Do You Really Want Revival?

Flaming Cross Christian ArtWe hear it all the time. “A revival is coming to America.” “We are praying for revival.” “Only revival will save America.” Everywhere you look, there are prophecies about the coming revival. But sometimes I wonder if most American Christians really want revival, or if they just want a religious experience that makes the feel good.

American Christians are comfortable. Even the poorest American is richer and safer than most people in the world. True revival would make them uncomfortable. True revival will mess you up.It will challenge you. It will change your perspective and your life. It will humble you when God moves on you in unexpected ways. It will explode your theology and understanding. It will put you at odds with the culture – even the modern Christian pop culture. So the question is do we really want revival? Here are some of the ways revival manifested itself in the book of Acts and throughout history.

Praying African Americn boyIntense unified prayer proceeds a move of God. In Acts 2:1, the disciples were all praying in one place and one accord. Before the First Great Awakening, the Moravians started a prayer meeting in 1727 that lasted one hundred years. The Great Awakening was said to be in its greatest intensity between 1727 and 1757. If we truly want revival, we will pray for a spirit of revival prayer to sweep through the church.

Man in waterSigns and Wonders Accompany Revival. This is hard for some to accept. When revival comes, it is messy. God moves in strange and unusual ways. I’ve heard some say the Holy Spirit is not weird. That doesn’t ring true when we look at historical results of revival.

Acts 2:2-3 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

The early Christian revival in Acts wasn’t the only one that had strange signs and wonders accompany it. Trypho said in the second century, “For the prophetical gifts remain with us even to the present time.”  Sarah Edwards, wife of Great Awakening preacher Jonathan Edwards described an experience that incapacitated her for days which she described as “being swallowed up in God.” In the Cane Ridge revival in 1801, it was described this way. “20,000 people swirled about the grounds—watching, praying, preaching, weeping, groaning, falling. Though some stood at the edges and mocked, most left marveling at the wondrous hand of God.”

Laughing, crying, being slain in the Spirit, groaning, and other manifestations make make the modern church uncomfortable. Many have scorned Christians and churches where unusual signs and wonders occur, but if we truly want revival, we’ll have to accept the unusual and jump into the river of God.

Generosity and Self-Sacrifice accompany revival. Acts 2:45 says, “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” In the Moravian revival, two men were willing to sell themselves in slavery to share the Gospel.

Cute african girlA spirit of holiness and repentance is always present in revival. In the book of Acts, Peter preached, “You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.” Ananias and Sapphira were killed by God for lying to the Holy Spirit. In Acts 19, new Christians brought their occult materials and burned them.

Throughout history repentance and holiness have also been a major part. During the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards preached Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, and people held on to the church posts in fear of the judgement of God. During the Jesus revival in the 1970s, young men and women brought their drug to the altar and left them there. During the Welsh Revival, Reverend Hertford said this.

“I found the poor children whom Mr. A kept at school were increased to about thirty boys and girls. I went in immediately to the girls. As soon as I began to speak, some of them burst into tears, and their emotion rose higher and higher. But it was kept within bounds until I began to pray. A cry then arose, which spread from one to another, till almost all cried aloud for mercy, and would not be comforted.”

True revival will cause us to speak out about the sins of our culture and grieve over our own sins.

Earth SunriseMissions and evangelism accompany revival. 3,000 were saved on the day of Pentecost. People accused the disciples of “turning the world upside down”. The Moravian movement sent out 300 missionaries and started the modern missionary movement. Charles Finney, during the Second Great Awakening, was president of Oberlin College when it sent missionaries all over the world.

If we really want God to move, we will yield to whatever God wants to do. Revival will mess up our church structure and services. It will change our lives and cause us to be willing to obey God no matter how it makes us look to others in the Christian world. God is too big to fit in your comfortable revival box. Let God move the way He chooses and let the River of God overflow.

10 Things That Would Happen if a Great Awakening Swept America

Man is Praying to Holy SpiritI, like many of you, am praying for another great awakening to sweep over the United States. Based on revivals and great awakenings in history, here are ten things we could expect if our prayers are answered.

1. Sports games, movie theaters, and other entertainment venues would begin to shut down on Sundays. It wouldn’t be profitable for them to stay open since most people would be in church.

2. Wild manifestations would appear, some of God and some because of emotional excitement. Some preachers and church member would lament that the services are out of order.

3. People would spontaneously meet in homes during the week for prayer meetings and Bible studies.

Young Boy with hands up on the Blue Sky and Cloud Background

4. Youth and children would be a major part and would have Bible studies and prayer meeting in school whether they were allowed or not. They would also tell their friends about Jesus and lead many of them to Christ.

5. People would do radical things like give all their money to the poor, decide to become missionaries, or start street preaching outside of bars.

6. People would be kicked out of their churches for getting too excited. Because of this, new churches and denominations would rise up.

7. A wave of persecution would hit because those who are resisting God would become angry. Some of this persecution would come from the church.

Glowing Bible with Cross on Brown Backround8. False doctrines would rise up to try to deceive. The real church would immerse themselves in the Word to rightly divide the Word of God.

9. Every area of our culture would be effected: news media, education, sports, entertainment, etc.

10. God would require a greater surrender and yielding to Him in ways we might not like.

What Does the Church Need to Do to Attract Millennials?

There is a movement in the church world today to make the church more seeker friendly for the young adult generation. Millennials, those born between 1981 – 2003, have turned their backs on the church, so the idea of drawing them back is a noble pursuit.

As much as churches want to draw millennials, some of the seeker friendly methods many churches are embracing might be driving young adults away from the church.

Here’s some things the church  needs to consider as they craft a plan to attract Millennials.

Millennials want relationships.

In the past, relationships in the church were fostered through Sunday School, mid-week groups, and fellowships that included both age group and multigenerational activities. Many churches have ditched these activities. The thought behind this is that everyone is too busy. Large Sunday church services don’t foster these kind of relationships.

Some churches have divided the congregation up into age groups to the extreme where a child can go from birth to eighteen without ever getting to know the older saints in the church. So teens who do go to church all their lives, when they become adults and enter the adult sanctuary, feel left out and isolated and often leave.

Millennials need relationships. Churches that end Sunday School, midweek sessions and fellowships without offering some kind of small group replacement and opt for only large services on Sundays will drive away the very group they seek to draw.

Millennials want to participate.

In the past, church was mostly an event where everyone participated. They would sing in the choir, teach a class, help clean the church, or even if they didn’t do any of those things, they would sing along with the congregation and participate in other ways. Many seeker friendly churches today have ended some of these things to attract young adults.

Even the seeker friendly worship music and casual hip praise leaders can turn millennials off. These churches have ended praise choirs so that only the best singers and musicians can participate on stage. Then these churches will dim the lights, and blast the music to make it feel like a concert. Even then, if a millennial wants to participate by singing along, he’s discouraged by a soloist singing most of the lyrics with the praise team only joining in on the chorus. This makes him feel like he is interrupting the concert if he raises his voice.

Also testimonies and exuberant and participatory praise are no longer allowed in some churches because it might offend the very people who are looking for a way to be a part of the worship.

Many other positions where the millennial would have been able to participate are given to professionals like cleaning crews or are only given to older adults. Eighteen to thirty year olds are not allowed to teach or lead ministry where professionals are hired to do so. when it becomes more of a concert instead of a worship experience they can participate in.

Churches also avoid reaching outside of the church walls where millennials who are the volunteer generation would thrive. Their outreach tends to be mass mailing, TV, and newspaper ads instead of outreach millennials could join in.

Millennials are team oriented.

Most churches have a hierarchy of leadership that goes from the pastor, to the staff, then down to the congregation. The pastor, his staff, and his board make most of the decisions with no input from the congregation. Millennials are more team oriented. They want to share ideas and brainstorm about how to live out the Christian life in an effective way. The traditional hierarchy turns them off. Millennials like a more Acts Early Church type leadership.

Millennials aren’t impressed by the way we’ve always done things.

We can’t compromise on the Bible or what the Bible says sin is. If we do, we’ve made the church ineffective. But at the same time, some of our cultural rules aren’t in the Bible. Don’t look down on millennials for dressing casually or wanting to hang out and drink coffee before church. These are man-made traditions not Biblical statutes.

Millennials want something worth giving their lives for.

Many of the seeker friendly churches make discipleship too easy to attract millennials. These churches emphasize a loving God without holiness and a cheap grace without repentance. Basically all a member has to do is attend church once a week and raise his hand during an invitation to be saved.

There’s no talk about denying ourselves, discipleship, or taking the narrow road. Millennials crave discipleship. Millennials won’t attend church because they should. They won’t live right because they should. They want something that is worth living or dying for. They can find that through Jesus Christ, but they have to be shown He’s more than an historic figure that causes a social gathering once a week.

Biblical discipleship needs to be in the church if we want to attract a generation that would be willing to give their lives for the Gospel. Millennials don’t want to be lukewarm. They need the church to show them the way.

Persecution In America

Persecution of Christians has come to the United States of America. It’s subtle and behind the scenes, but it’s there. This country that has had over two hundred year of religious freedom written into its Constitution is slowly eroding those freedoms, and because of the cultural climate, government, the court system, and the educational system are not just allowing it; in many cases, they’re the ones encouraging it.

I’m not one to go on about conspiracy theories or to spread alarmist rumors that don’t bear fact checking. So let me give you a few examples.

Home Bible Studies: Our right to assemble and worship is being attacked through zoning laws. Here’s a few news stories that show this.

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

Violation of Conscience: New laws such as the ones requiring Christian owned hospitals to violate their consciences by provide contraception and abortion in their health care packages are surfacing more often now. Here’s an example.

Bullying Christians: In education, it’s unacceptable to bully anyone except those who believe in the Bible. Here’s a link to a video that’s supposedly anti-bullying that was shown to a group of high schoolers. I won’t post the video on my site because it’s too offensive.

http://youtu.be/alXxsKLVofM

These are only a few examples. What concerns me is not that we will be persecuted. The Bible promised that believers would be persecuted. I’m concerned about Christians who follow Jesus because they believe life here on Earth will be better if they follow Jesus. But that’s not always true.

Here are some things to remember when persecution comes:

Never waver about what the Word of God says. Never. Ever.

Don’t be offensive. Jesus was a friend of sinners. If people are offended because of the message of Christ, that’s one thing. But if we act obnoxious and unloving, it’s not persecution that we’re suffering. We’re reaping what we sow.

Don’t blame persecution for your own faults or for circumstances. You’re not being persecuted because you didn’t work hard enough, talked about Jesus when you should have been working, and have a holier than thou attitude toward co-workers. You deserve to be fired. Also when people can’t accommodate you, it’s not always because you’re a Christian.

Don’t do anything to bring shame to the name of Christ.

If you do make a stand for Christ by breaking the law, expect to pay the consequences, and let God be glorified through you.

Remember the heroes of faith. You’re not the first to experience trials, and you won’t be the last. Do as the saints of old did, and praise God that you’ve been counted worthy to suffer for Christ.

Here’s a few Scriptures to remember when persecution comes whether through the government, education, work, friends, or even through the organized church:

Matthew 5:10-12 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

John 15:18-20  If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

Romans 8:35-39  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

1 Peter 4:12-14  Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

1 Peter 4:16  Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

Are We On God’s Side?

Joshua 5:13-14(ICB) Joshua was near Jericho. He looked up and saw a man standing in front of him. The man had a sword in his hand. Joshua went to him and asked, “Are you a friend or an enemy?”  The man answered, “I am neither one. I have come as the commander of the Lord’s army.” Then Joshua bowed facedown on the ground. He asked, “Does my master have a command for me, his servant?”

In Joshua 1-5, God commanded Joshua to take the promised land. He set about doing just that by sending spies into Jericho, crossing the Jordan River, and preparing for battle. Israel was God’s nation, and they were doing what God wanted, yet the night before the battle, an angel appeared and said he wasn’t on Joshua’s side. He was on God’s side. That meant if Joshua followed God and was on God’s side, he would all right. But if he didn’t follow God, it wouldn’t matter if God had been for Israel in the past.

We’re celebrating the birthday of our nation next week. The United States of America started as a nation under God. Most of the founding fathers served God. The concept of American exceptionalism was born. American exceptionalism basically means that as long as we follow God – are on God’s side – God will bless and use the United States for His glory. That doesn’t mean we’ve always done right. We’ve made horrible mistakes. But we have always considered God as the center of our nation’s history.

If you want to read more about this, check out the blog posts at this link.

Even though our nation has been founded on God, that doesn’t mean God is for the United States. God will bless the United States as our country does right and follows after Him. No nation can claim that God is on our side. As a nation, we should be on God’s side.

Lately I’m not sure we are on God’s side anymore. I’m not just talking about some of the immoral decisions made by politians. There have always been politicians who didn’t act wisely or justly. But we’ve always had US presidents who claimed to be Christians and wanted what was best for America.

Just as Israel had forgotten it’s spiritual heritage in the past, we’ve made the mistake of believing God is on our side as a nation. God is not on our side – never has been. Either we are on His side or we’re not. I fear, at this point in time, we’re not.

But that’s true of people as well. Just because you are a Christian and go to church doesn’t mean God is on your side. But if you are on God’s side, He will fight for you and bless you. Here’s how to be on God’s side as a nation, as a church, and as a Christian.

Joshua 1:7-9(ICB)  Be strong and brave. Be sure to obey all the teachings my servant Moses gave you. If you follow them exactly, you will be successful in everything you do.  Always remember what is written in the Book of the Teachings. Study it day and night. Then you will be sure to obey everything that is written there. If you do this, you will be wise and successful in everything.  Remember that I commanded you to be strong and brave. So don’t be afraid. The Lord your God will be with you everywhere you go.”

Be strong and brave. Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing. Politicians, celebrities, and the media tell us that what is right is wrong and what is wrong is right. It’s to the place where Christians are bullied by the politically correct for doing what’s right. But if you want to be on God’s side, be brave and do the right thing anyway.

Obey God. It’s sometimes easier to do what we want than to do what God wants. But if we want to be on God’s side, we will obey Him.

Learn what God’s Word says. What other people say, even what Christian preachers say, isn’t as important as what God says. His Word, the Bible, is truth. To be on God’s side, learn what it says, and make a stand for it even if it’s politically incorrect.

Remember God is with you. When you’re on God’s side, you don’t have to be afraid because God is always with you. He will never leave you.

I want to be on God’s side. How about you?

Whose Side are We On?

Many times, in politics, churches, or ministries, people will have certain opinions or beliefs and go forward with their position with the statement, “God is on my side.”

I’ve been thinking about a passage in Joshua. This is a time that Joshua and Israel was obeying God. They had just dedicated themselves to the Lord and had recovered from being circumcised. They had crossed the Jordan River on dry land and were about to attack Jericho. Their leader, Joshua, had just declared his devotion to God, and the people declared they would follow him. If anyone had a right to say “God is on my side” it would be Joshua.

Joshua 5:13-14(NRSV) Once when Joshua was by Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you one of us, or one of our adversaries?” He replied, “Neither; but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and he said to him, “What do you command your servant, my lord?” 

An man appeared to Joshua with his sword drawn. Joshua asked the man if he was on Israel’s side or on the enemy’s side. The man answered that he wasn’t on anyone’s side. He was the commander of God’s army. Most scholars believe that man was Jesus Christ, the commander of the armies of the Lord. So Joshua was basically asking God is He was on Joshua’s side when he should have been making sure he was on God’s side.

Before we chide Joshua for what he said, we need to remember we often do the same thing. We have a favorite political candidate we think best typifies our values, and we ask God to be on his side. We launch out in ministry or a church project, and we ask God to bless it and be with us. There’s a difference of opinion among believers in a church, and we know our opinion is right, so we expect God to be on our side. Or we go forward with a decision in our personal lives, one we believe honors God, and we ask God to bless it and give us favor.

But God is never on anyone’s side. Never. Instead we are on His side, or we are against Him. That means we can be totally right, doing the right thing, and still not be on God’s side.

How is that possible? Here’s a few ways we could do that.

Suppose we believe we should vote for a certain candidate for president because he’s against abortion and gay marriage. These are good things. But what if somebody believes in their heart they shouldn’t vote for the man because of his spiritual believes. If we are ugly to that person, are we really on God’s side? What if the person believes they should vote for the other candidate? How do we treat that person then? How would we treat them if we were on God’s side?

When it comes to ministry, there are many people doing good things for the wrong reasons. Sometimes most of the programs and ministries in the church are not things God directed us to do but things we thought were a good idea to grow the church. That’s why church calendars are often too full with little effectiveness.

Then there’s our personal lives. Many times it’s not what we do that’s the problem. The problem is our attitude and motives. That’s why it’s important not just to do what we think God wants but to be on God’s side.

To his credit, Joshua immediately fell on his face, called himself the man’s servant or slave, and asked what he should do. That’s always where it starts when we want to be on God’s side. We need to humble ourselves, recognize that God is in control of our lives, and be ready for radical worship and obedience which is the only reasonable response for what Christ did for us.

So how about you? Is God on your side or are you on God’s side?

Stay at Home Moms vs Working Moms – The Debate

An age-old debate about stay-at-home moms verses working moms is in the news this week, and I’m surprised. I really thought we as a nation was past this pettiness. My mom was a working mom. I was both a stay-at-home mom and a working mom at different times in my life. My daughter-in-law is a stay-at-home mom. I don’t see how any of this is relevant to anything. Almost every mom makes choices based on what’s best for her, her children, and her family based on her situation and economic realities. There are no cookie cutter lives with God. He expects us to treat each other and the decisions we make with respect.

Historical Reference: This wasn’t an issue 100 years ago. Almost all moms stayed at home. Almost all dads stayed at home. The homestead farm was their family business, and everyone in the family contributed. The industrial revolution started to change that. Men began to work in factories while the women tried to keep up the family farm and raise the children. Then World War 2 came along, and women were called upon to help out in the factories because of the shortage of men. When the war was over, that’s when the debate started. Media worked at getting women back in the home so the returning veterans would have employment. The debate hit its highest point during the women’s rights era circa 1960’s through 1980’s. But in the 90’s, the debate calmed down because the issue wasn’t so cut and dry.

Many Choices: There are many choices families can make which makes the debate a mute point in most circles. Of course politics isn’t in tune with what most people debate.

Women can choice to work a full-time job and hire well-trained people or relying on family members to take care of their children while they’re at work. Moms who do this show an example to their children that gender isn’t a factor in doing a job well. They also usually are the ones who shoulder most of the parenting responsibility after working eight hours a day. Some women make this choice because they feel it’s best for them and their families. Some have no choice because of economic realities or because they are single moms and the only source of support for their children.

Some stay-at-home moms choice to pinch pennies, clip coupons, and forgo some luxuries to stay home and take care of their children instead of paying someone else to do the job. They may even choose to continue to stay at home That choice should also be respected.

But there are many other choices people make. Some stay-at-home moms do volunteer work that working moms don’t have time to do. They may be president of to PTA or children’s pastor at their local church. Others may choose to babysit working moms’ children so they can stay home with their children. Then there are the stay-at-home dads who do an excellent job raising children while the moms make a living.

The main reason the debate is no longer valid is because the lines are blurred. Moms can work out of their homes. Some moms are able to work for their companies from their homes because of computers and the Internet. Some moms have home businesses such as being 31 or Arbonne consultants, selling homemade products at trade shows and flea markets, or writing novels or magazine articles. Other moms work part-time or are stay-at-home moms until their children start school then shift to full-time working moms. Only some politicians don’t realize that the choices are endless.

Scriptural Reference: Some point to the Bible to decide whether working outside the home is valid for Christians. If you really search Scripture, you’ll find that it is vague on the issue mainly because it wasn’t an issue back then. Moms and dads worked in the home and sold their goods in the marketplace.

Many point to the Proverbs 31 woman as someone to emulate. Let’s look at a few verses in Proverbs 31.

vs. 13-14 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.

vs. 16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

These verses imply she’s a working mom.

vs. 15 She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.

No wonder she can work so hard. She has servants. This verse shows that if you work hard outside the home, there’s nothing wrong with hiring help.

vs. 20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

It looks like she also volunteers.

vs. 21-22 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

vs. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

These verses make it sound like she is a stay-at-home mom.

vs. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.

Maybe she works out of her home to make a living.

The only thing I really get from Proverbs 31 is that if I honor God with whatever I prayerfully choose to do, then I’ll be a Proverbs 31 women.

It’s time to end the debate and accept one another’s choices. What do you think of this debate?