FEBRUARY 22, 2023

  • Dear Friends,

    It’s interesting what you’ll find if you google “spiritual awakening.” Most of it has nothing to do with Jesus. Or the Bible. Or the gospel.

    The first site that showed up when I typed “spiritual awakening” into my browser was a website called mindbodygreen.com. Apparently, Mindbodygreen is an independent media brand dedicated to wellness. Its mission is to revitalize the way people eat, move and live. Along with advice on beauty, food, health and relationships, the Mindbodygreen team also offers information on astrology, meditation and spirituality.

    In an article entitled “21 Signs You’re Going Through A Spiritual Awakening + How To Embrace It” author Sarah Regan defines an awakening as “the moment a person can step back and ‘awake’ to their life with a new sense of being in this world.”

    The article quotes author Shannon Kaiser as saying “Spiritual awakenings can be spontaneous, but for most, they are triggered by major life changes or traumas such as life-threatening illnesses, car accidents, divorces, war, pandemics, quarter-life or midlife crises, mental health crises such as clinical depression or anxiety, or even a near-death experience.”

    What you find at Mindbodygreen.com is pretty typical of what Google dishes up for you when you search for the term spiritual awakening. It’s all pretty vague, psychological and therapeutic. And in keeping with the current cultural zeitgeist, the websites Google takes you to will all point you in the same direction for spiritual enlightenment. Look within. What you’re looking for is inside.

    You might find an occasional reference to a Bible verse or Jewish or Christian practices. More often, you’ll be referred to Buddhist beliefs and practices, higher states of consciousness and Carl Jung. You follow a path like this. First, challenge what you’ve always believed. Then explore new hobbies and religions and relationships to see what meshes with your spirit. As you begin to recognize and embody your true nature, your soul will grow and heal.

    And as you begin “releasing any remaining structures, beliefs, or facets of the ego that are keeping you from your truth,” you will eventually achieve “full awareness of your own divinity in every moment, as you flow through life with grace and clarity. You live in service to others, which brings you great happiness and contentment.”

    In my online quest to learn about spiritual awakening, I had to wonder what the secular spiritual gurus would make of what’s happening on the campus at Asbury University and is beginning now to spread to other campuses and churches. What clearly separates a Christian understanding of an awakening from the thoughts of the secularists is where the awakening comes from. While the secular prophets tell us to look inward, the Bible points us in a very different direction.

    Thank about the Apostle Paul’s message to the spiritual men in Athens in Acts 17. It’s worth reading again with fresh eyes. It’s so clear and powerful. Standing in the Areopagus, surrounded by statues of pagan deities, Paul says
  • “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

    “Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:22-31).

    Instead of looking for spiritual renewal or awakening inside ourselves, we should be looking to the God who made the world and everything in it. And we should repent, because there is a day ahead when He will judge the world – including us.

    The reason websites like Mindbodygreen.com have articles about how to embrace a spiritual awakening is because every human being has a conscience that bears witness to the truth that we are spiritual beings created for more than this life. As Blaise Pascal has famously said, there is in every human heart a “God-shaped vacuum” which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made know through Jesus Christ.

    As we continue to pray for God to awaken His people (including each one of us) and to stir in us a fresh love for Him, let’s also be praying for our friends and neighbors and loved ones who have a God shaped vacuum in their hearts and are looking for some kind of spiritual awakening that will satisfy the deep longing in their soul for the God who made the world and everything in it. And let’s pray that God would give us opportunities this week to share with others our own story of how God has brought a spiritual awakening in our lives, and how He continues to be our never ending source of hope and peace.

    I received this note today from Faithann Glidden and asked her if I could pass it along to others. Sometimes, she said, all of us find ourselves at a loss as to how to pray. This is a prayer she put together to help her as she prays for others.

    “You know, when it comes right down to it,” Faithann wrote, “ALL problems that people experience are spiritual problems and they just evidence themselves in different ways in each of us. Here is a way to pray:

    Lord, we cry out to You to mercifully intervene in the lives of ________.
    Bring them to a point of desperation.
    Awaken them to who You are.
    Quicken their hearts – open their eyes to a spiritual awakening.
    We need an extraordinary move of Your Spirit to give them a hunger and thirst for humility, purity and sacrificial love for others.
    You, O Lord, are in control.
    You are sovereign, good, and gracious.
    You love to give mercy.
    Touch their hearts and deepen Your work of grace in their lives.
    Quicken them to their true nature and purpose in You.
    Restore and revive them bringing them to repentance and faith.
    Cast out the spirit of worldliness.
    May Your love triumph in their hearts.
    We pray these things in Jesus Name. Amen

    I don’t know who is on your heart that you’re praying for regularly. But I will be using Faithann’s prayer for some time as a template to help guide my own prayers.

    And if you have spiritual practices or prayers that are helpful for you as you seek to walk by faith each day, please share them with me so I can pass them along. If you’re worried about your name being in the newsletter, I’ll be happy to keep you anonymous.

    I just registered for the Men’s Retreat. Have you registered yet? You can click here to sign up and reserve your spot.

    Pastor Jeff Terrell from Ascend Church in Kansas City will be our speaker. We’ll be getting away to the Cross Heirs Retreat Center an hour east of Little Rock.

    Game Night for students is a week from Friday!

    If you’ve been part of the Women’s Bible Study this month in the book of Jonah, you know that next month, we’re beginning a new study in the book of Habakkuk. And if you weren’t a part of the Jonah study, now is the perfect time to sign up for a wonderful four week study between here and Easter (with a week off for spring break).

    There are two study times each week – Monday evenings and Tuesday afternoons. Get more details and register here.

  • Guys, our next First Tuesday gathering is just a few weeks away. I’m excited to have Neil Shenvi, the author of the new book Why Believe: A Reasoned Approach To Christianity joining us to help us know how we can better articulate and defend our faith in a post-Christian culture.

    One more event I’m hoping you’ll add to your calendar.

    On Friday night, March 31, we’re hosting a Couples Date Night at church. It’s going to be a special evening for married or engaged couples. A great meal (like seriously, a restaurant quality dinner), fun, fellowship and a message about marriage.

    We have two purposes for our date night. First, we want to help strengthen your marriage. Time together where you can consider what God’s word says about marriage is part of how that happens.

    Second, we want you to bring a couple with you who don’t currently attend a local church or who go only occasionally. We promise the evening will be fun for them and the message will be practical.

    The cost for the evening will be $40 per couple for church members and $20 per couple for your friends.

    Whether you bring a friend or not, plan now to have a special date night with your spouse (or your spouse to be) on Friday, March 30. Registration opens next week. We’re limited to 40 couples. And child care will be provided at no additional cost!

  • This week, we’ll be back in John’s gospel looking at the interaction between Jesus and Pilate. As Jesus stood before Pilate just hours before His crucifixion, there was something even more significant than His guilt or innocence being discussed. “Are you a King,” Pilate asked. We’ll see how Jesus answered Pilate as we look at the showdown between laws enforced by a sword and truth proclaimed in love.

    See you in church.

    Soli Deo Gloria!
    Pastor Bob

    PS – Don’t forget the movie that opens in theaters this weekend. Jesus Revolution. It’s the true story of the awakening God brought in Southern California back in the early 70’s. Check out the trailer.

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