Revival

Brave New World

a man holding an open Bible in a crowd

Acts 4:32-37 (ESV) 32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

This passage of Scripture is, perhaps, the most threatening in the whole of the New Testament. Over the years, I have heard innumerable Pastors and Evangelists manipulate or even desecrate God’s message contained in these few verses. And I understand why. They appear to fly in the face of Capitalism and they most certainly cut the legs out from under any leader in God’s kingdom that has set their heart upon constructing a magnificent edifice (building).

I’ve been praying to understand what God is doing in the world today and I think I see three things. I’ll save the best for last.

One

Christians were first, and horribly, targeted for persecution as a group by the emperor Nero in 64 AD. A colossal fire broke out at Rome, and destroyed much of the city. Rumours abounded that Nero himself was responsible. He certainly took advantage of the resulting devastation of the city, building a lavish private palace on part of the site of the fire.

Perhaps to divert attention from the rumours, Nero ordered that Christians should be rounded up and killed. Some were torn apart by dogs, others burnt alive as human torches. Over the next hundred years or so, Christians were sporadically persecuted. It was not until the mid-third century that emperors initiated intensive persecutions.

From a BBC article by Dr Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe titled Christianity and the Roman Empire

Note that the date is 64 AD. This persecution occurred after Acts, chapter four. What God did for the early Church, He has repeatedly done for the Church down through the ages. He gives times of rest and refreshing and then He leads the Church into battles where many die a martyr’s death – the greatest growth is during the battles.

Therefore, my first point is that God gave the Western Church a respite but we turned it into a lifestyle.

Two

No doubt, for the early Church, it was from the wealth of the members selling their possessions that funding for the great dispersement provided. This dispersement was triggered by the stoning of Stephen. We find this in Acts 8:1, And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 

There are no times when we can be cruise-control Christians. If God is building the Church’s wealth then a battle is just around the corner.

Three

Throughout all of the history of Adam, God has used peculiarity (i.e. set-apart) to draw the attention of God’s elect to Himself. God’s people have prepared for a flood when none was visible, prepared for a baby when age cried “Impossible!”, birthed a nation from a baby floating in the Nile, trusted God when surrounded and vastly outnumbered by their enemy. Yes, I have Scripture for this and it’s best seen in the KJV, 1 Peter 2:9, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;” (emphasis added)

God’s people don’t try to be peculiar, it’s just what happens when we follow God. Peculiar doesn’t mean crazy. As I wrote, it means “set-apart” but being set-apart often makes a person seem peculiar. A good example of peculiar was “Mr. Rogers” on PBS. As an ordained Presbyterian minister, he was certainly peculiar within the staff of PBS. Fred Rogers is quoted as saying,

“I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there was some way of using this fabulous instrument to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen.” My guess is that we have rarely, if ever, taken a job because we thought we could turn the employer from bad to good.

We, as true believers, are peculiar people. That is God’s way. People living in the world must notice us, and notice that there is something different, a good difference, between the children of God and the children of the world. As true believers, we quickly surrender our possessions, surrender our rights, surrender our lives, to demonstrate the character of Jesus to people who remain under God’s curse.

A missionary once told me that every missionary had to able to do any one of five things at a moment’s notice: 1) preach 2) pray 3) teach 4) sing 5) die. We all should hold our lives as a gift of service to Jesus our Savior.

However, for decades now, while we’ve been living the lifestyle of Christianity, we have continually moved the Church closer and closer to the world. We justified these actions as attempts to remain relevant in a changing world. 

It is Christ Jesus who makes His Church relevant; it’s never within our ability to accomplish this.

God Stopped the Whole World

Never in my lifetime has the whole world stopped. Until now, the closest it came was in 1969 when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon. If you are old enough to remember that then you remember how TV networks cut to locations all across the globe, showing people gathered around TV sets, all gobsmacked. 

Well, this pandemic is more profound than Neil’s history-making step. Trust me on this, God did this out of His great love. You may ask, “How could God allow this to happen to good people?” The answer is simple and painful; there are no good people. And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18)

God stopped the world so we all would consider what life is about. For His Church, we face profound changes, not in the Gospel but in our lifestyle. Comfortable Christianity is not God’s intent. Jesus said, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:38)

Yes, we are told by the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.” We are to have this goal but we are also told to “take up our cross” and told by the Apostle Peter that we are a peculiar people. These messages are from the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit. These messages do not conflict. We are not faced with a dichotomy. So, what does God want from us? 

What does Obedience Look Like?

What Jesus said to His disciples is that He wants us to be obedient, and if we are, then our joy will be full. (John 15:9-11) So, obedience is not something we can choose. Our decision is to either be a Christian, or not. Choosing not to obey is choosing not to love Jesus. (John 14:15)

The Point

I’ve written a lot of words to lead us to the following thoughts, and they are: 

  1. God has prospered the members of Western churches for one hundred years. And countless churches own behemoth buildings that, overnight, have been rendered useless. This is not a mistake, rather it is God’s “bank account.”
  2. God’s blessing of an accumulation of wealth has not been for “us” to look like the world. That wealth is not ours.
  3. God’s people do not overcome the world by being a twin of the world. “And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.” (Revelation 12:11)

No revival, no world movement by God, can start or continue without the Holy Spirit moving and igniting souls. When we are full to overflowing of the Spirit within us then the oil of God’s anointing splashes into the fire of the Holy Spirit and we burst forth with power, testifying to the world the things of God.

What will the Church look like, now that we’re in a post mega-church building era? Perhaps, in cities, we will be those peculiar people that sold our cars and gave the money to churches in Syria and Egypt.

Perhaps we will now flood mass transit systems – and the world will take notice. Perhaps, in the new world, the Church will unwaveringly speak what we know as true even if our testimony costs us our homes, our liberty, or even our lives. Perhaps, we, as God’s children, will choose Truth over political correctness, and not allow God’s Truth to be bridled by godless people.

Brave New World

I don’t know what this new world holds of us. I don’t know if we have the will to rise to the occasion of becoming peculiar to our family, our friends, our workmates, our employers, our community, our country. Will we be a “Fred Rogers?” Will we carry Jesus into places we hate? I just don’t know. However, I do know that God is watching to see how we respond to this brave new world.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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Make No Provision For Sin

Are you a gadfly?

It is heartbreaking to look at the “grand view” of Christianity in our world today. The geography of the Church has shifted so as to be unrecognizable from just ten years ago. The locations where people are “all in” for Jesus are far away from America. What have we done to our country?

Great revivals, great miracles, great sacrifices, great humility, great love are alive and integrated into churches from India to Nigeria, and, surprisingly, on U.S. military bases, but rarely in the local churches in America. American churches suffer from what this Indian missionary preaches:

Do you know what the greatest sin of the century is? We preach to the preached, we bless the blessed, we convert the converted, and we baptize the baptized, we comfort the comforted, but we neglect the neglected.

Head-to-foot missionaryBhalchandra KambleMay 23 at 2:17 PM
[facebook url=”https://www.facebook.com/bhalchandra.kamble.37/videos/2515146078515786/” /]

Our human nature is to justify why we fail God and then try to attempt to persuade Him to give us “one more chance.”  However, it is crucial to understand that Jesus, our Lord, expects us to change. God expects us to receive His mercy so we convey His grace to other people.

Jesus is the Alpha, the beginning of all things, but He is also the Omega, the Last, the end of all things. He outlasts and transcends. He goes beyond the limits of our faults. We find this in Revelation 22:13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

It gives me hope to know that I cannot fail bigger than Jesus can save, but the mandate from heaven is, “Will I change? Will I be like Jesus, or will I become comfortable as a Christian gadfly?” I pray that I will change to be like Jesus.

Dry as a bone

Gary’s Lament

Having never been to Israel or any part of the Middle East I don’t know how the dust of Elisha’s tomb felt that is of spoken of in 2 Kings 13:21. However, I do know dust.

I’ve baled hay when it was so hot and so dusty that my nose clogged, and I had no saliva to spit the dust out of my mouth. Mud covered me from the soil mixed with sweat which instantly dried, turning into a patchwork of dried, mud tiles that covered my body, up my legs and down my arms. Hauling the bales up into the top of the barn while the temperature was easily 140 degrees caused every inch of my body itched.

So, yes, I know dust, And, I know the dehydration that comes with it, but even baling old hay doesn’t come close to the dehydration of my soul. Empty, useless, dry and dead, are what my senses tell me.

I know I’m not dead for I know Christ lives in me, and at times the Holy Spirit stirs in my writing. Yet, still, I’m so parched. Living water is my only hope. I am as the dead man described in 2 Kings 13:21.

2 Kings 13:21
Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

How I long to be thrown into Elisha’s tomb, to fall against that which seems dead, dry and turned to dust but, in truth, still has the power of God’s anointing upon it. A touch from that which has touched God is what I need. Where is he? Why is there no one to transfer God’s refreshing from Him to me? Even Elijah was refreshed by ravens.

Do it yourself, I can hear some say, but I know what my soul needs. So many of the modern churches are designed to make dead people comfortable not the lost uncomfortable, and certainly not to refresh the weary; to bring the empty into contact with God’s anointing.

Oh God, refresh me and restore me I pray. Plant me among “lively stones,” (1 Peter 2:5) people that are alive and know how to impart Your life to the dry, dusty and seemingly dead. Revive me I pray. Renew me I cry. Restore me I plea. As you’ve done in times past, do it again I pray. Amen.

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Go ahead

As a young man who had recently rededicated his life to Jesus, I attended a meeting that featured David Wilkerson and Nicky Cruz, with music by Dallas Holm. I will never forget Reverend Wilkerson’s challenge. I can’t quote it verbatim, but basically, he said, “If you are a Christian then live like Christ.”

Christ Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18). “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.” (1 Corinthians 15:45)

Now, if all goes well, we know that the very first cell (i.e., the zygote) that is grown in a woman when she becomes pregnant contains two sets of 23 chromosomes, one set from the father and one set from the mother. Inside that first cell is the DNA uniquely for that person, and that DNA will be replicated, exactly, in each of the trillions of cells in the baby’s body.

When Jesus shed His blood for us, it was absolutely unique blood, blood that never had been and never would be again. Christ’s blood was Emmanuel, “God with us.” At the most intimate level possible within a person, God was with mankind.

In the blood is life (Leviticus 17:11). Each cell of Christ’s blood was the Son of Man and the Son of God; not half man and half God, but fully man and fully God. How God made Jesus’s DNA, I don’t know, but I do know who Jesus is.

Christ’s blood poured out from the crown of thorns on His head, from the whip marks on His back, from the nails in His hands and feet, and from the spear in His side. He had surrendered His Spirit, died, and was buried. God’s gift to us seemed to have been wasted.

But, Jesus told us ahead of time, in John 12:24, “..unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” And that is what God has done and is doing. Presently, there are about 2.9 billion people that identify themselves as Christians in this world.

Then, on the third day, Jesus arose! God made forgiveness available to us through the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, and we received the hope of resurrection into the kingdom of God when Jesus rose from the dead.

Dallas Holm had not yet written, “I’ll Rise Again,” when I heard him sing at that revival, all those years ago. But, I can’t close without bringing it to our remembrance:

Verse 1
Go ahead, drive the nails in My hands;
Laugh at me, where you stand.
Go ahead, and say it isn’t Me;
The day will come, when you will see.

Chorus
‘Cause I’ll rise, again,
Ain’t no power on earth can keep Me down!
Yes, I’ll rise, again,
Death can’t keep Me in the ground.


https://youtu.be/RM0LJDoOHWQ

Image by Lisa Johnson from Pixabay

Honey, I wrote a new psalm!

I wonder if King David ran home to tell his wife, “Honey, I just wrote my 23rd Psalm, and I think it will be a hit!” Not.

Great works of God usually have simple beginnings and are rarely understood to be profound. Nevertheless, God often uses small things to birth unexpected world movements.

If we just look at Western culture over the past 150 years there have been three “Great Awakenings”, several “Outpouring of the Holy Spirit”, and other amazing works of God that started from “unimportant” people, and grew into national and global movements that still glorify Jesus and advance God’s kingdom, today.

We remember names like William Wilberforce, John and Charles Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, William J. Seymour, Smith Wigglesworth, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, and many others. There was nothing exceptional about them that we would have seen.

Take William J. Seymour for example. He was an African American, holiness preacher. Blind in one eye, Pastor Seymour was the second of eight children born to emancipated slaves and raised in extreme poverty in Louisiana. But, unlike the rest of the world, God chose him for a ministry more significant than he would ever have imagined. God used him to start the Azusa Street Revival.

An example of God’s handiwork is the Revival of 1800 in Logan County, Kentucky, which began as a traditional Presbyterian sacramental occasion. This meeting grew to a more significant meeting the next year and is generally considered to be America’s first camp meeting. Held at Cane Ridge in Bourbon County, Kentucky, under Barton W. Stone (1772–1844), numerous Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist ministers participated in the services. The six-day gathering attracted perhaps as many as 20,000 people.

A more recent example is “The People of Praise” Christian community. They have grown into a global movement that has brought powerful new experiences of the Holy Spirit to more than 500 million people since the beginning of the 20th century.

This movement started with 29 people in South Bend, IN, which covenanted themselves to one another and to God. The People of Praise was very much involved in the growth of charismatic renewal in the Catholic Church. There, this renewal has touched millions, including more than 30 percent of U.S. Catholics, according to a recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

From this history of exceptional revivals and anointed individuals has come the end of slavery in the British Empire, labor laws to protect workers, numerous missions boards and missionaries, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), colleges and universities, and mainline denominations such as the Wesleyans and Assemblies of God.

Revivals still break out, occasionally. The Toronto Airport revival and the Pensacola, Florida revival come to mind. Will God touch a life, affect a small group, and grow a worldwide revival, again? I think He will. God is just looking for people with humble hearts (James 4:6) and faith the size of a mustard seed. When anyone surrenders their pride, gives their heart to Jesus, and is reborn, that new Christian may just be the catalyst this world needs to learn the good news of Jesus.

Photo by Sarah Noltner on Unsplash

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