7/4/2010 ~ Today I visited The First Baptist Church of Fort Walton Beach, FL
Folks, I've got to tell you that this was one of the greatest church visits to date!
It was probably at least partially due to the patriotic nature of the event because it was SUNDAY, the Fourth of July, Independence Day.
But I doubt that any group could have celebrated it with more finesse. For one thing, this was a VERY beautiful church. There was so much stained glass, such a semi-classical exterior and such internal elegance -- plus what I can only term "Musical Restraint" -- that I thought for a moment I was in a Methodist environment. Honest-to-goodness, what with the chandeliers and the choir in their vestments, it was almost Episcopalian in ambiance!
And of course, with all the bunting, decorations, and ushers in formal military regalia, the overall effect was outstanding. I guess the only give-away that we were in an "Evangelistic" milieu would have been the twin video screens at the altar.
At one point the Pastor asked the Military personnel attending to stand, service by service with the A.F. last. (Of course they have the largest contingent in this section of The Panhandle because of the location of our two local airbases - Eglin & Hurlburt). Honestly, I think almost 20% of the congregation stood up at this point!
I enjoyed the entire service tremendously and was edified by the sermon given by Dr. Howard L. Gates who has served as Pastor of First Baptist Church since 1987. (See summary below)
The music was VERY patriotic and excellent to boot; you must listen to a few of the YouTube clips below!
THE MESSAGE: "Today's Altar Promise." (A summary, adapted & edited from the sermon given 7/4/2010 by Dr. Howard L. Gates at The First Baptist Church, FWB, FL; referencing 2 Chronicles, 6 & 7).
Second Chronicles contains a promise that God will fulfill to any nation today; and which God will also perform in the life of any individual: "... if my people are humble and pray, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I forgive and heal your land." (2 Chronicles 7:14).
In 2 Chronicles Chapters 6 & 7; Solomon had just finished building the Temple. It took seven and a half years to complete, employing a crew of 183,000 people. That was a lot of lunches! At a cost of $5.40 per lunch per day, the expense for lunches alone would be over 3 billion 600 million dollars in today’s currency! A few years ago it was estimated that to construct the temple then would cost over 200 billion dollars. It would require so much gold that if you piled it up and approached from the East you would be almost blinded looking at it. Moreover, there was a rule regarding the construction of the Temple that no hammer or saw could ‘sound’ inside. Thus everything had to be built outside and brought into the building! It was a mighty edifice.
In 2 Chronicles, Chapter 6, Solomon falls to his knees and gives the prayer of dedication. Befitting such an accomplishment, it is the longest prayer in the Bible; and when Solomon finished the prayer, God sent down fire from Heaven to consume the sacrifices on the altar. Then after all the celebration was over, the Lord appears to Solomon at night and says that He accepts the place of sacrifice. Moreover, "If I shut up the heavens and no rain falls ..." (that is, if you and your people - My People - become disobedient and I must bring my discipline upon you) "... if my people are humble and pray, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I forgive and heal your land." Here God gives them a formula for revival.
It is said that an eagle can spot a mouse 8 miles away, but it doesn't take an eagle to see that America has had some significant failures and the the people need revival. Chapter 7, verse 13 of Second Chronicles shows what things signal the problem: #1: lack of rain, #2: devastation (‘Locusts’), and #3: disease (‘Pestilence’). Lets go into those in a little more detail from today's perspective. First of all, lack of rain. In a modern sense, this is the economic hardship that we are experiencing today. That is our wake up call. Then devastation: We can see that, even without the devastation of Biblical ‘locust's’, there is significant devastation in this country right now. American guns are being shipped to Mexico, drugs are coming North; and the oil well spewing forth from the Gulf is a major devastation. There is terrorism here and throughout the world. God says to us as He did to Solomon, let that be a wake up call. Thirdly, disease. Physicians are now saying that the West Nile virus, and other things like smallpox and the bubonic plague are resurgent. This too, is a wake up call to go back to God. What we need, only God can deliver. Our nation, our church and our lives need to be revitalized. If we meet God's conditions, then He can send revival in time. (Remember: "... if my people are humble and pray, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I forgive and heal your land.")
So what is the formula for revival?
Note that there are four requirements to revival: #1 Humility; God detests pride. #2 Prayer. ‘My people must humble themselves and pray.’ We must also pray for our leaders, those in authority. #3 Repentance. Turn from our worldly ways. Do away with foul language, lies, lack of financial integrity and sexual immodestly. And do away with grudges. Instead, concentrate on forgiveness. #4 Commitment. Turn from your wicked ways and put God first. If you comply, God promises that He will hear your prayers, forgive your sins, heal you and your land; and restore your marriage and finances. He will bring peace, restoration and healing. But we must first fix our errors ~ errors in pride, prayer, repentance and commitment before revival can occur. And you will need assistance. Remember: The Holy Spirit in you can do what you can't do.
Pd. Pol. Adv., paid for and approved by Dr. Bill Escoffery,
Candidate for U.S. Senate from Florida.
Copyright © 2010 by William Escoffery III. All