 hours before. “And how quickly,” he said, “the music has stopped.”
Some day, for all of you, if you don’t know God, the music will stop. It will all be over. The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
The Bible says that Job suddenly lost all of his wealth and his children. The devil said to God, “If You take all those possessions away from him, he’ll curse You and turn from You.” But God replied, “You can do anything to him, except you can’t kill him, and then we’ll see” (Job 1:11-12).
Something uncomfortable usually happens at my church. Somewhere in the day, I will be praying a third time for an injury to be healed and wait as they check to see if the pain is gone; or be perplexed by a testimony that is almost too good to be true; or be left in a somewhat confused conversation with God about what I have seen or heard—and I am one of the leaders.
Being in a healing/revival environment can be uncomfortable for pastors. We tend to operate in our strengths of bringing comfort and care, order and answers, and connection and protection. Uncomfortable stuff makes people feel, well, uncomfortable; so we usually try to keep it at a minimum.
But if—and when—the community catches the kingdom mentality that anything is possible with God and sets its collective heart on worldwide transformation and the healing goodness of the heavenly Father, we’re all regularly drawn into experiences for which we have no grid and, perhaps, even little inclination.
This is coming to you from a man who has just passed through the valley of the shadow of death. Since my close call with eternity just a short while ago ... everything has become clearer. I can hear His whisper. Unabated obedience has become my mandate. That is why I'm writing this word from the Lord.
A few days ago, after enjoying quality time with Jesus, I was surprised by an alarming vision. I saw a massive, majestic mountain covered in glistening snow. It reminded me of the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. Its peaks were sparkling white and I was amazed by God's attention to detail. It was so realistic I wanted to go skiing! But I sensed that there was more that the Holy Spirit was about to reveal. As I closed my eyes, I was in a winter wonderland bustling with thousands of vacationers. The ski lodge, condos, hotels and cabins were at full capacity at this popular resort.
Day quickly turned to night as the skiers, snowboarders and sports enthusiasts were settling in. Anticipation grew as the snow began to fall. Everyone headed to bed believing tomorrow would be a day of sheer enjoyment on freshly covered slopes. For an avid skier, the exhilaration of being the first one to race down a new blanket of snow is a dream come true.
A famous “defender of the faith,” Benjamin Warfield, against the overwhelming teaching of Scripture, actually claimed, “Christianity makes its appeal to right reason, and stands out among all religions, therefore, as distinctively ‘the Apologetical religion.’ It is solely by reasoning that it has come thus far on its way to its kingship. And it is solely by reasoning that it will put all its enemies under its feet.”
Apologetics in this context means, “a reasoned defense” rather than a “presentation-in-power” of Christian belief. Apologetics assumes that one becomes a Christian more by intellectually grasping “right doctrine” or “good ideas” rather than humbly receiving the revealed presence and power of Jesus.
In early church history, as the power of the Spirit became a threat to the church hierarchy, most of the early “church fathers” became more acceptable as “apologists,” defending the faith against philosophical and religious attacks, even as they (rarely) conceded that Christianity was mainly spread by those who healed and drove out demons. Since these apologists were trained in the same intellectual traditions as their opponents, their crucial problem is that they accept their opponents’ premise that human wisdom is the way to discover God and to accept His gospel. The gospel then became a matter of accepting certain facts about Christianity (the creeds), rather than basing faith on the “experience” of God’s revelation and power—a problem even today in evangelical Christianity.
There is a concept called Margin. I first learned about margin the hard way. When my oldest child went to kindergarten, I mapped out the route, and figured out exactly how much time it would take to arrive at school on time. With this information, I calculated what time I needed to leave every morning.
For the next three months, every morning was a race against the clock, and most days I lost – I would pull onto the school grounds just as the bell rang.
Then my husband was laid off and took over the morning duty, and suddenly, my daughter was arriving with time to spare. I was in awe! I asked him how he managed to get her to school on time. With a bit of reflection, I discovered that I hadn’t created space for the time it took to get a baby and kindergartener to the car, or the time it took to get from the car to the classroom.
When life gets busy, sometimes we find that we are rushing from event to event, hoping we make it on time. First we decorate the church, then our home. We plan for the holiday parties in each ministry area, and the church staff. We prepare for the Christmas concert, and Christmas service, then comes the New Years’ service. For a few moments, we pause – often after pulling an all-nighter to wrap presents - and have a Christmas get together at home.
The weeks of December are often bundled with joy and energy. Yet in all that activity, it is easy to get so wrapped up in doing that we end up in January totally wiped out, not able to even hear our own thoughts, let alone God’s voice.
This season can be different. There is a growing trend (again) to focus on the spiritual disciplines. As I have been going through several books on the subject, there is one resounding theme: Space.
And this is what I learned: I am the only one who has the authority and ability to create space in my life. Even if I have other people to report to, space will never be created in my life unless I lead the charge.
As you progress through this Christmas season, here is a simple tool to help you reflect on how you spend your time, and where you might need to create space:
Take a moment to make a grid on a piece of paper – then fill in the boxes with your activities for the last week. If you are very crammed, you might even just do the last three days.
Do you notice a pattern? What can you do to focus your time on the most critical items on your agenda? What are you doing that really isn’t urgent, isn’t important, and could be done by someone else?
Now, where is your time with God on that grid? What can you do to create space in your activities, and create time for your relationship with God?
In this season of celebration, remember to take time to nurture your soul. After all, your relationship with Christ really is the reason for the season, and those around you will learn from your example.
Culture wars are real. I’m speaking of the battles that continually pursue between those who hold to traditional values and those who are opposed. My friend, the gospel is greater than any force that comes against it. When we preach the pure Word of God, amazing results follow. Please allow me to give you an example.
The governor of Alabama once invited me and several of my evangelist friends to a historic meeting. It was a Saturday afternoon rally in support of keeping the Ten Commandments posted at the State Supreme Court.
Upon arrival we were shocked to see more than 25,000 people gathered together on the front lawn of the governor’s mansion. Surrounding the crowd were all the major media networks broadcasting this historic event.
I remember asking the governor what he wanted me to say at this secular rally. His response was crystal clear: “Preach the gospel and give an altar call.”
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