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June 25, 2018
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From the Pulpit, 5-12-18

This article was published May 12, 2018 at 5:00 a.m.

Sparks from the Gospel Anvil

2 Chronicles 7:14

Revival, primarily, is the renewal of life in something that has already possessed life. It is impossible to revive something that has never been alive.

Let us take an example in nature. We walk into the garden during the winter season, and there we see the old oak tree… leafless. There it has stood, for several months, a sorry sight—-a few withered leaves hanging on empty branches as if in self-pity. To all outward appearances, it is dead. But come back again with me next month and I will show you a wondrous thing—-little buds of beautiful, delicate green pushing their way upwards towards the light of a springtime sun, breaking through the relics of their winter prison. Soon the tree is in the glory of its leafy splendor. It is a seasonal marvel, this renewal of spring, when all that seemed dead becomes alive before our wondering eyes. What has happened? There has come about a revival of the old tree. It is the same in the spiritual realm. Revival, primarily, is the renewal of life in something that has already possessed life. It is impossible to revive something that has never been alive. But there is one important difference—-the dying of the summer life of the tree is due to natural causes, and the same causes ring about the springtime awakening. Spiritual death, on the other hand, is due to the disease of sin. The best definition of “revival” is the phrase: “Times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.”

The prayer of the Psalmist, “Wilt Thou not revive us again?” teaches us that God is the source of revival. It is easy to make the Bible our text-book in this study, for it abounds in examples of revival. Look around our own country today. Christians know well that a dozen years have passed since any great demonstration of the power of God. The time is long, and the people are lamenting. God wants to revive us. And, knowing His Will, despairing of ourselves we are thrown back upon God. “Revive Thy work, 0 Lord, in the midst of the years —-” It is at that stage we come across the intervention of God by the mouth of His servant. It seems as if God said: ‘I want to give you revival even more than you desire to have it; but you must pay a price.’ So it is with us.” “If——” God’s blessing is conditional upon our wholehearted desire. “If you really want revival, here are My conditions.” Today we no longer worship idols of wood and stone, but just as much as ever before, we sin against the Lord by enshrining in our hearts idols of our own making. If we fall away from wholehearted service to God, we generally put something else there. Who or what is the Usurper in your heart ? “Prepare your hearts unto the Lord.” We prepare our hearts unto the Lord by seeking His Will and then accepting it. Supposing I were to say to you just before a meeting in which we expected the blessing of God, ” I must go and prepare my heart unto the Lord ! ” What would you imagine? You would expect to find me on my knees seeking God’s will by prayer and by reading His written Word. That is the preparation of heart that we all need today—-first a revival of Bible study and prayer. Are you reading God’s Word and applying it to your life? Are you seeking a true spiritual awakening or are you satisfied sitting in stagnation?

Lt. Charles Smith is commanding officer of the Salvation Army of El Dorado.

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Ancient Words: Walk to Emmaus—An Improbable Prophet

Gen 3:15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” This passage may have been one of the first for Jesus to explain to the two travelers as they walked the 7.5 miles to Emmaus. “I became that ‘enmity’”, he might have said. For Life had been stolen by the wiles of Satan in the garden yet Almighty God had a plan for Life to be restored: Psalm 69:4 Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head; many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me. I am forced to restore what I did not steal. The mission of God has been accomplished with Jesus’ death and burial and resurrection; God thru Jesus has crushed death and the grave. He (Jesus) crushed Satan even though Satan made a strike on Jesus’ heel.

Two thousand years later, God orchestrated an incredible event: Genesis 22:6-8 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. This event tells specifically how God will restore the stolen life. Jesus would say, “I am that Lamb” to the anxious sojourners. Jesus was the lamb for sinners slain three days earlier but now he walks and talks and shares the meaning of all Scripture related to his existence.

Almost 1,500 years later, God designs another incredible event but with the most improbable prophet. Balaam is a diviner in Midian and well respected. Balak is a king in Moab and fearful of Israel whom he views on the plains of Moab. The king summons Balaam with money to come place a curse on Israel so the Moab nation will not be threatened by this mighty throng of desert people. God allows Balaam to go but only if he speaks exactly what God places in his mouth to say. Balaam fudges on his promise and saddles a donkey. God thru his angel gets Balaam’s attention big time—by actually causing one donkey to talk to another (Balaam)! After this Balaam recites 4 oracles to Balak much to the disappointment, frustration and anger of the king. Instead of curses, Balaam pronounces blessings upon Israel: Num 24:15-17 Then he spoke his message: “The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor, the prophecy of one whose eye sees clearly, the prophecy of one who hears the words of God, who has knowledge from the Most High, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. Jesus would say “I am that star”—-this is the beginning of the Lamb’s story on earth which starts on that Bethlehem night. Life was stolen in the beginning, God made a plan to deliver a lamb with the sign of a star and life would again be fully restored to mankind. This is the gospel, the good news, in the Ancient Words.

Scott Johnson is pastor at East Faulkner Church of Christ and author of the BRG Bible. Bible questions can be sent to brgbible@gmail.com.

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