Previous month:
December 2010
Next month:
February 2011

Posts from January 2011

Solemn Assembly - Restore Broken Relationships

(Information taken from Consecrate the People by Claude V. King.  Full booklet available here.)

This may be the most difficult portion of preparation for Solemn Assembly.

The night before Jesus went to the cross, He prayed for our unity "I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me." (John 17:23 ESV)

Our unity is the most convincing evidence to a lost world that Jesus is the Savior sent from God.  Our disunity, therefore, is most likely the greatest hindrance in leading others to Christ.

Do you have broken relationships with other people? You may feel justified in this. The reality is that reconciliation, rather than revenge or disconnect, is the goal for the believer. Consecrate yourself by reconciling broken relationships.

Your relationship with others has a direct correlation to your relationship with God.  Look what Jesus said:

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go.  First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  (Matthew 5:23-24 ESV)

Your offerings and even your worship are unacceptable to God if you have caused offenses and have not reconciled.  If you are the offender:

  1. Pray and ask God for help by repenting of the sin.
  2. Go to the other person and make things right, as best you can, in obedience to God.
  3. Confess your sin to God and to those directly affected by the sin (don't make excuses.)
  4. Don't apologize.  Ask for forgiveness.
  5. Go in person if possible.
  6. Don't reflect negatively on the other person or his/her actions or attitudes. Deal just with your portion of the offense.
  7. Make restitution (pay for the offense) when appropriate.
  8. If you don't receive a positive response, continue to pray for reconciliation and pray for the other person.

If you are the one who has been offended, Jesus has instructions for you as well.  He said, "And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses." (Mark 11:25 ESV)

Forgiveness isn't saying "what you did to me is OK" but saying "I choose not to hold the offense against you."  

  1. Forgiveness is fully releasing another from the debt of the offense.
  2. Forgiveness is a command, not an option (Colossians 3:13).
  3. You cannot forgive and love in your own strength.
  4. Forgiveness is a choice of will, not a result of feeling.
  5. The person who forgives is the one who has to pay the price of forgiveness, just as Jesus paid the price for us.
  6. You are never more like God than when you forgive and show grace and mercy.
  7. Forgiveness does not mean the offense was not wrong.
  8. Forgiveness is not permission for the offender to do it again.
  9. Forgiveness does not mean you will fully forget.
  10. How much do you forgive?  According to Matthew 18:21-22 you are to forgive an unlimited amount of times.
  11. Even if the offender doesn't really repent, you are to forgive him/her. (Luke 17:4)
  12. Even if the person doesn't believe he/she is wrong, forgive.
  13. Jesus didn't require you to to go to the offender to forgive them. You can do that as you pray (Mark 11:25)

TODAY:  Ask God to reveal where you may have unreconciled relationships.  When revealed, act upon them in forgiveness and reconciliation.

Relationship


Solemn Assembly - Be Holy

(Information taken from Consecrate the People by Claude V. King.  Full booklet available here.)

Peter wrote, "But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:15-16 ESV)

Consecration is all about being holy, clean, pure, and righteous like God.  Paul said, "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Romans 8:29 ESV)

God wants you to be holy as Christ is holy.  Consecrate yourself by putting away everything that is unholy or even questionable.

What are some of these things that need to be put away?  Here's are some. . .

  • lust
  • impurities of the mind
  • sexual immorality
  • lying
  • filthy language
  • slander
  • hurtful words
  • anger
  • rage
  • malice
  • prejudice
  • racism
  • sinful attitudes
  • behaviors that are not Christ-like

This list is not all-inclusive, nor is it intended to be a list you can check off to manage your sin.  These are just examples of how unholy living and thinking can manifest in our lives.  These attitudes and behaviors are just symptoms of sin within the heart.  Therefore, this "making oneself holy" goes much deeper than behaving better.

The heart of a believer is constantly under attack, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, the believer has what it takes to be victorious.

As we move toward the solemn assembly this Sunday evening, begin by asking God to reveal in your heart areas that are under attack and where you have fallen to the attacks.  Ask God to help you live in the reality of Romans 6, which teaches that we, as believers, have died to sin.  We have been set free from sin and the power of sin.  What do you do if you constantly find yourself sliding back into sinful behavior and attitudes?

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.  (James 5:16 ESV)

In Genesis 35, we see a story where God invited Jacob to worship Him.  This was a family's sacred assembly, so Jacob, as the spiritual leader in the home, prepared them for this meeting with God:

So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, "Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments.  Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone." So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears.  Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.  (Genesis 35:2-5 ESV)

TODAY:  Examine your heart and ask God to reveal anything that is keeping you from living a holy life.  Clean house as Jacob did and remove those things that lead to sin.  Repent and ask God to purify you.


Solemn Assembly - Put Away Pride

(Information taken from Consecrate the People by Claude V. King.  Full booklet available here.)

Quoting from Proverbs, Peter wrote, "Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.  Clothe yourselves, all of you with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time, He may exalt you." (1 Peter 5:5-6 ESV)

Pride is a sin that stands in opposition to God.  He aggressively opposes it.  Consecrate yourself and put away pride.

Love the Lord, all you his saints!  The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. (Psalm 31:23 ESV)

For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar. (Psalm 138:6 ESV)

The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. (Proverbs 8:13 ESV)

Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished. (Proverbs 16:5 ESV)

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18 ESV)

I will punish the world for it is evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.  (Isaiah 13:11 ESV)

When pride is present in your life, it may manifest itself in a variety of other sinful ways.  It is like the root of a tree that bears much fruit.  If you cut off a branch to get rid of the fruit but do nothing to the root, you will soon get a new crop of fruit.  Pride is like that.

Pride is a serious sin for us. Check out the sermon from Sunday, January 23. 

The way to get rid of pride is to humble oneself.

When God promised to forgive and heal in 2 Chronicles 7:14, He gave four requirements:

  1. Humble yourself
  2. Pray
  3. Seek His face
  4. Turn from your evil ways

The starting place is humility.

TODAY:  Examine yourself spiritually for signs of pride (complaining, stubbornness, independence, a critical spirit, boastfulness, self-righteousness, self-promotion, anything with "self" at the beginning, gossiping, fault-finding, etc.) and repent of this sin.  Allow God to change your heart from one of selfishness and pride to one of humility and love.


"Foundations of Our Faith" - Who Is God?

 

01 3 - God

 

This is the third in our "Foundations of Our Faith" teaching series.  Information presented in these sessions taken from the Baptist Faith & Message and teachings by Calvin Wittman.

Rather than print the entire transcript here in the blog, I will list the ten attributes God has revealed about Himself through Scripture with references.  For more, in-depth teaching on this subject, listen to the audio file above by clicking the link or listen through iTunes as a free podcast.

Who is God?

1.  He is the only true God

I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God.  (Isaiah 45:5a ESV)

Belief in the Trinity - one God manifested in three persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) is a key and indisputable belief for the Christian.

Then the Lord God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.  (Genesis 3:22 ESV)

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." (Isaiah 6:8 ESV)

2.  God is sovereign

Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh.  Is anything too hard for me?  (Jeremiah 32:27 ESV)

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.  (Psalm 115:3 ESV)

3.  God is holy

4.  God is infinite

5.  God is omnipresent

Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.  If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night," even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. (Psalm 139:7-12 ESV)

6.  God is omniscient

Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.  (Psalm 139:4 ESV)

7.  God is unchanging

For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.  (Malachi 3:6 ESV)

Like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed.  But you are the same and your years will have no end.  (Hebrews 1:12 ESV)

8.  God is righteous

The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice.  A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.  (Deuteronomy 32:4 ESV)

9.  God is merciful

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  (Psalm 103:8 ESV)

10.  God is love

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  (1 John 4:8 ESV)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should no perish but have eternal life.  (John 3:16 ESV)

What difference does knowing all this make?  It makes all the difference in the world and in the world to come.

Foundations of faith copy


Solemn Assembly - Remove the Idols

(Information taken from Consecrate the People by Claude V. King.  Full booklet available here.)

One way your love for Christ declines or grows cold is when you begin to love someone or something more than you should.  His first and greatest command is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30 ESV)  When anything distracts or takes away from this first love for Christ, there is a need to return.

In Ezekiel 14 God states that Israel's elders had set up idols in their hearts.  Idolatry is not just worshiping a false god or an image of one.  When you allow your love to be drawn away to other things so your love for Christ decreases, you are practicing idolatry.  This idol in your heart can be a person, a thing, or an activity.  

"No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money."  (Matthew 6:24 ESV)

"Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15 ESV)

TODAY:  Examine yourself to learn whether you have any heart idols that need to be put away.  Consecrate yourself by removing the idols and renewing your love for Christ.

Sumerian_idols


Solemn Assembly - Return To Your First Love

(Information taken from Consecrate the People by Claude V. King.  Full booklet available here.)

The resurrected and glorified Christ sent a message to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2.  He commended their hard work, their endurance, their intolerance or evil, their stand against false teachers, and their patient endurance of hardships.  However, He had one thing against them.  They had abandoned their first love for Him.  

Jesus gave His disciples a guide by which to measure their love.

He said:  "If you love, me, you will keep my commandments.  Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.  And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me."  (John 14:15, 24 ESV)

Obedience to God's commands is the best evidence of your love for Him.

If God measured your love by that standard (which He does) how would you do?

I'm afraid most of us would have to admit that our actions and attitudes do not show much love for God. We may even receive the same message as the Ephesian church.

"But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first." (Revelation 2:4 ESV)

The good news is that, just as the church in Ephesus, God is reaching out to you. . . to bring you back to Himself.

How?  Repent and obey.  Consecrate yourself by returning to your first love.

  • Recall your salvation experience.  What did Jesus save you from?  How much has He forgiven you?  How is your life different because of Christ?  What good things has the Lord done for you?
  • Reflect on times when you have walked more closely with God.  How have you experienced His love and nearness more deeply than now?
  • Think about Jesus' suffering and death on the cross, on which He clearly demonstrated His love for you.
  • Recall the ways and times you have walked in victory over sin and in obedience to Christ.  Repent and do those things again.  Surrender.  Return to your first love for Christ

TODAY:  Remember, then repent and obey.  

Firstlove


Solemn Assembly - Prepare Yourself

(Information taken from Consecrate the People by Claude V. King.  Full booklet available here.)

CRIME, DROUGHT, EARTHQUAKE, EPIDEMIC, FINANCIAL COLLAPSE, FLOOD, HAILSTORM, HURRICANE, OIL SPILL, PLAGUE, RIOTS, SHATTERED RELATIONSHIPS, TERRORIST ATTACK, TORNADO, VOLCANO, WAR, WILDFIRE

We live in a world where crises are commonplace.  Just watch the news.  Crises are very appropriate times for the people of God to gather together in solemn assembly.  In truth, God doesn't desire that we wait until a crisis hits.  He desires these times of sacred assembly to occur to keep us focused on Him as our first love.

The sacred assembly can be a time of renewal, worship, festival, and rejoicing.  In fact, any time we gather together as the people of God, it is a sacred assembly.

In Joel's day (as referenced in yesterday's post,) crisis brought the people together.  God desired the people to prepare themselves and meet with Him, so he commanded Joel to state "Consecrate the congregation" (Joel 2:16 ESV).  We see a similar command in Exodus 19 when God explained to Moses that He was coming down on Mount Sinai to give the Ten Commandments:  "Go to the people and consecrate them," (Exodus 19:10 ESV).  Consecrating God's people is an important action for a spiritual leader to undertake when preparing them to meet with God or to renew their covenant relationship with Him.

In both Joel and Exodus, the Hebrew word for consecrate means to make clean; to purify; to sanctify or to set apart from the common, profane or unholy.

Moses required the people to wash their clothes and abstain from sexual relations.  Though being physically clean can be valuable, moral, mental, and spiritual cleansing is the more important preparatory task.

Another concept expressed in this word consecrate comes from the combination of two Hebrew words that means to fill the open hand.  The image is this:  imagine a priest standing beside the altar in the the temple with his hands open to receive an offering from you.  Once you place your offering into the priest's hands, it is consecrated to God.  It is dedicated to Him for His purposes.  It no longer belongs to you but to God.  It's now holy.  Why?  Because God is holy.

We need to be consecrated as we prepare for this solemn assembly.  This reminds me of Paul's writings to the church in Rome.

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."  (Romans 12:1 ESV)

TODAY:  As you pray and prepare this week for the time of solemn assembly, ask God to reveal to you attitudes, actions, thoughts, (i.e. any sin) that is keeping you from offering Him your very best.  Once revealed, have the strength and wisdom to repent, or turn from those sins and allow God to cleanse you spiritually.


Choose Joy Through Humility (4)

4 - Choose Joy _Humilty_

Mac davis

Do you remember the old Mac Davis song “It’s Hard to be Humble”?  Do you even remember Mac Davis? 

Anyway, this country song came out back in 1980.

Here are some of the lyrics

Oh Lord it's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way
I can't wait to look in the mirror 'cause I get better lookin' each day
To know me is to love me, I must be a HECK of a man
Oh Lord it's hard to be humble, but I'm doin' the best that I can

Funny song, but unfortunately, probably more true for some folks than we want to admit.

We live in a culture that promotes looking out for number one and being the very best at everything. 

At the inaugural breakfast for our governor I heard one of the speakers encourage the newly elected officials to stay humble and to be sure they don’t read their own press releases otherwise, their ego will grow to such an extent they’ll believe all those platitudes.

This speaker spoke from experience. 

Pride and humility are two things that are covered often in the Bible.  Apparently, because we struggle so much with these issues.

There are times when it’s easier to understand what a word really means by contrasting it with another.

John Stott has said for Christians “Pride is our greatest enemy.”  Conversely, humility can be one of our greatest friends.”

Where does pride originate?

According to the writings in Isaiah, pride – in it’s origin and practice is demonic and evil.  Satan, originally created as an angel of God developed a pride that led to his downfall and his casting out of heaven.  In essence, pride was the first sin.

In his temptation of Adam and Eve, pride was the tool.  “You can be like God.”

Pride is also an encouragement to compare ourselves to others.  This is evident not just as adults, but begins in the school yard.  We tend to pick people we feel are less than us – less intelligent, less successful, less affluent, less attractive, etc.

You’ve heard the saying “the smartest guy in the room.”  There’s a tendency to be that person.

You want a reality check?  You struggle with pride?  Change who you’re comparing yourself to. . .rather than other people, compare yourself to Jesus Christ.

This will help.

Lining up against perfection will humble you.

Another thing about pride is that it covets the successes of others.  Pride results often in celebrating that others don’t do well and also being jealous of those who do.

That’s why we often become so critical of others when they find success, whether this be a co-worker, neighbor or even family member.

Humility allows us to truly celebrate others’ successes. 

Pride is all about me.  It’s what I want, when I want it and how I want it.  It’s about what I think and what I think I deserve.

Humility is about Jesus and others.  The natural bent of man is to be selfish.  Humility in a person is truly miraculous.

Pride is about my glory. Humility is about God’s glory.

Pride makes me god.  Humility remembers God is God.

Pride leads to arrogance and is repulsive.

Humility leads to confidence.  Confidence in knowing truth and standing for it, regardless.  Confidence not in “me” but in Christ in me.

What’s the point of pride?  Independence!  Freedom!  Doing my own thing.  Isn’t that what Satan wanted?  Isn’t that what he offered Adam and Eve.  Isn’t that the lie that many have bought into?

Humility’s point is dependence.  We can’t do this life on our own.  We need God. 

Pride is achievable.  You can get this.  It’s easy.  You can obtain a prideful perspective on life.

Humility is a lifelong journey.  Just think about it.  If you get to the point where you can say “I’ve achieved humility!” you will say that in a prideful way and immediately lose that humility.

 

It’s like the person who says “Look how humble I am.”

 

Paul addresses this cancer of pride in his letter to the Philippian church.

Philippians 2

1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,   2complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.   3Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.   4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.   5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,   6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,   7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.   8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.   9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,   10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,   11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Paul starts this portion with the request to “complete my joy.”  The joy, this undergirding principle of the book, is a process.  How can it be made complete – by being one as a church, by loving God and each other and not allowing prideful political movements or power struggles ever occur within the body.

There are numerous points here. 

First – Paul reminds us that nothing builds a church stronger and healthier than humility.  Consequently, nothing destroys a fellowship quicker than pride – and that’s referenced to everyone in the church:  pastors, deacons, teachers, members, youth, children, etc.

The church is a fragile body.  We all know of churches that have been around for decades and seems strong and seemingly will remain forever.  However, we also know that there are seemingly strong churches that, for one reason or another, disappear or exist as a shell of what they used to be or could be.  Often the culprit is pride.

The church world doesn’t help in this.  We preach on humility and guard against pride and yet, even denominations and church leaders, and members too, fall into the trap of prideful comparison.

“Oh, how many did you baptize last year?  Not bad.  We baptized such and such.”

“You mean your church doesn’t have a program for this?  Ours does and it’s great.”

“What’s your annual church budget?” 

“How big is your youth group?”

Oh, we fall into this left and right in our culture. 

I believe one of the key phrases in this passage is found in verse 2

“but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

This is counter to our nature.  This is not how we’re wired, nor is it what we are encouraged to do in our culture. 

So often things are done in church, work, school and even home that get the needed results, but the process is flawed.

At times it may be that “the tone was offensive and tactics weren’t exactly great and . . . yeah, some folks were kind of run over in the process, but in the end the result was good.”  We use this flawed process of thinking to justify our behavior at times.  It’s an “end justifies the means” mentality that results in hurt people and according to this passage – it isn’t acceptable.

The motive, method and mission all count.  Pursuing a good thing in a bad way makes the entire pursuit bad.  God will not be pleased.

Paul gives us our comparison – Christ.  The most humble man to ever live.  When he says this in verse 5:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, we’re reminded that only because of Christ are we even able to have true humility.

Apart from Christ, it’s not achievable.

Only Christians have the capacity to understand humility, not because we’re better than anyone else, but because we know the root of all humility is the heart of God, found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Paul continues in verse six to remind us that Christ, though fully God, emptied himself in the incarnation, through humility, to become man. 

One pastor used this illustration.  Do you know the difference between chili and chili con carne?  Con carne means “with meat.”  The word “carne” comes from the same root that the term “incarnation” comes from, so in very simple theology – Jesus is “God with meat on.”  God in the flesh.  The incarnation.

This does not mean that while here on earth Jesus ceased to be God.  That’s the mystery.  Jesus – fully God and fully man.  100% God.  100% man.  All at the same time. 

Yet, as man, Jesus willingly surrendered his right to manifest himself visibly as the God of all splendor and glory.  His willing humility or humiliation included making himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being born in human likeness.

He literally “emptied” himself.  The word comes from the Greek keno, pointing to the divesting of one’s self-interests, though never emptying himself of his deity.

It comes to the self-evaluating question. . .

Are you humble or proud?

The answer:  I’m proud. You’re proud.

The question you must ask is not “Am I proud or humble?”  It must be “Am I pursuing humility?”

It is possible and even commanded as a child of God to pursue humility.

We have to come to grips with this or we will continue to live short-circuited spiritual lives.

We have been offered by Christ a life that is abundant and full.

However, we also carry within us this great weapon that can mess it all up.  This weapon is called pride.

The bottom line is this.  Your name really isn’t that important.  My name doesn’t matter that much.  The name “First Baptist Church of Orange Park” doesn’t matter that much.  What name matters?  The name of Jesus Christ.

Why is this?  Because there is no other name under heaven by which man or woman or child can be saved.

We have to get this.

If we don’t, we run the sad risk of becoming like so many other churches, ministries, and Christians who lived out their lives or existence on this earth for themselves and consequently, have been forgotten, ignored or avoided because they made no eternally significant impact.

The reality is that God hates pride.  It’s all over Proverbs and other books.

If pride has overtaken your heart, realize that it’s a process of treatment toward pursuing humility.  It means a change of mind, a change of behavior, a new focus of thinking.

Yet it begins with a change of heart.  Today, you can make that change.

Choose joy small copy
 


Solemn Assembly - Why Call a Sacred Assembly?

We are having a sacred assembly next Sunday evening, January 30 at 6pm.  For most of us, this is a new concept.  While the term may be new for you, the concept is ancient.

In the Bible, sacred assemblies were occasions for God's people to collectively gather to worship Him, to repent of personal and corporate sin, to remember His special blessings on them, and to anticipate future blessings.  The prescribed sacred assemblies (or holy convocations) for Israel included the Sabbath (Lev. 23:3) and seven other days of sacred assembly:  the first (Passover) and seventh days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:4-8), the Feast of Weeks (Pentacost, Lev. 23:15-21), the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:23-25), the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:26-32), and the first and eighth days of the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:33-36).

Sacred assemblies were times for God's people to confess and repent of their sins.  They were times to renew the covenant relationship with the Lord and return to Him in faithful love and obedience.  They were times for worship and sacrifice, feasting and fasting.  Even with these regular opportunities to renew fellowship with God, His people tended to depart from Him and from obedience to His commands.  Spiritual leaders knew that the sacred assembly was a time for corporate repentance in the face of God's righteous judgments. (Taken from Come to the Lord's Table, LifeWay Press, 2006, by Claude King)

In the Old Testament, during the days of the prophet Joel, a great devastation came to the land.  A huge swarm of locusts arrived and devoured the crops.  It was terrible and was a time to weep, mourn, wail, grieve and led to despair.  Joel asked "Has such a thing happened in your days, or in the days of your elders?" (Joel 1:2 ESV)  To put in modern language he was stating "This is so terrible.  Has anyone ever heard of such devastation?"  The catastrophe was so great, future generations would speak of it for years.  It led to a proclamation from the prophet:

"Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly.  Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord." (Joel 1:14 ESV)

Reading on through Joel's writings, you see God's instruction:

"'Yet, even now,' declares the Lord, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.' Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster." (Joel 2:12-13 ESV)

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  In their distress the people of God were ready to cry out to the Lord for help.  The sacred assembly was the appropriate time and way to turn to the Lord.

Throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, churches are gathering this month, many this coming Sunday, for a time of prayer in solemn assembly for the sake of our churches, state conventions, denominational entities and Southern Baptist Convention.  In an age where people often seem to minimize the need for a denomination, I believe there is still much we can offer as cooperating Baptist churches to the Kingdom of God.  

It is a time, however, where all denominational entities and local churches are re-evaluating the organization and the administrative portions of ministry. The fear is that too often we find ourselves in the "business" of Christian ministry and thus, lose focus on our "first love."

This solemn assembly is a time for personal reflection, repentance and renewal and therefore, the same for the church (since we are the church) and our denominational ministries and missionaries.

The healing of the land is waiting on the repentance of God's people.  So is the healing of our marriages, families, churches, denomination and cities. Sacred assemblies are appropriate times for this return to the Lord.  Now is the time to declare this.  Sound the alarm.  We are calling a sacred assembly.  Now is the time to return to our first love.  Now is the time to renew our covenant commitments to Jesus Christ.

TODAY:  Ask the Lord to help you prepare this week to enter His presence.

 


Solemn Assembly Scheduled for January 30 at First Baptist

All across our denomination, churches are gathering this month for the purpose of prayer in "solemn assemblies." This urgent call to prayer for Southern Baptists, is absolutely critical at this time.  The need is deep repentance among churches and believers throughout the world, and especially in our nation.

Unfortunately, many modern calls to prayer are somewhat lacking in deep examination and repentance. Therefore, the prayer gatherings often result in a lessened impact toward revival and renewal. As has been stated by many in our denomination, these solemn assemblies are needed because, in many cases, we (churches in our nation) have lost our first love. That is dangerous and frightful ground to find ourselves standing upon.

Bryant Wright, Pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia and the current President of the Southern Baptist Convention has challenged all SBC churches to gather in solemn assembly this month.  We are meeting Sunday, January 30 from 6pm - 8pm in the Worship Center.  Preschool child-care will be available on a first-come basis.  Families are encouraged to gather together for this time, not to talk about prayer, but to worship and pray, to seek the face of God, to meet with him and renew our love.

SBC Day of Prayer Logo

Here's a clip that Pastor Wright made for pastors and leaders in our convention regarding these assemblies: