Monday, July 31, 2006

Resources for Revival: From the Book of Order

As we talk about longing for revival and rediscovering the discipline of fasting, one resource is the PC(USA) Directory for Worship, as found in the Book of Order. The Directory for Worship grounds fasting in the Old Testament roots of seasons of fasting contrasted with seasons of feasting. It gives this specific statement on the "Disciplines of Fasting and Enacted Prayer"

Christians observe special times and season for the disciplines of fasting, keeping vigil, and other forms of enacted prayer. It is also appropriate to observe these disciplines at any time, especially in preparation for specific acts of discipleship or as acts of penitence, reconciliation, peacemaking, social protest, and compassion.

Sadly, I can find nothing else in the Directory for Worship nor the Book of Common Worship regarding fasting. There are some fine instructions on family prayer and devotional that are worth looking at, however.

Another resource is simply in reflecting upon the great ends of the church, as expressed in chapter 1 of the Book of order:

* The proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind
* The shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God
* The maintenance of divine worship
* The preservation of the truth
* The promotion of social righteousness
* The exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world

Evangelism, mission, discipleship, holiness, truth, fellowship -- these all sound like fine things to focus upon in the name of Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, July 28, 2006

Common Grace -- and Naming Christ

John Creasy put up a mental stew stirrer over on his blog Life, Faith and Culture. In it he talks about recognizing Christ's work in the world -- particularly in other peoples lives:
Thanks to one of my professors at PTS, Dr. Andrew Purvis, I've developed a really strong understanding of Christ's work in the world. I've learned to stop thinking of my own acts of kindness and care for people as the work of Christ and think of them more as my own actions which join Christ in the work that he is already doing in people's lives. I am not the barer of Christ, but the witness to Christ's action.

That quote alone is worth the price of admission -- it makes absolute sense for us Calvinists to realize that when we're acting as salt and light, we're not really doing the work of Christ - but rather we're instruments in the much larger work of Christ that's going on. And yet how often I let my hubris puff up with grandiose thoughts that I am scoring goodie points for my saltiness and lightiness (lightiness? lightness? -- how about brilliance? I like brilliance).

John then talks about how Dr. Purves speaks of bearing witness to the work of the Living God by first of all pointing to His goodness, then interpreting that goodness, finally engaging in symbolic acts of goodness. John posits that with post-christian, burned out types, we must first begin with the symbolic acts (loving them into a relationship), but that at some point, we have to interpret the grace (naming Christ as the author of all blessing) John writes: "The question floating around for me is how long should we act symbolically before naming Christ as the barer of grace. I'm convinced that the purpose of mission is not fulfilled if we do not at some point make an attempt to name grace as Jesus Christ, but I think it may at times take years to do that. On the other hand I don't think we need to be scared to name grace."

We have this wonderful doctrine of common grace -- the idea that God has not abandoned the world, but leaves truth, beauty, and goodness as a means of testifying to his greatness. Every time we experience truth, beauty, and goodness -- there is God graciously bestowing kindness upon us. Jonathan Edwards saw this was the case -- in Marsden's biography, he talks about how Edwards often walked the fields and the woods, glorying in God's creation. Marsden relates how on one outing, Edwards saw a spider floating by on a strand of web blown by the wind, and he relates Edwards' later naming of the grace: "We hence see the exuberant goodness of the Creator who hath not only provided for all the necessities, but also for the pleasure and recreation of all sorts of creatures and even the insects and those that are most despicable" (pg 65) Edwards rightly saw that all knowledge can point us to the Living God.

This is also part of the appeal of Francis Collins, the director of the Human Genome Project. He's been in the press all this month (Time, AP News, NPR) promoting his new book about his life as a scientist and his deep abiding faith as an evangelical Christian. Check out this quote from an interview from the Counterbalance Website:

For me, as a person of faith, that moment of discovery has an additional dimension. It's appreciating something, realizing something, knowing something that up until then no human had known - but God knew it. And there is an intricacy and an elegance in the nature of biology, particularly when it comes to the information carrying capacity of DNA, which is rather awesome. And so, in a way, perhaps, those moments of discovery also become moments of worship, moments of appreciation, of the incredible intricacies and beauty of biology, of the world, of life. And, therefore, an appreciation of God as the creator.

Naming the source of the Grace -- the living triune God. Thanks John Creasy for being used by the Holy Spirit to stimulate thought.

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Justice is served! Sanity in eminent domain law

Note before reading this post that I've issued a later apology for unfair characterization of parties involved in this issue. My support for the supreme court decision still stands; my belief in individual property rights still stands; and I continue to hold my belief that institutions under pressure often exert coercive power in unhelpful ways. After reading this article, please follow the above link to the follow-up apology.

Imagine a time when that lovely old church building in the unpleasant part of town is siezed by the city and turned over to a millionaire developer who promises "exciting retail space combined with luxury condos". Imagine a time when a city government, with a crackhead's desperation for cash, tramples on individual liberty or the good of the community in the name of expanding the tax base. I can hear the rhetoric about how the economic development will lift the overall quality of life (rhetoric that is indeed grounded in truth). Meanwhile, decent middle class folks discover with dismay their role as disposable pawns in the great chess game of developers and local government.

This is the scenario that was playing out just around the corner from me in little Norwood, OH. Once a thriving industrial center, the city has lost tax revenue as factories have closed down and people moved away. Their solution has been economic development by luring large retail developments to the area. They've had great success with the Rookwood commons shopping center -- and just across the street from that development was a small 11 acre neighborhood -- mostly residential, rental, and small business offices. Like the wolf eyeing Red Riding hood's basket, developers waited their opportunity to seize the neighborhood and "improve" the property.

They started buying up property in the neighborhood -- paying premium prices (some of the properties went for twice the county auditor's appraisal). But three homeowners held out -- one was a couple in their mid 60's who had raised their family in their home and they were not ready to leave all their memories. Another was a small business renter whose 2 family unit sat right across from the existing development. I have little information on the third family. The developer, tired of these upstarts standing in the way of their million$, asked the city of Norwood to intervene. Like batallion of Panzers crossing into Poland, they intervened by declaring the neighborhood blighted and seizing the properties. A state court demanded that the homeowners be remitted 3 times the appraised value of their properties -- this is in the 400-500 thousand dollar range. Not a bad return, eh?

But then there is the ever tricky principle of the thing. Here we have government exercising an egregious abuse of power, grandiloquently seizing private property not for infrastructure or public works, but to be handed over to a developer waiting to cash in. A three year legal battle followed -- the developer fenced off the 11 acres and demolished all the homes save the three (which were protected by court order), leaving a scorched-earth desert awaiting their faustian ambitions to be completed.

Yesterday, justice was served. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of the three property owners. Norwood exceeded their authority in seizing the properties. See the Enquirer story right here.

The Norwood lawers have been playing their role as paid public mourners, wailing that this will threaten any use of public domain for any purpose. But pay no heed to their keening, justice has been served.

Rodeny Stark, in his book For the Glory of God posits that when a powerful authority is prosperous, it allows all kinds of creativity and liberty, but when that powerful authority comes under external pressure, it then begins to demand of its constituents strict conformity. He traces this pattern through the history of the Catholic church, which for a season in the Medeival Period allowed for reform and theological innovation, but when threatened by Islamic incursion leading up to the crusades, it began to demand strict doctrinal conformity (as evidenced in the crusades against the Waldensian reformers and the execution of Jan Hus and other reformers).

We see this pattern playing out all around us. Norwood, once flush with cash, allowed plenty of individual liberty. But now that cash is tight, imperial decrees come down that property owners need to "trust us, we're the experts".

We see this in Cincinnati's city council running roughshod over any sense of community identity and values as they desperately seek dollars from the ill concieved idea of casino gambling in downtown.

Some might argue that this is the case in the american mainline churches -- in the 1950's we were enthroned atop the cultural pyramid -- we held court in the country club and the halls of power. Then we were able to tolerate all kinds of innovation and expansion for the future was so bright, we had to wear shades. Now, after decades of declining membership, dollars, and prestige, we're pitched in a theological cage fight that threaten our identity, and the institutions are doing its best to assert centralized authority in the face of obvious fragmentation. Pick your denomination and it's happening.

And yet we see that in the face of heartless institutional expansion, the average citizen is able to stand an cry out for sanity, justice, and a halt to the greed that drives unreflective expansion. Corporations and business are accountable to their customers and to the public -- we do have a voice! We can indeed be salt and light to this world and make a difference. Praise God!

Soli Deo Gloria

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A basket of linking goodness!

Last week, John Schroeder over at Blogotional put up a post about the call to servant leadership in our blog-writing. His main example of such leadership is leading through linking people to ideas and sites that are worth reading, and then he begs the question -- what are other ways of engaging in servant leadership?

Here's a pungent quote from the post:
Effective institutional leaders usually view the institution as an extension of themselves - a way to get something done that they want done. But the approach described here would have the institution serve the other and the leader work to make that happen, regardless of the leader's desire.

Linking is certainly one form of blogging servant leadership, but the question is what are others? How do we blog in ways to serve? If we are to follow the example of Christ the purpose of our blogs should most assuredly be NOT attracting attention to ourselves, yet that seems to define the medium.

Godblogging needs, in my opinion, a new paradigm. What is it and how to we get there?

This is as irritating as a reminder to floss -- By golly he's right, but I admit that while pounding my keyboard in frustration, for I have met the enemy and he is me. Part of the problem is that the act of writing is an act of ego -- why would anyone care what it is that we have to say? What audacity makes us think that our words merit the eyetime of readers when there is an ocean of wit, wisdom, and whimsey available online. Indeed, what separates us from the mountebanks, hucksters and snake-oil salesmen who peddle their thoughts online in the neverending quest to attain A-list blogdom? Michael Foster brought up some of these thoughts when he took a blogging sabbatical a while back.

I suggest that perhaps another guideline might be found in Ephesians 4:29 "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." combine this with Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things."

Simply put, our blogging should seek to edify and build up the saints, not engage in a tough-man free for all of words and attack. Sometimes that edification may be in the form of challenging cultural or institutional assumptions -- but it must always be done with the aim of edifying rather than scoring points. The question still remains -- is there a place for prophetic wrath? I welcome your thoughts on that question.

However, in the spirit to which John Schroeder calls us, I offer up this little basket of linking goodies for your edification and pleasure:

Dear Church This website (and the corresponding book that is coming out this fall) tells stories of 20 somethings who have left the church because they've been so badly burned. Some of their complaints are grossly unfair -- however as you read on you may find yourself being deeply challenged. Worth a look-see. Anastasia Goodstien's weblog all about marketing to generation Y (that would be todays teenagers, ya'll) has become one of my favorites. Goodstien is not a cynical "this is how you get them to buy stuff" type -- rather, she wants her readers to understand the mindset of this generation. She's not afraid of highlighting faith trends in a positive way. And she practices linking "servant leadership" better than most blogs I've seen.

Heart and Soul While working on my laptop in one of my branch offices (that would be any coffee shop with free wifi), I ran into my friend Gary Sweeten who told me about his new blog. Gary is an experienced counselor, pastor, and leadership coach, and this blog brings all that wisdom to bear to help leaders be more effective -- certainly worth a visit. BoingBoing is a team weblog where the team members scout out stories of interest to the new digital overlords of our culture -- the tech geeks. Most of these stories have to do with nifty gee-whiz products, sci-fi, free speech, techno-trivia, sex, and more. It's worth following for an insight into a very large world in which faith is not a consideration (if even disdained). It also clues you in to interesting intellectual developments like the Singularity and round the world coverage of events like Hurricane Katrina recovery and the Israel/Hezbollah war.

hope these links interest you -- let me know what you think.

Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

100 years old today -- Clara Edwards

Clara Edwards is 100 years old today. Her mind is still as sharp as a Senator's oratory, and for 100 years old, her body holds up well (she lives alone in the same house she moved into in 1933). Today, I paid her a visit -- for its not everyday that one talks with a centeniarian.

Mrs. Edwards remembers driving a horse and buggy to go to school when she was a teenager (all the city girls would ask her for rides after school was over) -- she fondly remembers the gentleman at the livery stable who promised he'd take good care of her horse Billy while she was in school. She remembers when Billie died and her daddy buried him underneath the apple tree on the family farm.

She remembers working on her family's tobacco farm, until she married her husband Boyd in 1933 -- she lived through the depression and two world wars. She remembers watching our country grow and prosper after world war 2. To use the terminology of the Fourth Turning (which we've been working through for several weeks here at the Eagle and Child), she's lived through an unravelling of culture, a crisis, and a new order following the crisis. Through it all, some of her best memories were of travelling back from the Cincinnati area (she and Boyd actually lived in Ft. Thomas KY, right across the river from Cincinnati) back to Cynthiana KY to visit family. After 100 years of history, her fondest memories are of those with loved ones!

What inspires me is her still vibrant faith -- as a child, she memorized the Westminster Shorter Catechism -- no small task for seminarians who wallow in theology, much less for a child. She still has the certificate for completing that great feat. She's outlived her husband and her siblings, and yet she still sings the refrain of how blessed she has been in this life. She continues to profess her faith in the good Lord. As we read scripture together, I read from Ephesians 2 -- and she was mouthing the words as we went over the great statements of justification by faith and not by works.

And this made the visit so special -- as I was leaving, Andy and Anna Adams dropped by with their two week old child, Jack. There in the same room were the youngest and the oldest members of our church family. Truly it is sweet to be a part of a covenant community!

I know that Clara will never read this reflection -- she was a senior citizen when personal computers became the rage in the 70's -- she was an octegenarian when the internet was in its infancy. I doubt she's ever even looked at a computer or the world that is on the internet. Living history my friends, living history. I thank God that I've had the chance to know her (and so many others)

Do yourself a favor -- go ask some older folks for the stories of bygone days -- and then tell a story or two online. Let's archive some of the great oral history here on the blogosphere before it all goes away.

Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, July 24, 2006

Resources for Revival: Prayer and Forgiveness

I've been preaching through the Lord's prayer these past few weeks. Yesterday, we spent time on "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" -- a few key points (and again, I'm indebted to Thomas Watson's incredible work on the Lord's Prayer -- written in the 17th century and still thought provoking today):

* We're reminded that we have much to be forgiven. By commanding us to pray for forgiveness, Jesus also encourages us to examine ourselves to see where we need forgiveness. Such self examination in the light of Scripture (which is a trait not encouraged in our uber-carnival culture) will lead us to see how we continue to deny God's rule in our lives. Self reflection shines the spotlight of truth on the recesses of our soul and prompts us to cry out "Lord, have mercy on me" --

* We're reminded that we're called to forgive others. Ephesians 4:31-32 "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

* Our grounding of forgiveness is the same as the grounding of our capacity to forgie. Our forgiveness is secured by the person and work of Jesus Christ -- in His death, resurrection and ascension. In the same way, our capacity to forgive is secured by His work. Justification (our forgiveness) is instant and done from without, imputed to us. Sanctification (our holiness -- including the capacity to forgive) is progressive and done from within, worked out by the Holy Spirit. However both Justification and Sanctification are extended to us by the work of Jesus Christ.

In other words -- we don't earn our forgiveness through our capacity to forgive -- however, if we're truly forgiven, we should expect an increasing desire to learn what it means to forgive and to try to forgive. Let us keep these truths in mind as we continue forward in troubling times for the PCUSA and for the world.

I'll close with this prayer from Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions:

"The Convicting Spirit"
Thou Blessed Spirit, Author of all grace and comfort,
Come, work repentance in my soul;
Represent sin to me in its odious colours that I may hate it;
Melt my heart by the majesty and glory of God;
Show me my ruined self and the help there is in him;
Teach me to behold my creator,
his ability to save,
his arms outstretched,
his heart big for me.
May I confide in his power and love,
commit my soul to him without reserve,
bear his image, observe his laws, pursue his service,
and be through time and eternity
a monument to the efficacy of his grace,
a trophy of his victory;
Make me willing to be saved in his way,
perceiving nothing in myself, but all in Jesus
Help me not only to receive him but
to walk in him
depend upon him
commune with him
be conformed to him
follow him
imperfect, but still pressing forward
not complaining of labour, but valuing rest
not murmuring under trials, but thankful for my state
Give me that faith which is the means of salvation,
and the principle and medium of all godliness;
May I be saved by grace through faith;
live by faith
feel the joy of faith
do the work of faith
Perceiving nothing in myself, may I find in Christ
wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption


Soli Deo Gloria

Resources for Revival Index:
* Andrew Murray on corporate prayer
* Bill Bright on fasting and prayer
* Longing for revival: resources for revival

Other Revival oriented posts
* A Call for fasting and prayer
* Thomas Watson on prayer
* National Day of Prayer retrospective
* Longing for revival: a reminder from history
* Longing for Revival in the presbyterian church
* The foolishness of preaching
* Fasting and Prayer
* A running theme: revival
* Advice from Africa: Start with Prayer

Friday, July 21, 2006

Blogging as the new town square

The romantic ideal of 19th century and early 20th century America has the town square as the center of business and socializing -- that's where town hall, the church, the city park and any number of businesses were and where people met to converse, play, and do business.

Now, for better or for worse, the internet serves some of those functions. Admittedly, this creates a distance (for an online relationship cannot compare to a face to face relationship) but it also creates new connections (see my earlier post on "Gruntled Center, I'm The Eagle and Child" -- online connections can enhance and create face to face relationships).

The Pew Internet and American Life Project has just released a 33 page report on how blogging is being used -- they did a phone survey of over 7,000 adults, of whom they found 4,700 were Internet users. Of that 4,700, 8% were bloggers. They found several things out:

* Blogs are primarily used as personal journals of experiences, ideas, and thought. (only 1/3 of bloggers say that they blog for an audience)
* 54% of all bloggers are under 30
* Bloggers are major consumers of political news (72% actively seek political news, vs 58% of internet users in general)
* Bloggers get information from non-online sources such as tv, Radio, and papers as well
* Most bloggers post infrequently, not on a set schedule.

Blogging has grown significantly and we're still trying to measure the influence of this media. I think it is still an all things to all people. Some social mores and norms still have yet to be developed -- and some folks need to learn some basic common sense (if you wouldn't want your mom to read it, then why would you post it on the internet for the world to see?).

Seth Godin's taxonomy helps greatly: there are three kinds of blogs -- a boss blog (aimed at a small group to communicate specific information to that group), a cat blog (aimed at sharing personal information -- what the Pew study indicates to be the main reason most folks blog), and the viral blog (the bloggers who want to spread ideas and influence opinion and behavior).

Why do you read blogs? Why do you blog?


Other posts of interest on new technology:
Open Source Culture
Off the Shelf:Darknet A book review concerning the new digital culture
Christians engaging web 2.0
Why the Eagle and Child My apologia for why I write

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Fourth Turning: Personal Preparation for the Crisis Ahead

If Strauss and Howe are right -- we're do for a season of crisis that will fundamentally re-shape the structure of how things are done in our society. Truth be told, we can see inklings of that crisis already: Our nation is at war with a completely different kind of enemy; we are threatened by North Korea and at tension with China. Energy and Environment concerns threaten to turn the channels of power upside down. And, as we saw in yesterday's post, a cynical culture of exploitation threatens to overwhelm people of basic goodwill.

So what is to be done? Strauss and Howe suggest how America can prepare for this Crisis (or deal with it since we're likely already into it) and how we as individuals can prepare. Today, I'm focusing on the individual side. "Picture yourself and your loved ones in the midst of a howling blizzard that lasts for several years," they say, "Think about what you would need, who could help you, and why your fate might matter to anybody other than yourself. That is how to plan for a saecular winter." (317)

Their suggestions:

Rectify: Return to classic virtues People will know who is reliable, trustworthy and helpful, and who isn't. People will begin to shun those who are only out for themselves. Now is the time for building a reputation of trustworthiness.

I look back to the old Boy Scout law as a fine list of the classic virtues that we all need to build within ourselves. A Scout is trustworhty, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent (to which my troop would always add "and hungry"). The church is a school for such virtues -- not because we believe that they're what saves us, but because we believe that the Holy Spirit works in the redeemed and sanctifies them. Our opportunity in the church is to take the opportunity to point to the classical virtues as expressed in scripture and call on people to pray that the Holy Spirit works these virtues out in their lives.

Converge: Heed emerging community norms Don't isolate yourself from the majority "Appearances will matter. Justice will be rough, because society will require more order but have fewer resources and less time to impose it. As technicalities give way, innocent people will suffer. If you don't want to be misjudged, don't act in a way that might provoke Crisis-era authority to deem you guilty." (319). This is one of the more disturbing ideas in the suggestions. I suggest that we as Christians cannot just go along with any emerging community norms. However, there is a point that we must do our best to co-operate where we can.

Bond: Build personal relationships of all kinds Relationships will help us weather the storm -- knowing and cultivating these relationships at all levels is key. See the film Hotel Rwanda for
a real world example of how one man leveraged every relationship he had to save his life and the lives of others during the genocide in Rwanda.

The church, when working right, is a breeding ground for such relationships. If we also send our people out into the world to be involved in community organizations, then we expand that relational power. This is the time for us to take seriously I Corinthians 12.

Gather: Prepare yourself (and your children) for teamwork Lessening individualism, showing how you can work well with others, how you can respond to authority and work within given limits -- these will be great skills for the trying time ahead.

Again this is a great opportunity for the church as we challenge people to engage in ministry together. Pastors will have to learn to be less the center of the show and encourage more teamwork. Churches will have to become even more missional by sending people out into the community to be involved (note that this does not mean that churches should compromise their message, only that they should share their resources) -- empire building by pastors will have to slow down or halt altogether.

Root: Look to your family for support A return to extended family as a source of people upon whom we can rely. Again, I suggest that we continue to look to the church as a kind of second tier extended family. There are a lot of people who are alone in a city, far from relatives -- they will need support and connection in the trying times.

Brace: Gird for the weakening or collapse of public support mechanisms Institutions will be able to provide less and less -- this is a great opportunity for churches to step in and meet needs -- if they are prepared. Many churches will be stuck in the 70s trying to support a seeker sensitive megachurch model. People will need practical help with bills, kids, family, job hunting, learning to do more with less, etc. I predict that people will care less and less about whether the church has a power point slide show on Sunday -- they'll care more and more about whether the people in the church care for them and they hear about hope in Jesus Christ.

Hedge: Diversify Everything you do Here they're talking about hedging investments and skills -- the flexible people will be able to survive well. Those who keep learning new skills will prosper. Don't put all your investment eggs in one basket.

To these suggestions I might add:

Practice simplicty and contentment The disciplines of the church: fasting, prayer, sabbath, bible study, fellowship -- all these disciplines teach us how to be content with less. There will be less to go around, so we might as well get used to it. Also, if we learn how to get by with less, we'll have more to share -- the less we're attached to material things, the more willing we are to part with them. Such sharing forges bonds that will help us through the Crisis time (think It's a Wonderful Life)

Prayer I believe the Holy Spirit is what will carry us through the crisis and enable the Church of Jesus Christ to prevail. We need to pray that God would so shape us -- that He would grow within us love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, goodness, and self-control. We need to pray that the hard hearts in our culture will be softened and that there would be a massive turning to Christ because of this crisis.

Study What did the culture do (and the church do) during the previous crises. What was right and wrong about what has happened in the past?

I think that this crisis time will be a great opportunity for the church to be the church. It is also a great time for us to communicate the message of the saving power of Jesus Christ. In the resolution of the crisis time, social norms for the next 80 years will be established. It would be wonderful for the church to find a way to plant the seeds for the church to prosper on the other end of the Crisis.

Ultimately, no-one knows the course the crisis will take -- how severe it will be or what it will look like. We may even now be at the river's bend, about to ride the rapids through. I look forward to your thoughts on how we can persevere and thrive.

Soli Deo Gloria

Index to the Fourth Turning Series
First post
Concepts of Time
Crises of American History
American Awakenings
Generational Archetypes

Supplemental Articles
Kruse Kronicle: Index on Generations
American Thinker article: "Parkinson's War" (thanks Chris Larimer)
Ypulse -- Ypulse provides daily news & commentary about Generation Y for media and marketing professionals.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Call for Sanity, Please!

Quotidian Grace links to this story that dropped my stomach into a free fall. A young woman in Sugar Land, TX was shot in the head by two young men who simply had a "morbid curiosity" about what it would be like to shoot someone in the head. Teens killing teens not out of wrath or anger, but out of curiosity. My heart aches for this girl's family and friends -- and honestly, as a father of two daughters, I tremble.

How have we gotten here? Most of us have had those urges that we dare not tell others about -- the urge to slap a stranger, the urge to stand in the middle of a church service and shout profanity. It is usually a tickle at the back of the head "what would it be like if..." Most of us also have sense enough to immediately quash the urge -- a developed moral sense, an understanding of consequences, a realization that this is a temptation from a tempter. We call it a conscience -- that inner Momma holding the roller pin in her hand.

Somehow, for these two young men, these barriers didn't exist -- somehow, when Satan came with his little mind virus, these boys defenses were so nonexistent that they gave in to morbid curiosity.

Perhaps we will cluck our tongues and say it is a shame -- perhaps we self-righteously say "where were the parents".

We should ask "where have we failed" -- we've become a culture that celebrates nihilism and death -- look at the slew of torture and kill flicks that have come out in the past few years: Saw I and II, Hostel, Wolf Creek, The Hills Have Eyes, Devils Rejects (just to name the ones that I'm aware of) -- they've all been huge hits -- and they graphically depict inhuman acts of torture -- in Hostel, it is torture that is being done out of "morbid curiosity". (and for the wise guy that asks "did you see the movie?" -- i read extensive reviews on -- these things aren't high art here -- they're splatter flicks)

Look at the graphics and lyrics of hardcore acts such as Slipknot, Korn and Rob Zombie. Look at the trend of exploiting the pain of others for profit that is the hallmark of Howard Stern, Jerry Springer, and copious radio shock jocks. Can we open our eyes and see the mess that we've allowed to happen. And if anyone dares raise their voice, they're dismissed as a censor and a threat to first ammendment rights.

The problem with such things is that by having such violence and exploitation readily available, we normalize it. We allow the world to be filled with images and stories that make it seem perfectly OK to abuse another person for our own "morbid curiosity" -- and then we act aghast when someone acts out on what has been normalized by the culture.

I suggest we need to de-normalize exploitation.

It needs to become socially unacceptable to be a purveyor of such sleaze. What would it be like if we told movie theater owners that as long as they showed films like Saw, we would not bring our children to their establishment to see films like Cars. If enough people said it, there would be a few safe havens. Perhaps even some theatres would start advertising that they are clean.

What would it be like if we told local advertisers that we would not support them if they advertise on "shock" stations -- if enough people did so, it would make a dent. These exploitation mavens are dollar driven, and we need to make it financially hurt when they so hurt our culture by normalizing filth.

What would it look like if we walked into Barnes and Noble and told them that as long as they had a huge section of Erotica sitting right next to the collection of books on children and parenting, we would no longer patronize their establishment? Has anyone thought about this -- must we continue to let what is normal be established by the major media corporations and large conglomerates. There is plenty we can do to send a message back -- and to say that it is no longer OK to tempt our children with "morbid curiosity" about killing, exploitation, and destruction.

Please, readers, tell me what do you think we can do together?

Soli Deo Gloria

Posts with similar themes:
Book review of Farenheit 451
Builders and Destroyers
The Aristocrats -- does anybody with sanity really care
A Casino for Broadway Commons: Bad Idea

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Fourth Turnings: Generational Archetypes

Is there truly a spirit of an Age? Can we speak of generational stereotypes? Marketers certainly think so -- we've been sliced and diced demographically. Marketers target boomers differently than Gen x'ers or Millinnial children (see for instance Ypulse, a website dedicated to understanding marketing to the Millenial Generation. So if we approach generations differently when we're trying to sell a cylander of artificially colored sugar water, then perhaps we can view each generation as unique as we look at the unfolding of history.

Strauss and Howe believe that each new generation is shaped by some defining event that happens -- and their life stage at that time will shape how they then appraoch culture later. For instance, after a Crisis period is resolved, the generation that was in young adulthood (a Hero generation that was on the frontlines of the battles) returns home to consolidate their victory and raise their children in peace. The children that are born post crisis are indulged, protected, cherished, coddled, and looked upon with great hope -- they after all are the future -- they are the future for which the hero generation was fighting. However, there is this strange generation between the two -- those too young to fight the battles, but who have a living memory of living through the crisis -- they were protected, but largely told to keep their place -- they bide their time and come of age in the peace following the crisis, expanding their creative capacities.

So here we have three archetypes allready, by Strauss and Howe's designation they are: Hero, Artist, Prophet. During this post crisis period (known as a high) there is stabiility and conformity and an emphasis on social cohesion. But when the Prophet generation begins to mature, they question the order that was built out of the crisis. They have no living memory of the crisis remember -- they question the conformity and social order. As the prophets move into maturity, they question the social order -- this becomes the tumultuous time that we've referred to as an Awakening. A new generation is being born in this awakening, but they are largely left alone because society is preoccupied with the changes going on -- this new generation is called a Nomad archetype, because they're often left to their own devices and prior generations have very low expectations.

So four archetypes that cycle through the four ages of man - moving from childhood, to young adulthood, to maturity, to eldership. Each generation playing a different role in society as they enter the life stages -- and therefore driving what will come next.

Think of this: GI Generation (Heroes) come home and build the great 1950s culture of Happy days. The Silent Generation (Artists) remember the war, but enjoy the idyllic season of growing up in Buddy Holly's america (think Happy Days). The Baby boomer generation (prophets) is born just after the war. But then when the baby boomer generation begins to mature (say around 20 years after the close of the crisis -- think mid 60s), they question the social system (does anybody remember the 60s and 70s??). As they're busy self-actualizing, they're giving birth to a new generation that receives considerably less attention than they did -- this generation becomes a generation of slackers (can we say Generation X anyone?). However as these slackers come into their own and the boomers self actualize society into a thousand different fragments, there becomes a new emphasis on co-operation and investing in children --

the unravelling that is precipitated by the self-actualizing zeitgiest from the Awakening may just propel us to a new crisis and that new generation (the Millennials) may well become the heroes -- the next GI generation that has to serve in the front lines of the new crisis.

Or think this scenario: The revolutionary war heroes had a whole generation of artful and subtle compromisers (John Quincy Adams for instance). But in the Post revolution era of a High, there was significant expansion and exuberance in America (Louisiana purchase anyone?). The children born during that time of exuberance would when they came of age be the catalyst for a little event known as the Second Great Awakening - a spiritual revival that broke out from the 1820s-1840s. Then, there is a season of unravelling as the prophets of the various religious and personal movements begin to battle (Bleeding Kansas?), until after about 20 years of unravelling, there is another crisis (The Civil War).

Crisis, High, Awakening, Unravelling
Hero, Artist, Prophet, Nomad

Which, if we're on the verge of crisis now, our 20 year olds and younger are the heroes who will bear the burdens -- the Nomads (that us Gen Xers) will have to be the tough decision makers -- the Pattons, the Eisenhowers, the Shermans, the Grants, the Stonewall Jacksons. The Prophet Boomers will make their prophetic voices heeard by goading the faithful into the breach. And the Artists will tend, nurture, and shepherd the generations with wisdom.

Challenging thoughts for challenging times

Soli Deo Gloria

Index to the Fourth Turning Series
First post
Concepts of Time
Crises of American History
American Awakenings

Supplemental Articles
Kruse Kronicle: Index on Generations
American Thinker article: "Parkinson's War" (thanks Chris Larimer)
Ypulse -- Ypulse provides daily news & commentary about Generation Y for media and marketing professionals.

Monday, July 17, 2006

What is an Emergent Neo-Puritan

Ever since I put this blog up, I've had as my "About Me", the following text:
"Father, husband, pastor, cultural exegete. A part of the Southern diaspora, an emergent neo-puritan, and a witty epicurean."

No-one has ever asked what any of it meant. I've had a few folks make aside comments like "I'm not sure what all that is" -- but no-one has ever actually asked.

Until now.

David McCrory gets the honors for asking the question -- specifically wondering what an emergent neo-puritan is.

So, here's me explanation of the whole thing (more than what David asked, but I'm in a mood to explain myself). The Father, husband, pastor, and cultural exegete are pretty self explanatory.

"A part of the Southern diaspora...." As a southerner (born and raised in Columbia, SC), I've come to find that the American Southeast has a distinctive and complex culture -- often ridiculed by much of the rest of the world. Where the rest of the nation sees NASCAR and country music as the South's great contribution, I see something much more. It is a way of life that celebrates family heritage going back for generations (my grandfather's first question upon meeting someone was "Who are your people?" - meaning who's your family). It celebrates nature and earthiness and the outdoors. There's a slowness and a gentility that even today persists. In the south, even the most well to do men are a little bit good-ol-boy when they put on their cammies and go hunting. There's a richness to southern quisine, southern literature, and southern music that I would not trade. There's a slower pace gives me room to breathe. I could wax rhapsodic for a long time -- but the point is that it is my home and the cadences of my thought were tuned in that culture. As we live in a more connected world than ever before, I find southerners dispersed all through the country and indeed the world -- still identifiable more or less. Hence, the Southern Diaspora.

"Emergent neo-puritan" -- this is a bit of a wisecrack on my part. Let me preface this by saying that I have many friends who are in churches that could be classified as "emergent" -- these churches are filled with good faithful and solid disciples who genuinely seek Christ.

But let me be quite frank -- I'm pretty sick of the term emergent. I've read so many articles that speak with breathless anticipation of the Emergent revolution. I find it amusing to think that there are leadership articles trying to help churches become more emergent -- as if it were a matter of engineering. Step 1: introduce electrified music Step 2: Get a prayer labarynth Step 3: grow a goatee or get a tattoo.

And then there are the legions of posers -- the "cooler than thou" Christians who have found churches where they can have good coffee, talk about semi-interesting books (I'm sorry, but I just can't call Blue Like Jazz interesting -- I've tried reading it three times and Miller's style just grates on my nerves). These folks gravitate to what I might call "corporate emergent" -- the megachurch clones that engage in a neverending quest to be relevant, but in so doing, strip the church of everything that makes it a distinctive refuge."

I speak now as a disciple, not as a pastor. I don't really want my church to be "relevant" -- I want my church to be deep and mature and grown up. I want my church to be a place that reflects a deep grounding in the Rock of Israel, the Strong Tower to whom I can run -- Jesus Christ, the righteous one. I long for a church that has old people and babies -- not just a bunch of twenty and thirty somethings looking to relate to one another. I want to go to a place where worship isn't just "cool", it's special and heartfelt and spirit-filled. I hope for a church of characters who walk lovingly as disciples of Jesus Christ, striving to take every thought captive and have every arena of their lives express the truth of the gospel.

That's the kind of life the Puritans encouraged at their best. Yes, there's a wide range of thought in the Puritan movement -- yes there were lamentable errors. But they got a lot of things right. I want to emerge by going backward -- back to the passion for a whole life Christianity. Hence, emergent neo-puritan.

Now I realize that this is exactly what is happening in some emergent churches -- but those are the churches that don't make a big deal about being "emergent". I take this as a general rule of thumb -- when a church works on selling their new focus ("were going to be emergent" "We're going to be missional" "were going to be purpose driven"), they usually get sidetracked from focusing on Christ to focusing on technique. The churches that are doing it well are not making a big deal about it because their focus is upon Christ and growing disciples and being subject to scripture.

Finally, "witty epicurian" -- that's an inside joke for my brother, and maybe David Thomas. Nothing more to it than that.

Hope this helps, David, and others of you who were just plain curious.

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Fourth Turning: American Awakenings

My great great grandfather, RY Russell, was a preacher during the mid-19th century. In the 1820's and 1830's, he preached revival and experienced amazing results -- it was that hotbed season of renewal known as the Second Great Awakening. A renewal of interest in spiritual things was happening all across the country -- people were beginning to look inward and assess the state of their hearts and souls and look for meaning beyond the meaterial world.

Yesterday, we talked about the seasonality of Crises in American culture, however Strauss and Howe posit that Awakenings are also seasonal. Just as the crises lead to a reformation of societal structure, so the Awakenings lead to a reformation of the inner lives of folks in society. "While a Crisis rearranges the outer world of power and politics, an Awakening rearranges the inner world of spirit and culture. While a Crisis elevates the group and reinvents public space, an Awakening elevates the individual and reinvents private space." (46) If a crisis is the bitter winter through which a culture must go, then an awakening is the hot sticky summer. Just as the Crises run on an 80-100 year cycle, so do awakenings -- only offset by 40-45 years. So, roughly 40 years after the start of a crisis period, we can expect to enter a new awakening period.

True to form, Strauss and Howe lay out a map of the great Awakenings that have occured in Anglo-American history since the Reformation:

The Protestant Reformation (1517-1542) In addition to the continental effects, the Reformation transformed England from a bastion of Catholic Loyalists to a Protestant stalwart.

The Puritan Awakening (1621-1649) A golden era of reformed theology that led to a renewed emphasis on Christ's lordship over all aspects of life. The postmillenial hope that puritans held fired their imaginations to seek out the New World and build a city shining on a hill.

The Great Awakening (1727-1746) After settled colonists hardened into rigid european class distinctions, this great season of revival shaped the revolutionary generation, stamping them with a passionate individualistic faith.

The Transcendental Awakening (1822-1844) A season of renewed spiritual interest that led to the abolition movement, and to the creation of new sects (many of the heretical -- like the Jehovah's witnesses and the Mormons)

The Third Great Awakening (1886-1908) A season of reform, utopianism and birth of the social gospel.

The Consciousness Revolution (1964-1984) The time in which new age movement, modern charismatic movement, and the New evangelical movement all came into their own as shapers of American culture.

Now a few things bear noting. One is that the renewed interest in spiritual things, as Howe and Strauss talk about it, is but a sociological phenomena -- this says nothing about the movement of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit moves as it will. There are examples of Spiritual movements that occur outside the bounds of these Awakenings (consider the 1859 prayer revival in New York, or the 100 year prayer vigil held by the Moravians). What Strauss and Howe identify are simply cultural indicators of broad interest in spiritual things.

Also note that the culture tends to be pretty indiscriminate about the spiritual offerings -- witness the proliferation of heterodox offerings during the "consciousness revolution" and the "Transcendental Awakening". The criteria for public receptivity seems to be what is scratching the itch that the current structure isn't meeting. For instance, the calcified and cold faith of the early 1800s, while doctrinally correct, left an opening for heterodox thinkers who emphasized the heart.

Now if Strauss and Howe are correct, then we're not due for another Awakening until around 2040 or so. However this doesn't mean that there aren't things we can't do to prepare. It seems the best thing to do is to develop an authentic Christianity that is balanced between heart and head. We can prepare by living the spiritual disciplines out in our communities -- the whole counsel of God proclaimed will challenge us to live out just that balance. We can minister to the poor, the needy, and the hurting -- for that is not only our calling, but it is often what fires the imaginations of the masses in an Awakening.

Most of all, we can pray --for as I said earlier, an Awakening is only a time of public interest. We must pray that the Spirit would grant a renewal to the church so that the church might be prepared for the Crisis ahead and the coming Awakening beyond. We can pray that the church would be strong and ready to respond, rather than a decadent institution tottering on the need of reform (which is what gave heat to the Reformation and the Puritan awakenings).

I look forward to your thoughts -- Be back with you on Monday

Soli Deo Gloria


Index to the Fourth Turning Series
First post
Concepts of Time
Crises of American History

Supplemental Articles
Kruse Kronicle: Index on Generations
American Thinker article: "Parkinson's War" (thanks Chris Larimer)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Fourth Turning: Crises of American History

Imagine a society-wide crisis; not an event observed through the comforting reassurance of Katie Couric's nightly news, but a harrowing dark night of the soul that is viscerally experienced by every citizen. Imagine a time of rationing, public calls for sacrifice, and unity in the face of daunting odds. Imagine staring down upon the assembleds hosts of Mordor ready to sweep over your castle walls and wipe your civilization out of existence.

Now, imagine such a crisis every 80-100 years. That's the thesis Strauss and Howe present. Yesterday, we talked about their view of the cyclical nature of time -- today, we look at the seasons in the cycle -- or rather, one season: winter. Just as the solar calendar cycles through a summer and a winter solstice (and a spring and autumnal equinox), so does culture go through similar seasons of growth, maturity, decay, and death.

Strauss and Howe pull a Joseph Campbell and look across cultures to rituals of "cultural renewal" -- and they see that every culture recognized in some way the cyclical nature of time. And as time passes from one cycle to the next, they recognize some dark season (like the three nights of darkness of the new moon) to help break ties with the old cycle and introduce a new age. They talk about ancient rituals of purification, chaos, and feasting that marked the transition from one cycle to the next: “In the typical new year celebration, the ancients assumed that an aboriginal god or king had once died for [the purpose of purification] and that a sacrifice (literally, a ‘making sacred’) had to be reenacted before each new circle could start.” (32) On the other side time is restarted afresh and anew and culture is revitalized.

Now, the concept here is well and good -- but as an aside I must confess wariness of their language for it seems to miss out on the once for all nature of Christ's sacrifice -- it misses out on the continual nature of Christ's ongoing work in the heavenlies (see Hebrews for more on this one). We don't approach Easter as some newfangled Day of Atonement for renewal of our culture -- rather Easter is a commemoration of a renewal that has already happened once and is available to us continually (not seasonally) by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In their quest for cultural archetypes, they miss out on what is truly unique about Christianity.

Their main point, however, is not sociology of religion, but looking at patterns of society. And this is where Strauss and Howe really have done their homework. They show chronologcially the great crises -- the winters of Anglo-American culture (which roughly happen every 80-100 years), which reshaped the foundational ways in which culture worked. After these crises, everything was different:

Wars of the Roses Crisis (1459-1487) -- Medeival feifdom-structured England is torn apart by competing houses for the throne. However England emerges from the crisis as a modern monarchial nation-state with a strong centralized administration ready to direct the course of the nation

Armada Crisis (1569-1594)-- England is a protestant Isle nearly alone in the rising tide of Spanish Catholic Hegemony. England emerges as a global superpower with an expanding world empire.

The Glorious Revolution Crisis (1675-1704) American colonies are backwaters in the empire, suffering terrible defeats by the Indians and the French, and neglected by England who is locked in a life and death struggle with Louis XIV of France for control of the world. America emerges from the crisis as a viable cosmopolitan culture, and England emerged triumphant over their rival superpower.

The American Revolution Crisis (1773-1794) The American colonies establish themselves as an independent state and successfully launch an experiment in self-government that would soon inspire revolution in the old world.

The Civil War Crisis (1860-1865) -- America begins as fractured regionally, economically, and socially. It emerges with a strong Federal government and a true sense of being a union.

The Depression and World War II Crisis (1929-1946) -- transformed the isolationist America, mired into decadence and stagnation of the roaring twenties, into a global superpower whose business and industry created an economy that was the envy of the world.

Were there other crisis moments? Certainly. Did they re-shape the structure of culture in the ways that these events did? Not at all (there is the exception of the summer-counterpart seasons -- the Awakenings -- more on those another time).

Now here is a sobering thought -- by Strauss and Howe's timeline -- we're due for another culture shaking crisis right about now. Could it be that the rise of radical Islam, combined with the threat of totalitarian regimes in North Korea and China could precipitate a new crisis? What about an oil/energy crisis? What about a bloated and ineffective beauracracy (see this great article Chris Larimer pointed me to). Could it be that post 9-11, the pace of change in our culture has accellerated to a point where our institutions are teetering on a precipice waiting to come tottering down. Will it take another Katrina, another terrorist attack? And what ought we do to prepare?

Perhaps we need to learn from what people did to weather past crises? Perhaps we need to re-learn good old fashoned spiritual disciplines (like community, simplicity, gratitude, etc.) that the church should have been teaching us all along. I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this -- and I'll be sharing more as we continue to work through the book.

Soli Deo Gloria

Index to the Fourth Turning Series
First post
Concepts of Time

Supplemental Articles
Kruse Kronicle: Index on Generations
American Thinker article: "Parkinson's War" (thanks Chris Larimer)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Fourth Turning: Concepts of Time

I'm following up with my earlier, pre-vacation promise to blog through the Fourth Turning by Strauss and Howe. This book was my beach reading all during the week (it beats The Nanny Diaries and Wicked).

So for this post, just a quick look at one of the foundational concepts - the flow of time. Strauss and Howe propose that there are three ways of viewing time: Chaotic, Cyclical, and Linear.

Chaotic time, they assert, is a view that sees no sequence or end goal in time. Things happen pretty much randomly. As they summarize, it is "...the belief that life is a billion fragments, that events come at random, and that history is directionless." (12) With modern deconstructionistic philosophy, we can see this in action - we must construct our own meaning -- we make a pastiche of all that has come before and recombine it in new and interesting ways that has meaning for us.

Then there is cyclical time -- the idea that seasons come and go. Time turns round back upon itself. This is evident in the seasons, the cycles of the moon, etc. However Strauss and Howe assert that such seasonality applies to cultures. And that is the thrust of this text.

Finally there is linear time -- the idea of unending progress toward an end goal. Strauss and Howe believe that this is the predominant view ever since the enlightenment and the reformation. They believe that this is the view upon which the American culture has been built -- think Manifest Destiny, think the march and progress of science.

Strauss and Howe believe that we need to move from linear thinking about time to cyclical thinking:

Before, when cyclical time reigned, people valued patience, ritual, and relatedness of parts to the whole, and the healing power of time-within-nature. Today, we value haste, iconoclasm, the disintegration of the whole into parts, and the power of time-outside-nature....Yet the great weakness of linear time is that it obliterates time’s recurrence and thus cuts people off from the eternal – whether in nature, in each other, or in ourselves. When we deem our social destiny entirely self-directed and our personal lives self-made, we lose any sense of participating in a collective myth larger than ourselves. We cannot ritually join with those who come before or after us. Situating us at some intermediate moment eons away from both the beginning and the end of history, linear time leaves us alone, restless, afraid to stand still lest we discover something horrible about ourselves.(11)

Thinking theologically, we can look at this in several ways. We might look at this as expression of various eschatologies -- pre-millenial thought believes that things will degenerate into chaos until Christ returns and sets things aright, postmillenial thought believes in a linear progression of improvement culminating in Christ's return, amillenial thought looks to types and antetypes that cycle throughout history until Christ returns.

One could also argue that all three modes find their way into Biblical thought. The times and seasons of Ecclesiastes point to cyclical thinking, the fulness of time and the awaiting Christ's return point to linear thought, while the intrusion of chaos in the lives of the righteous (such as in Job's life) lend some credence to chaotic time.

Perhaps Strauss and Howe are right that we've given too much preference for linear time in our culture. Perhaps they're right that we need to recover a sense of cyclical time to help us understand trends and generations. However, they seem to go to the point of a new stoicism -- saying that the best we can do is discover our place in history and play our role well. In some ways, their work is but Marcus Aurelius warmed over:

* There is a kind of river of things passing into being, and Time is a violent torrent. For no sooner is each seen, then it has been carried away, and another is being carried by, and that, too, will be carried away.

* All that comes to pass is as familiar and well known as the rose in spring and the grape in summer. Of like fashion are sickness, death, calumny, intrigue, and all that gladdens or saddens the foolish.

* What follows is always organically related to what went before; for it is not like a simple enumeration of units separately determined by necessity, but a rational combination; and as Being is arranged in a mutual co-ordination, so the phenomena of Becoming display no bare succession but a wonderful organic interrelation.

* Always remember what Heraclitus said: 'the death of earth is the birth of water, the death of water is the birth of atmosphere, the death of atmosphere is fire,... (Meditations Book IV 43-46)

More to come later. Until then

Soli Deo Gloria

First post
Kruse Kronicle: Index on Generations

Monday, July 10, 2006

Resources for Revival: Andrew Murray on Corporate Prayer

I'm back from my blogging sabbatical... this week, for our monday Resources for Revival, we have Andrew Murray's fine article on the necessity of corporate prayer in concert with private prayer. (click here for the complete fasting and prayer index from

Murray says:
"The bond that unites a man to his fellow men is no less real and close than that which unites him to God; he is one with them. Grace not only renews our relation to God but also to man. We not only learn to say "My Father," but "Our Father." Nothing would be more unnatural than that the children of a family should always meet their father separately, but never in the united expression of their desires or their love. Believers are not only members of one family, but even of one body. Just as each member of the body depends on the other, and the full action of the spirit dwelling in the body depends on the union and cooperation of all, so Christians cannot reach the full blessing God is ready to bestow through His Spirit unless they seek and receive it in fellowship with each other."

Murray lists certain qualifiers to help us know whether we're truly uniting in prayer or merely sharing the same space and breathing the same air while praying at cross-purposes. These qualifiers are:

1) Agreement as to the thing asked/prayed for -- this in itself is the shipwreck of many a prayer gathering.

2) Praying in the Name of Jesus Christ -- honoring the name of the living God, and being quite clear upon whose power and authority we're resting

3) The sure answer -- the confidence that God responds to prayer. Prayer isn't some meaningless exercise that we do before we set about the real work -- it is indeed the work we set about which then directs our future exercises of actions.

Murray concludes with this quote:
"Who can say what power a church could develop and exercise if it gave itself to the work of prayer day and night for God's power on His servants and His word, and for the glorifying of God in the salvation of souls? Most churches think their members are gathered into one simply to take care of and build up each other. They do not know that God rules the world by the prayers of His saints, that prayer is the power by which Satan is conquered, that by prayer the Church on earth has as its disposal the powers of the heavenly world. They do not remember that Jesus has, by His promise, consecrated every assembly in His Name to be a gate of heaven, where His Presence is to be felt, and His Power experienced in the Father fulfilling their desires."

As we commit to the disciplines of fasting and prayer, let us not neglect the balance of doing so both privately, and corporately. Let us heed Jesus' warning in the sermon on the mount to be cautious in our corporate prayers not to be seeking acclaim of our fellows -- rather, let the private prayer be the taproot that energizes our corporate prayer gatherings.

Soli Deo Gloria

Resources for Revival Index:
Bill Bright on Fasting