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When I look at history I think of another time when America faced a crisis. The year was 1857. America was at both an economic and spiritual low. Attendance in churches had dwindled and there was a cynicism among many concerning religion. It was in the midst of this spiritual crisis that God gave a man a vision. His name was Jeremiah Lanphier. Lanphier had a vision of starting a noontime prayer meeting at a mission in Fulton Street in New York City.
He went to great lengths to advertise this prayer meeting. His first meeting was held on September 23, 1857. When the doors opened at noon, no one seemed to come. At half past twelve, however, the steps of one man could be heard coming up the stairs. Soon another came and then another so that finally there was a total of six people there.
Soon the numbers of those attending the meetings increased. By October 14th over a hundred people were coming to the prayer meetings. Other buildings were needed to accommodate the large numbers of people coming. Churches began to open their doors, but they were not large enough as thousands began to come to these prayer meetings. By March of 1858, Burtonís Theatre which could hold up to 3,000 people was filled to overflowing. Soon firehouses, police stations, and other buildings were requested to house the prayer meetings that had spread like a wildfire in New York City.
But the prayer meetings did not stop in New York City. They spread throughout New York State, New England, and eventually across the entire nation. Many thousands were saved during the revival of 1858. It is interesting that this revival took place three years before the Civil Waróthe bloodiest war in American history. God in His sovereignty knew that thousands of American lives would be lost and that these people needed to come to a saving knowledge of Himself.
Wade Hughes, Sr
I love the story of a king that wanted to show his people how much he loved them.
So, he decided to pay for a great feast for his kingdom.
He decided to have a great meal and invite every family.
The king would provide all the meat, all the vegetables, all the desserts ...
everything, the king would provide all, but the wine.
The king asked every family to bring one bottle of their best wine.
He would see that there was a several thousand gallon vat for all to pour in their bottle of wine.
What a feast this would be! The King wanted to honor his people.
One poor farmer decided, he would slip in his bottle, nothing but water, no wine.
How would the king ever know his selfishness?
His one bottle of water mixed with thousands of bottles of wine would never be known.
The King would never know? The taste would still be good.
So the poor farmer climbed the stairs to the top of the vat and while no one was looking,
he poured in his bottle of wine, I mean his bottle of water in with the thousands of other
No one saw him. He had fooled every one there.
He laughed, he got away cheap!
He sat down at the kings table ready for the feast.
The king was so proud, he honored his precious people.
He filled his plate with delicious food.
The King picked up his Royal Gold Chalice.
The king placed his chalice under the spout of the huge vat of wine.
The king looked into his chalice, and to his surprise ... it was clear, pure water.
Seems everybody in the kingdom thought their little bottle of water would not matter
in the vat of wine..
Dear friend, your part matters!
Doubt cannot feed on doubt else it would die.
Doubt degenerates into cynicism, faultfinding, doom, gloom, pessimism.
Life is what you should emphasize...
Do you emphasize adverse, negative attitudes that fall into hopelessness and despair?
Self inflicted depression? You decide?
Are you going to leave and quit also?
More than one pessimist got that way by financing an optimist.
A man named Jacob had hit a low point in his life. He had thought about killing himself but he was too poor and too tired to secure the means to do it. He found a park bench and just lay down to die. He did not eat, because there was nothing to eat. All he thought about was his death.
A couple of days later he saw in the distance a teenage girl entering the park with a friend. Jacob wondered what on earth someone so innocent and angelic-looking was doing in a park filled with derelicts. He closed his eyes. In a few minutes he heard a soft voice speaking to him. Jacob opened his eyes and saw this same teenaged girl looking at him with compassion. He was caught off guard. It was the first time he had heard anyone speak words of kindness to him in years. At that moment he did not know whether he wanted to cry in gratitude or laugh in cynicism. But her concern moved him in spite of himself. "What do you want?" he growled at her.
"Sir," the young girl said, "I was afraid to come over here, but I feel like God is nudging me to tell you something, before I get back on my bus. I wish I knew how to say it better but, well, sir, Jesus loves you. He loves you. He really does."
Jacob looked at her in disbelief. After all the heartaches he had been through, all the indignity he had suffered, all the rage that had filled his soul for so many years this young girl told him Jesus loved him. As he looked up at her face he saw tears streaming down her cheeks, and to his astonishment he began to ...
"If you are dissatisfied with your lot in life, build a service station on it."
"The real persuaders are our appetites, our fears and above all our vanity. The skillful propagandist stirs and coaches these internal persuaders."
"People try to rain on your parade, because they have no parade of their own."
Last year I compiled the Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, a statistical portrait of American behavioral trends of the past three decades. Among the findings: Since 1960, while the gross domestic product has nearly tripled, violent crime has increased at least 560%. Divorces have more than doubled. The percentage of children in single-parent homes had tripled. And by the end of the decade 40% of all American births and 80% of minority births will occur out of wedlock. These are not good things to get used to.
In 1940 teachers identified the top problems in Americaís schools as: Talking out of turn, chewing gum, making noise and running in the hall. In 1990, teachers listed drugs, alcohol, pregnancy, suicide, rape and assault. These are not good things to get used to, either.
There is a coarseness, a callousness and a cynicism to our era. The worst of it has to do with our children. Our culture seems almost dedicated to the corruption of the young. We have become inured to the cultural rot that is setting in. People are losing their capacity for shock, disgust and outrage...
The ancients called our problem acedia, an aversion to spiritual things and an undue concern for the external and the worldly. Acedia also is the seventh capital sin--sloth--but it does not mean mere laziness. The slothful heart is stepped in the worldly and carnal, hates the spiritual and wants to be free of its demands.
When the novelist Walker Percy was asked what concerned him most about Americaís future, he answered, "Probably the fear of seeing America, with all its great strength and beauty and freedom...gradually subside into decay through default and be defeated, not by the communist movement, but from within, from weariness, boredom, cynicism, greed and in the end helplessness before its great problems."
I realize this is a tough indictment. If my diagnosis is wrong, then why, amid our economic prosperity and military security, do almost 70% of the public say we are off track? I submit that only when we turn to the right things--enduring, noble, spiritual things--will life get better.
Most important, we must return religion to its proper place. Religion provides us with moral bearings, and the solution to our chief problem of spiritual impoverishment depends on spiritual renewal. The surrendering of strong beliefs, in our private and public lives, has demoralized society.
Today, much of society ridicules and mocks those who are serious about their faith. Am...
"Believe. No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit."
A. Todd Coget
When you work around the church a while it comes quite naturally, the laughter of cynical disbelief.
In 1986 the United Methodist General Conference, on the last day of two weeks of meetings, passed a resolution that said we were going to make 9 million new United Methodists by about 1994--this in a denomination that had been losing about 65,000 members every year since the early seventies.
Nine million new United Methodists!
Well, I laughed.
I thought, Isnít this typical!
We donít want to do the systemic changes in our church that would enable us to reach out and get new people.
This is just window dressing, sloganeering, platitudes.
We arenít serious about it; itís just more guilt to lay on pastorsí backs!
I went home and wrote an article, "My Dog the Methodist."
In it I argued that there was no way in heaven we were going to make 9 million new Methodists unless we started baptizing dogs.
And I offered as a fit recipient for the sacrament of baptism my mixed-breed terrier sleeping in my garage.
I said, "This dog, as far as I know, has shown no interest in biblical studies. Therefore, it would make a perfect Methodist."
I also said, "This dog has the sexual ethics of some members of my former congregations."
When the article came out in The Christian Century, not everybody laughed.
The magazine lost about four subscriptions, and two Methodist bishops have not spoken to me since.
But I was serious.
The cynicism behind that move!
We donít intend to really change the way we would have to change to be that kind of church.
[Laughing at the Church, Citation: "Evangelical Laughter," Preaching Today, Tape No. 137.]