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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Making the Dead Live

Ezekiel 37:1-4 (NIV) 1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" I said, "O Sovereign Lord, you alone know." 4 Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!

I graduated from seminary about thirty years ago but I have only been a senior pastor for the past seventeen years. I thought that I would preach and revival would sweep the nation . . . or at least my church. That didn't happen. It took me a long time to learn that I can't make dead bones live.

I am the servant of the Most High God. He makes life out of lethargy. He replaces hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. He works on my heart too.

Let's call the lethargic in a church "dead" just as a way of designating them. They are not everyone in the church. They just comprise the majority of most churches. The dead want things to be peaceful. They do not like being aroused from their sleep. They don't know they are asleep.

But God seeks to awaken the dead. He calls people to come with Him by the Spirit of the Lord and be set among the dead bones. Most preachers would rather be placed in a church with brand new buildings sitting in a new housing development.The new families join and its all claimed to be a work of the Lord. The truth is that it feels alive because of the newness of the building and the community. No one knows each other very well because they have all moved to this new location. Everyone is fresh to everyone else. This is why so many churches would rather move to a new location than to continue in their present location.

The preachers who are set among the dry bones are called to do only a couple of things. They are to believe that God can make dead bones live and preach God's word. Preachers are the tools of God who, when allowing God to fully use them, awaken people from their sound sleep. The most critical functions of preachers is hearing and obeying God's words to them. Nothing else allows  preachers to be used to the fullest of their abilites and see God awaken His sleeping people.

So, why isn't God making the dead live everywhere preachers are listeing and obeying the Lord. Sometimes its because we preachers fool ourselves into believing we are listening to the Lord when we are really listening to the world. Listening to the commands must always proceed obedience.

Of course, that doesn't fully explain the lethargy in churches. The dead resist the wake up call too. Those without Christ (yes, there are some of these who have become part of the church) resist the Holy Spirit. The believers, however, quench and grieve the Spirit. Both of these groups are so full of themselves that the Holy Spirit has no place.

Though these people are not possessed by demons they are possessed by their own selves. Jesus said that there were some "spirit" which would only come out by prayer and fasting. This is almost always the means of making the dead live. Something must break through the well defended sleep of the dead. Someone must reach into their spirits to awaken them.

Preachers cannot reach into the spirits of people. The cannot make people stop resisting, quenching or grieving the Holy Spirit. Preachers must speak the words of God and call those who are awake to pray. Preachers will not awaken the dead in other way.

Many churches and preachers are being counted as successful because they are able to bring in huge numbers of people. Is that what Jesus called us to do? Did He say, "Go, therefore into the world and fill up church buildings so that your preachers will be leading seminars on church growth?" No. He told us to make disciples. We have been content with converts. Maybe that's why we settle for counting dry bones.

So, who will listen to the call of God and follow Him into a valley of dry bones? Who will believe in God's ability rather than his own in bringing these bones alive? Who will listen to His word and obey it?

Who will be a part of making the dead live?


Anonymous said...

Indeed, it is we are to hear from the Lord and then we move according to the desires of the Lord. But just as you pointed out, at times, we thought it was such and such, and then we moved, but it can turn out that we are wrong; worst still we do NOT know if we are wrong, and we are still carrying on with the thing that we are doing. It is NOT easy, at times.

Many just don't want to admit it, we don't hear so well, often times. “I am the pastor in charge, how can I say, I am NOT sure what is supposed to be the direction we are to take!” “How can I listen to this guy; he is just a member only, NOT a staff, shift direction, and "everybody" will know I don't hear as good (as that fellow)?” "Since I cannot be sure, I better stick with the "safe path", and do the things, that most do; in that way, I cannot be said to have acted wrongly, for if I were wrong, then, so many others are wrong, too! Yes, I shall find safety in numbers!” Do we honestly want to honor God and do what He wants? We got to be honest with ourselves. We need to examine ourselves.

“But I don't hear that well, what do you expect me to do; do nothing?” No, that is NOT the thing to do; do nothing, I mean. But you can start with the "safe path", but you must still want to find the path God has for you and your church. The safe path cannot be "permanent" path you stick with, unless that is the path God has intended for you and your church.

We need to rethink if it is correct to regard all churches as the same. All churches are the same in some respect, but they are NOT the same. You and I are the same in some respect, but we are NOT the same, even in God's eyes. The common things, we are to recognise them, and do them, but God does NOT use you exactly the same way as He uses me; it is also the case, I believe, when it comes to different local churches.

There is perhaps, something I am particularly, to do more; something, you do more - different calling or whatever we want to call it. Would it also not be possible, that the same applies to the churches?
In addition, another thing to note, is that, as in the individual's case, whatever the "more" that is done, it cannot be a self-interest thing solely. What I do (more), if it is from the Lord, it got to benefit others, either non-believers or believers or both. In other words, I am being used to bless, and I got to be blessing others, and NOT self-blessing. So for the churches context, there might be something the Lord wants a particular church to do more, and it too, must be that it is blessing others, non-believers, members, AND MEMBERS OF OTHER CHURCHES or the CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY. If for an individual, the person self-interest is emphasized most of the time, it is NOT honoring, to God; it probably is NOT achieving what God wants. The same for a church, if it is the church self-interest that is emphasized most of the time, it too, is perhaps NOT working towards what God really would like to see.

COnt. on next page...

Anonymous said...

Cont. from preceding page

As individuals in our informal, often times, even, solo ministry, often times, we help in each others' ministry, as a brethren helping another brethren's ministry. We support each other. Now the poser is this: replace the individuals with churches, do we get the same picture. Perhaps, bodies of believers, churches, have been more selfish than individual believers! As an individual, I am accountable and answerable to God, if I bless another brethren’s ministry. Now, for the church, who is primarily responsible? Yes, the pastor in charge; he got lead his flock. If the pastor in charge does NOT want the church to be generous, the church cannot be generous as a church; only the members, as individuals, they could be counted as generous by God, but NOT that church as a whole. As an individual, I support others in their ministries, and they in turn, support my ministry; it is a beautiful thing, in the eyes of God. But do you see that for churches? Or are churches eyeing too much on, “We must have advantage over the other churches”, so that the sheep stay with us”! or “If we do this, we may end up having our sheep going over to the other churches!” or “Let them do their own things, and we do our own things. They got the same God we have-what! If they want to move like we move, then let them ask the Lord themselves, I don’t think we need to share “this” with them (another church)-right?”

Sometimes, church leadership themselves show bad examples for far-sightedness or for faith; but they expect the individuals to do better! Such church leadership sure does NOT please God. For example, a church can tell individuals to give to the church in offerings and tithes, by faith; but the church herself insists on accumulating years and years of sinking funds or to set aside money for many years of operations! A church can tell individuals to help fellow brethrens, but the church herself would NOT help another church or share blessing with another church. If local churches are failing, maybe church leaderships have some self-examination to do. If the formal body (churches) would NOT function appropriately, God is NOT going to sit idle; He will work with the informal bodies (“loose association” of believers). If there is anything lacking about institutional churches, this could one. In short, are churches getting more selfish than the individuals?

Now, if dead bones can be referring to “slumbering” or lethargic believers and the like, it means these bones are in the local churches. If there is patch of dry bones over there, that local church over there, who will go over to those dry bones, and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!’ or are we to say, “They got a senior pastor-what, let him work with God”. You see, for individuals, we don’t tell our individual sheep, “Hello, why you bother about that brother or sister, he or she is a Christian-what, he or she can go pray to God and get God to help-lah; why must you be bothered to pray and minister to him or her!” We teach from the Word, “Please bear with each other, and bear each other up”, and then as a church to another church, we say, “You solve your own problem with God-lah. I do the same with mine-what!” Maybe, God is saying, “ABC church, can XYZ church, pile of dry bones live? And then God hears the answer, "O Sovereign Lord, you alone know." And, then before God could speak further, He hears this: “But don’t ask me to speak life to those dry bones!” Maybe, this is the sad state of some of the local churches. Other churches are telling God, “You go, do the job yourself!” When it is the other churches, they have to do a part, and God will come in, and do His part. Who will be a part of making the dead live? Ezekiel 37:1-4 is NOT necessarily talking about a pastor in His own patch; more like someone’s patch! If you have just been “posted” to this patch, then perhaps, you can read it as your own newly acquired patch.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions