8/23/2014

THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH IN DEFEATING ISIS

Important Lessons from History that Highlight
Why America Must Have Another Great Spiritual Awakening

“We have never seen anything like it, and we must be ready for anything,” were the words of Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, in discussing the threat of the Jihadist ISIS movement with an obvious note of concern in his voice. Military and intelligence officials are obviously taking very serious the threat of ISIS to bring its horrific brand of terror to America and fly their flag over the Whitehouse. Could it happen?
We must remember that this battle will not be ultimately won with jet fighters and tanks because, at its core, this is an ideological war for truth. This is why a strong and vibrant Christianity that can wage Spiritual warfare is absolute necessary. This is why we must pray for another Great Awakening in our land. This is why we must also learn from history, from those who have preceded us.
There is an example from the early history of the church that has amazing parallels to our nation and its current situation with radical Islam. Like America, this area saw great moves of God and became the bastion of Christianity from the second through the sixth centuries. The light of the Gospel shined brightly and there emerged some of the greatest leaders and thinkers the church has known.
Yet, because of certain trends that weakened and watered down the faith of the Christians of this area, it fell to Islam in the seventh century, and is still under Islamic control today.
In this article, I share three important lessons from this period; three things we must avoid in order to not repeat the mistakes of North African Church and suffer a similar fate.
The Power & Prominence of the North African Church
Beginning in the first century, perhaps with the Ethiopian official that Philip led to Christ (Acts 8:26-40), Christianity spread rapidly across North Africa. Paganism and false religions fell like dominoes as the message of Christ swept across the continent. Tertullian (160-220), the famous North African church father and apologist, wrote to a pagan official;
We are but of yesterday, and yet we have filled all the places that belong to you—cities, islands, forts, towns, exchanges; the very military camps themselves, tribes, town councils, the palace, the senate, the market-place; we have left you nothing but your temples.
Along with Tertullian, unusually gifted Christian leaders, such as Cyprian and Augustine, emerged in North Africa. They formulated theologies that are still the basis for much of the thinking in both Catholicism and Protestantism.
The North African church gained such prominence that it was appealed to for advice by churches of other nations and regions. On one occasion, the North African Church even rebuked a Roman bishop, Zosimus, for his acceptance of Pelagian teachers and teaching. The influence of the North African Church is shown in that the Roman bishop, after receiving their letter, carefully began to back away from his support of Pelagius. He eventually reversed his position and adopted the position of the North African Church (Hyatt, Pursuing Power, 66-67).
In its heyday, no one would have guessed that Christian North Africa would fall to Islam. Nonetheless, that is exactly what happened in the 7th century. Here are 3 trends (or sins) in the North African church that we must avoid in order to help guarantee that we will not suffer a similar fate.
#1 Avoid Being Divisive
It is one thing to disagree; it is another thing to be divisive. Christians can disagree in nonessential issues and still be one in Christ. A divisive spirit, however, divides and weakens the church, making it vulnerable to outside forces that want to destroy it. Divisiveness was a major factor that weakened the North African Church and made it vulnerable to the attacks of Islam in the 7th century.
This divisive spirit showed itself especially in the Donatist controversy that erupted early in the 4th century. It was centered around whether those who had denied the faith in recent persecutions could, now that persecution was past, become leaders in the church. One group led by Donatus insisted on high standards for those in leadership, while the other side insisted on mercy toward those who had recanted their faith in the past, and allowing them to serve as bishops and leaders.
This controversy eventually caused a split in the North African Church. The Donatist churches, with their emphasis on high moral standards for their members and Christian leaders, grew rapidly and soon rivaled in number the orthodox or Catholic churches of North Africa.
The rivalry was intense and was only resolved (outwardly) when the Roman emperor, in response to an appeal by Augustine, outlawed the Donatist churches, arrested their leaders and confiscated their properties and buildings, giving them to the Catholics. This controversy and the strong arm tactics that were used to resolve it left a deep wound in the North African church from which it never recovered.
Avoid being divisive. Satan’s tactic is “divide and conquer.” We must be uncompromising about truth, but at the same time, be careful that we are not so intent on digging up the tares that we also uproot the wheat in the process (Matthew 13:29).
Avoid a “Watering Down” of the Faith
The Doantist controversy was indicative of a “watering down” of the call of the Gospel to discipleship and absolute commitment to Christ. Yes, we must offer mercy, forgiveness and redemption in the name of Christ to a broken and fragmented world; but we must, at the same time, make clear the call to absolute surrender to Christ and His Lordship, which is just as clear in the Gospels.
The evidence indicates that as North African Christianity became more and more institutionalized and formalized, individual faith became tied to going through the outward motions and rituals required by the institutionalized church. The dynamic faith of earlier generations gradually eroded and was replaced by an outward, political-ceremonial sort of Christianity. 
North African Christianity became soft and self-centered. As individual commitment to Christ waned and moral laxity increased, the church was further weakened, making it vulnerable to the committed armies of Islam when they arrived on the scene. We must not allow this to happen to our generation, which is why we must pray for another Great Awakening in our land
In his 1963 inaugural address, John F. Kennedy threw out a challenge to the American people. He said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” I believe, in a similar way, God is calling his people today to make a shift from a watered-down, me-centered approach to the Gospel to a selfless, Christ-centered approach. In this new attitude and mindset we are no longer preoccupied with what God will do for us, but our consuming passion is now to know His heart and do His will.
Avoid Pursuits of Power
Power struggles go right along with a divisive spirit. Nothing weakens the church like internal power struggles for prominence and control. Many power struggles emerged in the church in North Africa, especially as it aligned itself more and more with the Roman political order.
This was another criticism of the Donatists toward the mainstream church--its alignment with the Roman state. “What has the emperor to do with the church?” they asked. When Augustine became the bishop of Hippo in 395 he sought reconciliation with the Donatists, for the separation had occurred before his time.
Augustine, however, did not see unity as occurring through a mutual acceptance of one another in Christ. Augustine came to faith post-Constantine and he saw the church as an institution with clearly defined organizational parameters and a divinely ordained hierarchical leadership. As far as he was concerned, the Donatists were sheep that had gone astray and the only path for reconciliation and unity was for them to return to the Catholic fold, which they had left (Hyatt, Pursuing Power, 57).
When the Donatists rebuffed Augustine’s overture, he appealed to the Roman emperor to intervene. After a conference conducted by the emperor’s envoy, the Dontnists were condemned and declared illegal. Heavy fines were levied on all members of the Donatist churches and they were ordered to return to the Catholic fold. Donatist property and houses of worship were confiscated and given to Augustine and his group. Those who refused to comply were imprisoned or executed. Some fled to the desert and some committed suicide rather than submit to the imperial decree (Hyatt, Pursuing Power, 57-58).
The power struggles in the North African church greatly weakened it and made it vulnerable to the Islamic invaders when they arrived. We must remember the words of Jesus to His apostles when he rebuked them for pursuing power and exhorted them to function as servants (Mark 10:35-45). Only as Christian leaders have the confidence to be servants to the people of God will we see the body of Christ equipped to rise up in great strength and power, able to conquer every foe with the truth of the Gospel.
Concluding Thoughts
Why I Expect another Great Awakening
When Muslim armies began invading North Africa around the middle of the seventh century, the once powerful North African Church did not have the internal strength of a vital faith and moral character to put up a defense, and they succumbed to the invaders. The noted church historian, Philip Schaff, says, “A large number of nominal Christians who had so fiercely quarreled with each other about unfruitful subtleties of their creeds, surrendered their faith to the conqueror” (Schaff, vol. 4 of History of the Christian Church, 172). Muslim armies eventually swept across the entire continent bringing an end to Christianity’s prominence and replacing the cross with the crescent. That is still the state of North Africa today.
I do not believe this will happen to America. I do not deny that it could, nor do I take the threat lightly. I also realize there could be individual acts of terrorism on our soil in the days ahead. Nonetheless, I believe the people of God in this nation are rising to the occasion. I believe churches, ministries, groups and fellowships are calling one another to a new consecration and commitment to Jesus Christ.
I believe more and more people are praying in sincere faith for another Great Awakening in our land. Because of this, I believe to see a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit sweep across this nation and around the world. I believe God is hearing our prayers and, as He promised in II Chronicles 7:14, He is healing our land.

Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian and ordained minister. He is also the founder of “Revive America,” which is dedicated to laying the Biblical and historical foundation for another Great Awakening in America. This article was derived, in part, from his latest book, Pursuing Power, available from Amazon and from his website at http://www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html.





8/22/2014

WHY DO THE RIGHTEOUS SUFFER?

Why did God allow James Foley, who in the past has spoken of the power of faith and prayer, to suffer beheading at the hands of ISIS terrorists? Why is Saeed Abedini, an American pastor, languishing under brutal conditions in an Iranian prison while his wife and two small children in Idaho pray for his return? Why are Christians in the Middle East, including children, being crucified, beheaded and expelled from their homes and communities with nothing but the clothes on their back? Why?
The rise of persecution of Christians around the world is raising again the question of why the righteous suffer. Although you may not have experienced such brutal, physical treatment, you have experienced suffering. Perhaps it was the untimely death of a loved one, a painful broken relationship, the loss of employment or a son or daughter that broke your heart. The fact is that suffering is a part of the human experience, and Christians are not exempt.
The question that so many have asked through the ages is, “Why do the righteous suffer?” I am not so presumptuous as to think I have all the answers, but here are some answers that I have found helpful in my journey of faith.
Because We Live in a Fallen World
This is not heaven. We live in a fallen world where evil exists. When our first parents, Adam and Eve, declared their independence from God and chose to go it on their own, they opened the door for the entry of evil into this world. Human nature itself was corrupted and death, that was not a part of the original creation, became a part of this fallen world.
The trend of this fallen world is against God and His word. This is why John the Apostle wrote to one of the earliest Christian communities and warned, Do not be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you (I Jn. 3:13; NLT). Where Christian influence wanes in this fallen world, greater will be the hatred toward followers of Jesus. This is why we must see another great spiritual awakening in our land.
The Biblical account of a good creation, and then a fall, provides the only philosophical and theological answer for what we see in the world today. It gives the only answer for the existence of evil we see in the world. It provides the only answer for the human condition wherein people can show flashes of noble and good deeds and also horrific and evil actions.
Because There is a Devil & Demons Who Hate Christians
The actions of our first parents, in turning from God, opened the door to an evil personality the Bible calls Satan and the Devil. This evil being hates God and His children. Although defeated by the cross of Christ, Satan and his demons were not annihilated. They are still active in this world and Christians are particular objects of their vileness and hatred.
Jesus warned His followers of the reality of serving Him in a fallen world where Satan is still a reality to be dealt with. In John 15:19 He said to His disciples, If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. He went on to say, The time is coming when whoever kills you will think he offers God service (John 16:2).
It is Satan and demons who influence people like the ISIS terrorists who are so brutal toward Christians. Satan and demons also attack us in our thought life seeking to lead us astray and get us to make wrong choices that will hurt us and do injury to others. Peter tells us how we should respond to this reality. He says, Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, whom resist steadfast in the faith  (I Peter 5:8).
What Can We Do?
1. Know that suffering is not God’s will. God does not enjoy seeing us suffer. If suffering was something inherent in the nature of God, then we might expect to suffer throughout eternity. Suffering is not inherent in God’s nature for when redemption is complete those who have put their trust in him will be completely free from every form of pain and suffering and live with Him in eternal bliss. Revelation 21:4 says, And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.
Knowing that suffering is not God’s will means that we do not resign ourselves to suffering that is brought about by evil or bad choices. We fight evil and seek to relive suffering. And in the midst of it all we continue to trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness.
2. Trust in God’s goodness in the midst of your suffering. God in His infinite wisdom is able to take, even the evil and suffering that comes our way, and turn it around for good. God took the evil actions of Joseph’s brothers toward him, and turned it around for good, using those very actions to bring Joseph into the place and position He had prepared for him. Joseph never stopped trusting! He never stopped believing! Neither must you! Trust God to take your suffering and turn it around for your good and the blessing of others. In this fallen world, God will take, even the acts of Satan, and turn them around for good. He did this in the life of Joseph and he will do it in your life and mine as we trust Him.
3. Remember to pray with empathy for those who are suffering. We are commanded in Hebrews 13:3, Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies (NLT). Some believe that Peter was miraculously delivered while James was killed because the early church made continual prayer for Peter, but no such prayer is mentioned for James (Acts 12). Perhaps we would see more deliverances, as in the case of Miriam Ibrahim, if we were more diligent to pray for these brothers and sisters according to the above passage.
4. Know that God’s grace is sufficient for whatever suffering you may encounter. I have lost two brothers in tragic accidents. I preached the funerals of one brother, my father and my mother. I can testify that in those situations I experienced an empowering sense of God’s presence and peace in ways that I do not experience in my normal daily walk. I have found that His grace is sufficient.
In my book, Pursuing Power, I tell of Michael Sattler, a young 32-year-old leader in the 16th century Anabaptist movement in Europe who was arrested and condemned to die by being burned at the stake for the crime of heresy. I show how, after having his tongue cut out and as the flames were swirling around him, Sattler gave testimony that such suffering was bearable—that God’s grace was sufficient. I have to believe that James Foley experienced the grace of God in the midst of his sufferings.
5. We must understand and exercise the authority over Satan and demons that is ours through the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Jesus Himself said, Behold I give you authority to trample on serpents and scorpions over all the power of the enemy and nothing shall by any means hurt you (Luke 10:19). If our suffering is a direct attack of Satan then we must resist him and, according to the promise in James 4:7, he will flee from us, i.e., he will run from us in terror. James 4:7 also tells us of two different postures we are to have in our walk in this world. Concerning God, we are to yield. Concerning Satan, we are to resist. In other words, we are not to resign ourselves to everything that is handed us in life. Declare Lordship of Jesus and resist the devil in the name of Jesus.

Many cases of mental/emotional sickness and oppression are caused by the direct attacks of demons. I remember, as a Bible school student, walking across the campus and my soul was so troubled, and I did not know what about. My mind felt as though it was in a vice that was being tightened by the minute. I was just learning about my authority in Jesus Christ so I spoke to the oppression and its cause and commanded it to depart in the name of Jesus. Immediately, the tightness and oppression left and a sense of settleness and peace filled my mind and heart. It was such a real experience that it is still vivid in my mind today, 40 years later. Do not neglect to exercise the authority that has been given you by Jesus Christ Himself.
6. Stay filled with the Holy Spirit. In the book of Acts we read of the persecutions and sufferings of the early church. In the midst of their sufferings we find this phrase; And they were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:52). The joy of the Lord is not tied to our circumstances. The joy of the Lord can be manifest in our hearts in the most adverse, outward situations. This is why Paul, in writing from prison to the Philippian believers, could admonish them again and again to rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. There was such joy released at my father's funeral that one woman said to me, "I don't know if I should say this, but I really enjoyed this funeral." Stay filled with the Holy Spirit and you will know His joy even in the midst of suffering.

7. We must pray for another great, Spiritual awakening in our land. The American army and air force will not stop terrorism. This is a spiritual battle. We are fighting false belief systems that Satan uses to deceive and destroy lives. This is no time to play church. A Christianity of comfort and convenience will not survive in today’s world. There must be a turning to God in sincere repentance and prayer. Our only hope is another Great Awakening in our land. If My people who are called by name will humble themselves and pray . . . then I will hear from heaven and heal their land (II Chronicles 7:14).

Dr. Eddie Hyatt is an author, ordained minister and founder/director of "Revive America." Through "Revive America" his goal is to help lay the Biblical and historical foundation for another Great Awakening in our land. If you would like to host at "Revive America" event with you group or congregation, contact Eddie at dreddiehyatt@gmail.com. His books are available on Amazon and from his website at www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html. 

8/06/2014

POLITICAL POWER GRABS: Why the Answer for the Current Constitutional Crisis Will Only be Found in Another Great Spiritual Awakening


Last month, over loud protests from both sides of the political aisle concerning the legality of such an action, President Obama exacerbated an already ongoing Constitutional Crisis by signing an "executive order" granting amnesty to millions of illegals in this country. Even before this particular presidential act, Jonathan Turley, Constitutional lawyer and Professor of Law at the George Washington University School of Law, had warned a Congressional committee about the implications of the president's grab for power, saying, "We are in the midst of a constitutional crisis with sweeping implications for our system of government.” Turley, who is a Democrat, reminded the committee, "I recently testified before this Committee on the history and function of the separation of powers in our system. 1 also discussed how, in my view, President Obama has repeatedly violated this doctrine in the circumvention of Congress in areas ranging from health care to immigration law to environmental law." Turley, who voted for Obama in 2008, later told Megan Kelley on "The Kelley File" that "a new model of government is emerging and it's the one that the framers told us to reject." There is no question that this is a very serious moment in our nation's history.
The Constitution’s Division of Powers
is based on the Biblical World-View of the Founders
America’s Founders divided the powers of government and provided various checks and balances because they held to a Biblical world-view, which recognizes that “man” in his present condition is flawed because of sin and cannot be trusted with “power.” They would agree with the adage of Sir John Dalberg-Acton who, after extensive studies of both secular and religious history, declared, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
This was the view of the early Puritans to whom the Founders were indebted for much of their thinking. Most of them would have agreed with William Bradford, five-time governor of Plymouth Colony, who spoke of “man’s fallen state” and declared that “all men have corruption in them.” In this fallen state human beings cannot be trusted with power; hence the division of powers and other checks and balances in our country’s founding documents. How our nation needs to recover this understanding!
Clueless, Power-Hungry Politicians
Our president seems unaware of this world-view of fallen and flawed humanity as the basis for the limits placed on the different branches of government by our Constitution. This was made obvious when he recently remarked, “That’s the good thing about being president; I can do whatever I want.”
Although the statement has a particular context, it seems to reveal an unhealthy and uninformed attitude and mindset about the executive office. The Founders placed clearly defined limits on what a president can and cannot do; because the Founders knew that the president, whoever he may be, is also a flawed human being, and not to be trusted with “power.” 

Benjamin Hart stated it well in his excellent treatise, Faith and Freedom. He wrote;
"The corruption in human nature is magnified when it is transferred to human institutions. A man with a gang is far more dangerous than a man without a gang. With this view of man in mind, America’s founders sought to decentralize political authority, through the separation of powers, states’ rights, executive veto, judicial review of legislation, specifically enumerated governmental responsibilities, and all the various checks and balances that were instituted to prevent government from dominating all of life" (Benjamin Hart, Faith & Freedom, 39).
The Founders did not Trust Power in the Hands of One or a Few
The underlying problem is that our society has given up the Biblical view of the flawed human condition, held by the Founders, that was the basis for their decision to divide the powers of government. They were, in fact, so intent on limiting individual power that they also, in Section 9 of the Constitution, forbade the government from granting honorific titles of nobility to anyone and forbade anyone holding a government office from accepting a title or office from a foreign king or state without the consent of Congress.
The Founders held the traditional Christian belief that humanity had been created a noble creature in the image and likeness of God, but that this image had become flawed as a result of the fall and sin (Genesis 1-3). Salvation through Jesus Christ restores this image, but this restoration is a process that is not completed in this world. Humanityeven Christian humanity—in this flawed condition cannot be trusted with unlimited power.
Whereas modern liberalism claims that human nature is essentially good and that people only need a change of environment and circumstances to improve and perfect their behavior, the Founders held no such utopian view of the human condition. In fact, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, both signers of the Constitution, pointed to Jeremiah 17:9 as an underlying principle for the separation of powers provided for in that document. This Biblical passage reads; The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?
The Bible & the Great Awakening Influenced the Founders
It was this belief in the Biblical account of the fall and the resulting flawed condition of human nature that prompted the Founders to divide the powers of government between two legislative branches, an executive branch, and a judicial branch. The Founders view in this regard was profoundly influenced by the radical form of Protestant Christianity that, from the very beginning, was dominant in early America, and was renewed as a result of the Great Awakening.
The influence of the Great Awakening on the Founders was highlighted by the late Harvard professor, Perry Miller, who said, “The Declaration of Independence of 1776 was a direct result of the preaching of the evangelists of the Great Awakening.” In their well-researched book, Never Before in History: America’s Inspired Birth, Gary Amos and Richard Gardiner say, “The majority of people who founded the United States of America either experienced or were children of those who experienced the religious awakening of the 1740s.”
This Awakening, with its stress on human sinfulness, revitalized the mistrust of the Colonists in human authority, and this mistrust was reflected in the actions of the Founders. Benjamin Franklin, for example, refers to this emphasis of the Awakening on human sinfulness when, in his Autobiography, he fondly reflects on his friendship with George Whitefield (1713-1770), the most famous preacher of the Awakening. He recalls how surprised he was at how much the masses admired and respected Whitefield, “notwithstanding his common abuse of them by assuring them they were naturally half-beasts and half-devils.”
Franklin is, no doubt, using hyperbole here to point out that, in his preaching, Whitefield emphasized the fallen state of Adam’s race and their need for a Savior. Because of this fallen condition, every person must experience a “new birth” through faith in Jesus Christ. This was the common message of the preachers of the Great Awakening.
James Madison was Influenced
by the Bible & the Great Awakening
James Madison (1751-1836), the chief architect of the Constitution, held this view of human sinfulness and this is seen in the limitations he placed on governmental power throughout the Constitution. He was referring to this view when, in the Federalist Papers, he commented, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”
Madison was obviously influenced by the Great Awakening for he was trained at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), which was a center of revival activity during the Great Awakening, and afterwards. In fact, just a few years before Madison arrived on campus, one of the trustees of the college, Samuel Finley, wrote;
Our glorious Redeemer has poured out His Holy Spirit upon the students at our College. The whole house was a Bochim (place of weeping). Mr. William Tennant, who was on the spot, says that there never was, he believes, more genuine sorrow for sin and longing after Jesus.
Some have wondered why there are no overt statements about God and Christ in the Constitution and founding documents. Madison, who was a brilliant thinker, was very aware that they were creating a civil government, not a church. He realized in writing the Constitution that he was constructing, not a Statement of Faith for a church, but a guiding document for a civil government that would guarantee individual rights and freedom for all sorts of religious sects and even atheists.
The Constitution Reflects a Biblical World-View of Humanity
The Biblical world-view of the document is seen in it limiting the powers of government and in disallowing titles of nobility being granted. These are principles right out of the New Testament. These are principles taught by Jesus when, for example, He warned His disciples about adopting honorific titles that would set them apart from the “brethren” (Matthew 23:8-12).
This principle of renouncing power was taught by Jesus when James and John requested the two most prominent seats in the kingdom and set off a storm of controversy between the disciples over who would be the greatest. Jesus called them together, chided them for pursuing power and exhorted them that those who would be leaders in His kingdom must function as servants. This is where we get the concept of a leader being a “public servant.”
Concluding Thoughts
The sober and thoughtful view of the Founders about the human condition is foreign to modern society, and to much of the contemporary church. But the denial of the reality of sin and evil in the world is causing catastrophic problems both at home and on the world stage. Many leaders have a difficult time acknowledging and identifying evil, for in our modern politically-correct world, too many operate on the na├»ve assumption that everyone is good and all cultures and religions are equal. Their mantra is “I’m ok – you’re ok.”
Another Great Awakening could awaken the church and the nation to the reality of sin and the flawed condition of human nature and the need of a Savior. It could bring about a humility on the part of both church and political leaders and stop the mad pursuits of power that are destroying the nation, churches and individual lives. It could actually put an end to the Constitutional crisis that is brewing.
This is why our 2nd president, John Adams, said, Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people; it is wholly inadequate for any other.” This is why we must pray for another Great Awakening in our land.

Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian, Bible teacher and ordained minister. This is article is derived from his two most recent books, America’s Revival Heritage and Pursuing Power, both available from Amazon and his website at http://www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html