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It's Time to "Restore the Years", Part 2

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll
The Truth Network Radio
May 17, 2022 7:05 am

It's Time to "Restore the Years", Part 2

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll

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May 17, 2022 7:05 am

The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal

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You know what you seek? You seek worship. You long for worship that's meaningful, that has lasting power, that stays with you, that hits you deeply, ministers down inside where only the Spirit of God can touch us. There's nothing quite like worshiping God in a community of Christian friends. When the Bible is opened and the truth is declared, the people of God are inspired to worship Him. Sadly, many churches have abandoned the historic model of worship and have come to rely on creative entertainment techniques to attract a broader audience.

These shallow approaches often leave a congregation feeling unsatisfied. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll calls upon churches everywhere, including the one he pastors in Frisco, Texas, to return to the biblical model. Chuck begins with prayer. No one like you, Father, who is worthy of worship, no other who is worthy of praise. None other is worthy of honor and glory, of reverence and fear, of love and devotion, worthy of bowing and bending of knees. Worthy of all this and added to these, you are worthy Savior, Creator, Master, worthy of our offerings. We give them gratefully in the name of the one who modeled love like none other, Jesus. And everyone said, Amen. This is Insight for Living.

For resources designed to help you dig deeper into today's topic, go to insight.org. And now let's continue Chuck Swindoll's message titled, It's Time to Restore the Years. We find ourselves in the 21st century on hard times, and I'm not alone in the observation. While still a pastor, Eugene Peterson, wrote these words as he laments our times. American pastors are abandoning their posts left and right and at an alarming rate. They're not leaving their churches and getting other jobs. Congregations still pay their salaries. Their names remain on the church stationery, and they continue to appear in pulpits on Sundays, but they are abandoning their posts, their calling. The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches.

They are preoccupied with shopkeepers' concerns, how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customers will lay out more money. It's all turning to the gimmicks of the 21st century style, and congregations are starving. So I decided to go back a few centuries and interview three individuals whose names are familiar, but we've never met them. The first will be Ezekiel, and we'll visit with him, chapter two to start with, and then we'll go over to talk with Amos and hear his counsel, and finally we'll listen and talk with Joel as a third interview. Ezekiel, chapter two. Ezekiel had his work cut out for him, folks.

He was surrounded by somewhere around 10,000 Jews in exile. They are aliens, exiles, and they have become cynical. Rather than this experience crushing them, they are a rebellious people. There is no voice for the people to hear for five years, and then finally Ezekiel feels the Lord's tap on his shoulder, and the Lord says, you're my man. You speak. They won't want to listen, but you speak.

They won't care, but you speak. Look at chapter two, verse one. He said to me, son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you. As he spoke to me, the Spirit entered me and sent me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. That's the way it is when you are a spokesman for God.

God speaks to you. You then take his message and deliver it to God's people, and that's exactly where Ezekiel is. Then he said to me, son of man, I'm sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against me.

They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. You would have thought losing home, losing family, losing the temple, losing your land, losing your government would humble you, not on your life. These people are fighting against me, says God, speaking to Ezekiel. And so he says to him, verse four, I'm sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, thus says the Lord God. That's the responsibility of the prophet.

He afflicted the comfortable, and he made comfort for the afflicted. He did both, and Ezekiel is to come and to tell them what they don't want to hear. Look at verse five. As for them, whether they listen or not, for they are a rebellious house, they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, neither fear them nor fear their words, though thistles and thorns are with you. Look at the next phrase. Oh, and you sit on scorpions. Here he is ministering to people who are like thorns and thistles, and they have a stinging kind of reproof.

They do not want to hear what he has to say. Look at chapter three. Then he said to me, son of man, eat what you find. Eat this scroll.

Go and speak to the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth. He fed me the scroll. He said to me, son of man, feed your stomach, fill your body with this scroll, which I am giving you. I ate it.

It was sweet as honey in my mouth. The man who speaks for God takes in the word of God personally. It's as though he is assimilating the truths in his own life.

Not as though. That's exactly what he does, which is illustrated in the symbol of taking this and eating the scroll. I take it that that's exactly what Ezekiel did. Verse 10. Moreover, he said to me, son of man, take into your heart all my words, which I shall speak to you, and listen closely. Go to the exiles, to the sons of your people, and speak to them, and tell them, whether they listen or not, thus says the Lord God.

And the Spirit lifted him up, and that's exactly what he did. In chapter 33, I'd like to have you look at next, we're going to find Ezekiel in this very difficult setting, holding forth, and we're going to read how the people responded to him. Now the Lord points his finger at his prophet, and he says, but as for you, son of man, your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, come, come now, and hear what the message is which comes forth from the Lord. So here is a man who's been speaking the truth, and the word is out, and if you want to hear somebody speak well in public, you need to hear Ezekiel. And verse 31 makes it look like a pretty good church service. They come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear your words.

That's the way it is, isn't it? People come, people sit, people listen, they hear the words, but Ezekiel, they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth. It's all about them, Ezekiel, and their heart goes after their gain.

You know what that means? Hey, church is good business, opportunity for you to, you know, build your business, a little social contact. This is a perfunctory spirit toward worship.

It goes on all the time, all the time. And Ezekiel, they're going to do this right in front of your face. Well, Ezekiel could think, well, what are they thinking about me? I mean, why would they come hear me? Well, I'll tell you, Ezekiel, verse 32, behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument. One of the paraphrases says you're like a good old country singer with a guitar backed up by banjo and drum traps. They come to hear you sing. They hear your words, but they do not do them. You understand worship is like an electric conduit. It's constantly on the move and it's constantly moving back and forth, back and forth.

Otherwise, the circuit's broken. If it winds up as a dead end street, the purpose of worship is lost. It isn't about just taking in or being entertained or impressed. It's about a changed life but they do not practice them. Verse 33 lands like a gavel on a judge's bench.

So when it comes to pass as surely it will, then they will know that a prophet has been in their midst. There's a hollow ring to the end of chapter 33. It's a hollow ring heard in many a church today that once had a strong pulpit and a vibrant adult fellowship ministry and a youth ministry and a children's ministry where the fellowship was authentic and love was real and grace abounded and there was a passion work of the Holy Spirit igniting lives and bringing people who were lost to a knowledge of the Savior. Where there was this kind of give and take, this kind of vibrant spiritual life that, as the Scottish people say, is better felt than tell. And you feel it. You can't stay away from it.

But now it's a hollow ring. There's just a memory of we once had a prophet here. Cynthia and I spent some time on our 2008 Insight for a Living cruise conference with a longtime friend. He happens to serve on the staff of a church we're familiar with. And the church was at one time one of those vibrant places. Multiple, multiple services that people couldn't stay and wouldn't stay away. I mean there was evangelism, there was mission involvement, there was an engagement of lives. The lost were coming to Christ. There was grand music and a wonderful pipe organ and a magnificent balance of God's work. Back then it was called a cassette ministry that went around the world taking the message to the people who would never be able to come. It was just a place of spiritual influence.

So I said to our friend, hey, he's still on the staff as the church. He literally groaned. You wouldn't believe it. It is dreadful. It is dreadful. He said, I don't know that we can keep on. I don't know if we can keep going on.

It doesn't even look like what we once were, he said, as he described it. I said, well, at least how's the tape ministry? He said, there's no tape ministry.

There's nothing to record. And on and on he went. And there was a time when a prophet was in their midst and a few of them still remember.

There's a hollow ring to the last part of this. One man writes, for some a major life crisis may cause them to attend church, but they only become superficial hearers. Like Ezekiel's audience, they may find the form of the message interesting and stimulating, but they never feel its power in their hearts as a life-changing reality. Those of us who are preachers need to be careful that we do not foster such shallow attention in our day. There is a focus on seeker-sensitive services that will present the gospel in a way that will be attractive to such people. The task of the church is not to assemble seekers, but to make disciples. You know what you seek? As we'll see later, you seek worship. You seek worship.

As a child of God, and I speak today, I realized in Stonebriar to the choir, you long for worship that's meaningful, that has lasting power, that stays with you, that hits you deeply, tells you the truth, ministers down inside where only the Spirit of God can touch us. Ezekiel faithfully preached, but you realize they don't want it. We turn from Ezekiel, who is a rather aristocratic kind of individual, to a man named Amos.

So turn over there, will you? Amos is a little hard to find. He's just before Obadiah and just after Joel, so it'll take you a while to get there. I've always liked Amos. Amos is from Tekoa. Amos is a country boy. He's a sheep herder, and when that wasn't going on, he picked sycamore figs.

So he's a fig picker from Tekoa. And of all things, the Lord's hand is on Amos, and he says to Amos, I'm going to use you to minister up north right in the face of the king who is cruel and immoral and unfaithful and unfair, and you're to confront him with his wrongs, Amos, and you're to speak the truth without fear, and I'll go before you and I'll be with you as you do so. So Amos shows up, overalls and all, here in the king's palace, where it's rather sophisticated, if you don't mind, and in chapter 7, you will see the encounter that I love as we read it.

Chapter 7, verse 10. Then Amaziah the priest, he's a false priest. He's a phony priest. He's the kind of priest that tells the people around him what they want to hear. Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent word to Jeroboam, king of Israel, saying, Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is unable to endure all his words. Hey, king, you got to know something. He's back.

He's right down there, right there in the court. For thus Amos says, Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will certainly go from its land into exile. Now, that's not how you win friends and gain a lot of contacts for business, but Amos isn't worried about that. So Amaziah is telling on him, saying to the king, you got to understand the guy's back.

He's a pain. And Amaziah then says to Amos, verse 12, go, you seer. You know, get out. Flee away to the land of Judah. Go back home. There, eat your bread and do your prophesying, but no longer prophesy at Bethel, for it is a sanctuary of the king and a royal red line. You get the feeling? Flee. You're on a fence.

Get out and take your sheep with you, fig picker. I love this. I love this response. The name was replied to Amaziah. Listen to me, high pockets.

Well, that's kind of a Swindoll paraphrase to get us into it. I am not a prophet, meaning I'm not a self appointed man of God. God's called me.

I've responded to his call. I didn't do this on my own. I'm not here representing me, nor am I the son of a prophet. I don't have a daddy who was a preacher and my granddaddy wasn't a preacher. I'm not from a long line of preachers. I'm a sheep herder and I'm a fig picker.

That's the truth. I'm a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs, but the Lord took me from following the flock and the Lord said to me, go and prophesy to my people Israel. Now, you hear the word of the Lord. You were saying you shall not prophesy against Israel, nor shall you speak against the house of Isaac.

Therefore, since you say that, here is my answer. Thus says the Lord, your wife will become a harlot in the city. Well, that's a good opening line. You might mention to Jeroboam his wife's going to be on the street in a while, selling herself, and your sons and your daughters will fall by the sword and your land will be parceled up by a measuring line and you yourself will die upon unclean soil.

Moreover, Israel will certainly go from its land into exile. Whoa. There is nothing easy to hear in a message like that. It isn't the job of God's spokesman to shape his words so that they're easy to hear. Oh, they need to be accurate. They need to be relevant.

But they must not be compromised. Turn the page and look at chapter 8 verse 11. Amos is not true speaking. Behold, which is his way of saying, pay attention, days are coming declares the Lord when I will send a famine on the land. You talk about 21st century prophecy. I will send a famine on the land. It'll not be a famine for bread or thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord, people will stagger. They'll wander from one coast to the other, from sea to sea, from the north to the east to the west to the south. They'll go in all different direction.

They will go to and fro. There's the seeker seeking the word of the Lord, but they will not find it. I don't know of a more apt statement to define our times than Amos 8, 11, and 12.

That false priest earlier had tried to run off the rough and rugged Amos. Since he confronted wrongdoing with such passion, Amos later predicted that there will come a day when the land will languish, longing for a strong voice for God courageously and politically incorrect, standing for what is right and the famine men and women has come. We are in the midst of it. Be aware of it.

Watch it on your television screen. Listen to religious comments made by the so-called professionals. Not all, remember, there are exceptions, but most. And don't go by size of churches or size of offerings. Listen for the truth. Are they taking the word of God and teaching it as you are hearing it right now? Walt Kaiser, in an outstanding little book called Revive Us Again, writes, too often the Bible is little more than a book of epigrammatic sayings or springboards that give us a rallying point around which to base our editorials. But where did we get the audacious idea that God would bless our opinions or judgments? Who wants to hear another point of view as an excuse for a message from the word of God? Who said God would bless our ramblings? Surely this is a major reason the famine of the word continues in massive proportions in most places in North America. Surely this is why the hunger for the teaching and proclamation of God's word continues to grow year after year. Men and women cannot live by ideas alone, no matter how eloquently they are stated or argued, but solely by a patient reading and explanation of all the scriptures line after line, paragraph after paragraph, chapter after chapter, book after book. He concludes, where are such interpreters to be found?

Where are their teachers? He speaks like a prophet from old, even though he lives as one of our wonderful contemporaries. That is the truth. You're listening to the Bible teaching of Chuck Swindoll.

This is Insight for Living. And to learn more about Chuck and this ministry, please visit us online at insightworld.org. And if you're inspired to find a church that exercises the kind of biblical values that Chuck described today, then we highly recommend reading his book called The Church Awakening. It's painful when local churches prioritize entertainment, teach feel good theology or cave to political and cultural pressures.

God never designed the church to do such things. And Chuck's book addresses these issues head on while offering help on finding the right church for your family. This series concludes tomorrow, so be sure to request your copy while it's fresh on your mind. To purchase a copy of Chuck's book called The Church Awakening, go to insight.org slash offer or call us.

If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. You often hear us say that Insight for Living relies on your personal support to make these daily programs not only on your local radio station, but on a variety of channels that make learning more about the Bible easily accessed by people everywhere. This includes, of course, a smartphone app, the internet, and even a free daily email devotional that comes right to your inbox. We provide these free resources because it's our goal, our mission, to make disciples of Jesus Christ in all 195 countries of the world. Know then that when you give a donation to Insight for Living, you're not only sending out God's word all over the world in nine languages through these various avenues, but you're also strengthening churches all over the world. And if you're excited about this work as we are, would you please pray for us? And as God prompts you to do so, would you send a generous financial gift as well? To give a donation online today, go to insight.org slash donate. And if it's easier, just give us a call.

If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. Or once again, to give online, visit insight.org slash donate. You've heard him teach about the Holy Land using word pictures to make us feel like we're actually strolling through the old city. Learning about Jerusalem is fascinating for sure, but seeing the land of Israel with your own eyes is life changing.

In fact, it's absolutely magnificent. And now you can see Israel with Chuck Swindoll and the gracious hosts and experts assembled by Insight for Living Ministries. Join us on an unforgettable 12-day tour, March 5th through the 16th, 2023. At special sites along the way, I will teach from God's word. We'll worship at the Mount of Beatitudes and share the Lord's table at the Garden Tomb. In fact, we'll sail the Sea of Galilee together and we'll visit places where Jesus walked and taught.

To learn more, call 1-888-447-0444. Just imagine walking along those sacred sites and seeing the Bible come to life before your very eyes. Mark your calendar for March 5th through the 16th, 2023 and make your reservation by calling 1-888-447-0444 or go to insight.org slash events. Insight for Living Ministries Tour to Israel is paid for and made possible by only those who choose to attend. I'm Bill Meyer. Join us when Chuck Swindoll concludes his hallmark series called The Church Awakening tomorrow on Insight for Living. The preceding message, It's Time to Restore the Years, was copyrighted in 2008 and 2010, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2010 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-17 19:21:55 / 2023-04-17 19:31:09 / 9

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