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July 2019

LIVE A LIFE WORTHY OF THE GOSPEL

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“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ….” (Philippians 1:27a)

Over the last 27 years, it has been my calling and privilege to participate in many prayer efforts in our region. I am particularly excited about a group of young adult Christians in Johnson City who have since January been gathering downtown at 7 PM for prayer six nights per week (Monday-Saturday).

The divine vision for this prayer ministry was given to one young man, but he shares the leadership of the gatherings with other young men and women. Each time I attend, I am richly blessed by their reverent love for the Lord, their unashamed faith in His Word, and their strong desire to draw near to Him and serve Him.

On my last occasion there, one young man fervently prayed this phrase: “I want to live a life worthy of the gospel.”

I was riveted, humbled, even awestruck, to hear someone that new to adulthood crying out for such a spiritually mature and selfless life purpose. And I knew the intensity of the moment came in part because I could not recall any other time when I heard that phrase prayed or preached … including by me.

As someone who trusts in and seeks to diligently study the Bible, I was very familiar with the call to and cost of Christian discipleship. Some would even describe me as an exhorter of obedience, service, and sacrifice. “Worthy” was, however, a word I would normally only apply to God, not to my own life.

It was only after I returned home that evening that I identified Philippians 1:27 as the scriptural source of my young brother’s prayer and recognized this call to a gospel-worthy life as a repeated theme of the apostle Paul. (Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12)

What does it mean to live a life worthy of the gospel of Christ, or as those other scriptures might add, worthy of our God, our Lord and our calling as His disciples?

The first thing we must understand is that we are not called to a life “worthy” of our salvation, because we are not remotely capable of earning atonement of our sins and the incredible gift of everlasting life. (Ephesians 2:1-8)

Instead, we are called to a life worthy of our Savior and His sacrifice for us, worthy of our Father’s love that sent His Son to die for us, worthy of the Holy Spirit who lives in us, and worthy of our incredible calling to witness this Good News to others by all we say and do. (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; Ephesians 4:1-16).

I believe a life worthy of the gospel of Christ begins with daily gratitude for all God has done and is doing for us. (Psalm 100:4; Colossians 3:15; Philippians 4:6-7). How many of us spend much of our life taking God and His blessings for granted?

The second key to a life worthy of the gospel is childlike humility: recognizing who God really is, who we are in comparison, and how dependent upon Him we are. (Matthew 18:1-4) Pride and self-centeredness are the bane of the Church in America. (James 4:6-10; Luke 9:23-24)

Our gratitude and humility can give birth to the third essential of a gospel-worthy life: trusting obedience. Real faith in Jesus as Lord is revealed by actions, not just talk. (Matthew 7:21; John 14:21; James 2:14-26)

Trusting obedience requires us to serve the Lord by a life of serving others. (Mark 9:35; John 13:3-17) Yet how many of us can presently say we expect to enter heaven and hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”? (Matthew 25:14-30) How many of us risk hearing, “What you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for Me.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

Finally, a gospel-worthy life is a life of agape love: the unconditional, selfless, forgiving, sacrificial love revealed in Christ that we are to have for God, all others, and even ourselves. (Mark 12:28-34; John 13:34-35; Ephesians 4:30-5:2) Without agape love, we accomplish nothing. (1 Corinthians 13). And this love must, like trusting obedience, be in truth and deed. (1 John 3:18)

My description of a life worthy of the gospel may make it seem completely out of reach, but remember, the God who calls us to this life lives within our “clay jars” to empower it, even beyond our ability to ask or imagine! (Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 4:7; Ephesians 3:20-21) He is ready to talk with us all the time. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) He can fill our hearts with agape love. (Romans 5:5) He can lead us into all truth. (John 16:13) If God is for us …? (Romans 8:31)

Are you living a life worthy of the gospel? If not, there is no better time to begin.

God bless you, and God bless our community.

I HAVE A VISION OF REVIVAL

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“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17)

Christie and I just returned from a three-day gathering in Nashville of Christians who are zealously praying and fasting for revival in our state and nation. We were there to represent some faithful Christians in the Tri-Cities who are also praying for an abiding spiritual awakening. Only God can bring the community healing and transformation we so desperately need. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Please understand. I love where I live, and I love our nation. I share your gratitude for all the blessings we have here.

But there is darkness everywhere. Our lives have all been touched by divorce, addiction, abuse, rejection, depression, anxiety, confusion, “and the list goes on.” We have many people in bondage to poverty, racism or both, and many others in bondage to pornography or other sexual brokenness. Political divisiveness is the worst it has been since the Civil War. And we have millions of people who do not know Jesus.

God can deliver us from these things. God can deliver our loved ones and our neighbors. We need revival!

Seventeen years ago, I asked God to show me what revival would look like. He gave me a series of six short “visions” in rapid succession. I shared them in an article in 2007 and wish to share them again today.

Vision #1 was a picture of the Cloud of God over a reverently praying congregation. The Cloud represents God’s Presence. We need to become a house of prayer. (Isaiah 56:7)

Vision #2 showed three women praying for another at a prayer rail. There was a spirit of community among all four, and as the prayer concluded, there were hugs of appreciation and a sense that God had answered.

The Church is not about “clergy” who minister while “lay people” observe and receive. All Christians are part of a royal priesthood and we can all minister with each other in great faith and with great effectiveness. (1 Peter 2:9; 1 Corinthians 12:1-27)

Vision #3 was a person standing tall and straight in a “heavenly place”, a limitless and timeless place that I knew to be before the throne of God. The person was connected and aware of where he was and Who he was with.

Revival includes personal revival – the tremendous intimacy each man and woman is invited to have with God. (Ephesians 2:6; Hebrews 10:19-23)

Vision #4 was a picture of four faces together like petals on a flower. All the faces looked the same, except one was slightly bigger, as if I was seeing two children, a mom and dad. They were all laughing.

Revival will bring restoration of families – the building blocks of community. God will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. (Malachi 4:6) There will be joy!

Vision #5 showed a person, with other people behind him, standing in the light before an immense intimidating darkness. The people began to grow, and as they grew, the light grew. The darkness receded, faded, and withdrew.

A friend of mine saw this as a picture of Isaiah 60:1-5. A spiritually awakened Church will prevail against the forces of darkness. (Matthew 16:18; John 1:5-9)

Vision #6 was a street scene of downtown Kingsport, with people whistling on their way to work and stopping to laugh and pray with each other.
Revival is not a religious thing. It is a Life thing. (Acts 2:42-47)

These six short visions may speak to your heart in ways they did not speak to mine. You may have your own visions. The key is that God has a vision. God wants to bring abiding revival to His people so they can be a light shining with His glory. (Matthew 5:14)

And He wants to bring revival so we, His children, can have life abundant: Kingdom life filled every day with His Holy Spirit, righteousness, peace and joy. (Romans 14:17)

What is God waiting for? I believe, primarily, God is waiting for us to want what He wants. (Psalm 37:4) God is waiting on us to return to our first love – loving Him with all our being. (Revelation 2:4; Mark 12:30) God is waiting for us to see our childlike need for Him in every aspect of life and community. (Mark 10:14-15; Revelation 3:17)

And God is waiting for enough of us to earnestly ask for revival. “If my people pray….”

Will you join those who are praying for revival? Will you join those who know how desperately we need Him now

God bless you, and God bless our community.