Last week’s Awaken NOW Conference gloriously demonstrated supernatural unity in the body of Christ. In this spirit, the Holy Spirit touched hearts and lives. One powerful testimony we received came from Martin Shufflebotham, a former British soldier who now lives in Dallas. He gave me permission to share his email:
I served for most of my adult life in the British military, a member of the Queen’s Guard, a stoic statue, immune from, and inured to life. That too was my relationship with God. I have sat through impassioned, moving, sermons by military chaplains in some of the most historic chapels in the world, chapels that house battle honors and standards dating back over hundreds of years, rendered so faded and translucent that sunlight passed through them as easily as the beautiful stained glass windows behind them; I felt nothing, I heard nothing.
Then, on Thursday my life changed forever. I have not tasted the salt of tears in many, many years; but at Awaken Now I wept like a child–great silent, wracking sobs as I acknowledged God for the first time in my life, I felt His presence and love well up inside me. It may have taken me 46 years to find my way home, but home I am. Thank you both so much for opening the door. Though I ignored God’s presence in my life, believing every choice and accolade was my own, I now look at my career path and see His hand throughout. My successes were, in fact, His.
The Scriptures say it is “wonderful and beautiful for brethren to dwell together in unity,” and the apostle Paul emphasized that we should seek diligently to “preserve the unity of the Spirit in a bond of peace.”
With this commitment of love, those who have been placed in the church to minister truth, (whether it is a pastor, teacher, apostle, prophet or evangelist) must build up the community of faith – those who have come into a relationship with God through Christ.
In so doing, we will inspire the various, unique members of the church to fit together, even as joints in our own body, respecting the unique purpose and divine assignment for each and supplying one another as we have need so that we function as a healthy family—truly a people through whom He can bless the families of the world. That’s who we are to be as followers of Christ.
God said we would be built up into the “fullness of the stature of Christ.” In other words, people will be able to see Him. We may appreciate people’s gifts, what they bring, what they deliver, and how uniquely they are gifted, but we will not gather around the personalities. We will become His body, and Christ Himself will be exalted. He will be lifted up, and I am convinced when He is lifted up, He will draw far more people to Himself than religious gatherings have been able to attract.
Too often, religious people seem to turn people away from God. When we don’t walk in love, truth and in the Spirit, we can become as repulsive as any people on this planet. God forgive us and deliver us. Restore us to fellowship first with You and then with one another.
I am seeking diligently to preserve the unity of the Spirit into which we were born as those who profess faith in Christ and are truly born from above. This is not a matter of religious affiliation or membership. This is a spiritual encounter with Almighty God that Jesus shared with Nicodemus, perhaps the most self-righteous and good man He ever encountered. “Unless any person is born of the Spirit…born from above,” he told Nicodemus, “they will not see the kingdom of God.” This means they will not experience spiritual kingdom life here and in eternity.
For those of us who know Christ, we must find the common ground to address our common concerns with common purpose for the common good. This is what must happen if we’re going to see the land healed.
With all my heart, I’m seeking to follow the counsel of a good, respected friend, Billy Graham, whose advice lines up with God’s Word concerning the importance of spiritual unity. We have only glimpsed the unity God calls for a few times in human history. Every time we have it has had a positive and profound impact.
Dr. Graham advised me during one of our conversations to “diligently seek to spend time with people I had been taught to avoid” (that is a paraphrase, but it is how I heard it, how it registered, and what I have been faithfully seeking to do). I have found this counsel to be as wise as any I have ever been offered or any message I have heard preached. His words of wisdom have had a profound, positive impact not only on me, but on all of those I’ve spent time with.
As I’ve met with people from diverse backgrounds, I have never once found myself encouraged to compromise my deep, heart-felt convictions that I believe are based firmly in sacred Scripture. God’s Word is reliable, and we can understand it with the help of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent to “guide us to all truth” if we are yielded to His will and abiding in His Word. I do not find myself compelled to prove to others that I am right. I make it clear that I’m on a diligent pursuit of truth and want to find ways for us to work together for mutual benefit.
No one will spend much time with me without becoming keenly aware I want the best for them. Does that not sound something like a good, loving father would do? Perhaps even the heavenly Father? Is that not the desire of every parent for their children? Should it not be the desire for all who consider themselves to be friends? And should even adversaries and those who disagree try to find the best solution to their personal and community challenges? The answer should be a resounding “yes.”
Understand that the difficulty we have in seeing this happen is because “the father of lies” is set on deception and, ultimately, the destruction of our life’s purpose and best interests. Satan himself is the “accuser of the brethren” and schemes to turn us into adversaries. We can see this manifest in the halls of Congress, in the national media, in every community and, tragically, in too many churches.
As I have followed the advice given to me by Billy Graham, I have found walls removed and love lifting us above barriers that have too often been prison walls rather than a hedge of protection. I am going to continue to meet with others. I am doing so now with people across all party lines, social divides, racial barriers and, yes, sectarian barriers; and I will do so without compromising God’s Word. While discussing the truth, even debating it and when disagreeing, I will do it with such love that it will disarm most who disagree, and both parties will be honed to a sharper cutting edge for the glory of God.
If you study the Old Testament and are an observer of human history, you know that when people move away from God and biblical principles—not religious traditions of men, but biblical principles of Nature’s God and Nature’s Law, as our founders described it—those nations suffer tragic consequences. Not only are individuals personally defeated, not only are relationships destroyed, not only are people unable to carry on a civil conversation, but you see the end result of that: You don’t have good civil government. So it is today in America.
Throughout the Old Testament and throughout history, every time people moved away from God, the end result was a loss of productivity, blessings, opportunity and, yes, prosperity. In an agrarian culture, the crops failed. Today, our economic systems and their effectiveness are disrupted. People lack wisdom, judgment, discernment, character and trust—and we suffer loss. Bad decisions produce bad results. Excessive regulations produce limitations leading to bondage, along with the destruction of opportunity and productivity. The only cure for it is a return to God. We return with our whole heart and allow His truth to renew our mind through its transforming power. Then we see the blessings of God restored.
If you look at the prophet Joel’s book, you will find that the locusts devoured the productivity of the land. They worked in total destructive harmony, committed to their purposes resulting in destruction. Notice in chapter 2 that these destructive forces worked together in perfect unity. The powerful effect of such unity must come to the church in order to see the enemy’s assault on life and freedom overcome. God said, even after this awful plague, “If you will return to Me with your whole heart—not just going through the emotions of repentance, but really allow Me to change your mind and thinking—I will make up to you for the years the locusts have eaten.” In an agrarian society, they understood when He said, “I will pour out the former and the latter rains. I’m going to do whatever is necessary to restore the blessings to the land if you return to Me.”
Believe this: If we are going to see the healing for the tragic consequences of years of bad decisions, the results of rebellion against God’s Word and eternal principles, we are going to have to come together on our knees before the Living God, committed to Him and one another—loving Him with all our heart and loving our neighbor.
As my friend Sammy Rodriguez says, “It’s the vertical and the horizontal.” We love God, we love one another. We reach up to Him! We reach out to them! It’s the ministry of Billy Graham and Martin Luther King combined. It’s the spiritual and the moral and the social, and it works effectively.
This is the will of God for us, and I promise healing and restoration will begin when we come together in supernatural unity as a family. I want to be a part of encouraging that great sacred gathering. I’m committed to it, and I’m asking you to join me.