blogs about awakening
For whatever reason, in recent days, the sweet, melodious song from the 70s by the brother and sister team called The Carpenters has been swirling on my mind. The song? “Top of the World.”
Here are the lyrics:
"Such a feelin's comin' over me
There is wonder in 'most everything I see
Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes
And I won't be surprised if it's a dream
"Everything I want the world to be
Is now comin' true especially for me
And the reason is clear, it's because you are here
You're the nearest thing to heaven that I've seen
"I'm on the top of the world lookin' down on creation
And the only explanation I can find
Is the love that I've found ever since you've been around
Your love's put me at the top of the world
"Somethin' in the wind has learned my name
And it's tellin' me that things are not the same
In the leaves on the trees and the touch of the breeze
There's a pleasin' sense of happiness for me
"There is only one wish on my mind
When this day is through I hope that I will find
That tomorrow will be just the same for you and me
All I need will be mine if you are here"
Don’t we all dream for this sort of perfection, utopia, eternal bliss?
In some ways, it is totally right to have these aspirations. After all, we were created to live in Eden forever with God in eternal bliss. But, in the midst of utopia, we humans began to long for more, more, more. We wanted to be like God, so we took the bait offered us by Satan. Rather than trusting our Heavenly Father’s kindness, we chose poorly and mankind has suffered greatly ever since.
It is a truism that those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it. Well, we haven’t learned from our ancestors’ bad choices. We humans continue to look for life on our own rather than trusting God to daily meet our needs. Even we Christ-followers, grateful as we are for our free “ticket” to heaven when we die, we still are tempted to feel we need something more. “I need that achievement, that promotion, that vacation home, that marriage, that graduation, that next drink, that video game, that . . . . (you fill in the blank).”
Back to Karen Carpenter. The other half of The Carpenters was Karen’s older brother Richard. While starting small, they soon made it big, very big. They had it all: fame, riches, popularity. Karen’s singing voice is still considered by critics in our day one of the best female vocalists of all time.
But, despite all they had, it was never enough. Tragically, Karen had a succession of failed love relationships, including a marriage that she ended shortly after it began. Her self-image suffered from all this pain and she became anorexic. No counseling was sufficient to turn things around. Her weight dropped below 90 pounds and resulted in her dying of heart failure at the young age of 32.
Separately, Richard became dependent on prescription drugs that necessitated him going into treatment for a year. He is still alive, but says he misses his sister greatly.
Is the story of The Carpenters a unique one? By no means. Think of the tragic lives lived out by most of Hollywood’s stars and many sports stars and business and governmental leaders. The divorces, drug and alcohol addictions, depressions, suicides.
What is the answer?
I think of St Augustine’s profound truth which he learned the hard way after himself living so much of his early life for his own carnal desires: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
Some things in life are counter-intuitive. We think joy comes by doing whatever we want to do. The reality is that lasting joy surprisingly comes as we do what we should be doing from God’s point of view. As a juvenile court judge, I saw a microcosm of this truth played out almost daily. Kids would come before me who were totally out of control: not going to school, not obeying mom and dad at home etc. They came into my courtroom anything but joyful. I would threaten them with detention in our locked facility. They would inevitably plead with me for a second chance. Sometimes I would choose to extend some mercy and would say something like, “Ok, come back here in 3 weeks. But if you are still not doing what you are supposed to be doing, bring your toothbrush when you return, because you aren’t going home!” Often, in the intervening time they would clean up their act. When they returned, they almost always looked like different kids! They were almost giddy with joy. Why? Because they were doing the right thing and that brings joy!
The ultimate joy comes as we connect with our Heavenly Father and seek to obey His leading in our lives by His power. He will often allow trials in our lives (like the threatened and/or real pain I imposed on juveniles in my court) to get our attention and drive us back to Him.
God, please help us to seek you wholeheartedly and there to find your wonderful presence that is the ultimate place of joy.
Are you grieving over our nation?
Truth be known, I have spent parts of certain days recently feeling a great deal of heaviness about coronavirus and its impact on us as a nation. I'm sure some of that grief arises from self-pity--not being able to live my "normal" life.
But I believe that most of it relates to how God has wired me. I hate broken things! Since I was very young, I simply feel compelled to fix anything that doesn't work right. And, can we agree that America is badly broken?
I love our nation. While far from perfect, it has truly been a source of blessing to millions here and abroad. It has sent the Gospel to the farthest reaches of the globe and has ministered to the needs of hurting people virtually everywhere. The U.S. has stood against evil empires in other parts of the world. But now all is hanging in the balance. America seems broken almost beyond repair. I feel this hurt deeply; I so want it fixed!
People are getting sick, and many are dying from the virus. Who knows if and when "normal" will come back? Our national debt, that was already far too great, has now grown seemingly well beyond the place of no return. Our economy is in major free fall.
But, worst of all, we continue to have such internal division and strife in our land. Sadly, it is increasingly reminiscent of the time around the American Civil War in the 1860s.
None of us alive today lived during that grievous time in our nation's history. But just imagine how horrific it would feel to know that a total of 620,000 American young men in the prime of their lives would be killed in the Civil War! Talk about something broken needing repair! Imagine seeing your beloved nation split in two like that!
As I was praying recently about America, God reminded me of the words our dear President Abraham Lincoln penned in 1863 as he analyzed the reasons God had sovereignly allowed the Civil War to happen. While he could have pointed the finger of blame at those supporting slavery, he essentially said all Americans stand guilty of an even deeper sin. I feel very strongly that what he said then applies to America's divisive and sad situation today:
"And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
"And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
"It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness." (Abraham Lincoln, calling for a day of humiliation, fasting and prayer, April 30, 1863)
Just as our American ancestors did over 100 years ago, we too in our day have tragically forgotten God. Yes, we have the slogan "In God We Trust" written on our coins and dollar bills, but on all too few American hearts.
We have idols of technology, sports, leisure, money. We kill over 2,000 unborn babies "legally" every day in our land. We produce and consume pornography in great quantities. For many Christians, God is just one of their many interests, rather than the true center of their hearts and lives.
We could go on and on. But you get the point.
Friends, we need to do similarly to what Lincoln called for in 1863 and what God specifically calls us to do in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14,
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people [coronavirus?], if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
Will you pray we hear the message God is shouting to us? Before it is too late and God sends the U.S. to the dustbin of history along with the myriad of other nations in human history that did not heed God's warning?
Thank you for joining a growing group of American Christ-followers who are humbly taking this huge burden to God!
Why do we have abortion in America today?
Well, that’s simple, most people would answer. It’s because we have women with unwanted and/or unplanned pregnancies who are not now in a good position to give birth and raise a child, so they choose to end the pregnancy and go on with their lives.
In the face of that, many in the pro-life community are motivated to say, “You should have been smart like us and used birth control so you wouldn’t now have to take the life of that innocent unborn little boy or girl. But, because you weren’t smart, we will work to get the law to force you to have that unwanted child.”
Let me be so bold to suggest that the ultimate motivation of those who have abortions and that of many pro-lifers who oppose abortion but use birth control to restrict births is very similar. They both agree that sex is important, but that it’s totally acceptable to take deliberate steps to prevent the birth of a child. They simply disagree on the means of preventing that child from coming into our world. However, the result in both cases is really the same: no child is allowed to be born to grace our world and God’s Kingdom with his or her unique heart and life.
Remember how Jesus said hatred is the heart of murder, and lust is the heart of adultery? Well, loving sex and, by comparison, demeaning the value of a precious child created in the image of God is the heart of abortion. By that definition, while I have been pro-life all my life, I have had a pro-abortion attitude in the past, which I have repented of.
To end abortion in America, there is only one real answer: we Christ-followers need to lead by our godly example. We need to both believe and live the truth that bearing and raising a unique child is one of the greatest privileges God has given to us His people. Yes, raising a child is hard, expensive and time-consuming. Yes, it interferes with my career and my plans for my life.
But is the conception of a child some random, biological event? That’s not God’s perspective. See Psalm 139:13, where David is speaking to God: “For YOU formed my inward parts; YOU knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” Similar things are spoken concerning Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5), Job (Job 31:15) and the Apostle Paul (Galatians 1:15).
Imagine if every man and woman in America had this godly pro-child attitude! You could have an abortion clinic on every corner, and no one would ever use them!
Much more needs to be said on this issue, but the bottom line for Christ-followers is for Jesus to be LORD of EVERY area of our lives, including this area of our family size. And we will only hear His voice in this area if we who are married are REALLY willing to have as many children as He wishes. God doesn’t force us to get married. But if we do, there are certain expectations God has for our lives to bear His eternal fruit for His glory.
For much more on this issue, read our book “Sweeter by the Dozen: Making Jesus the Lord of our Family Size.”
Wow! Have you ever experienced anything like what we are going through now? Restaurants, movie theaters, sports facilities, schools, colleges, and our churches all closed! And it all has happened so quickly!
Fortunately, we can rely on the fact that this doesn't take our Sovereign Lord by surprise. Nor does it stop our prayers to Him, prayers that we know He hears.
Like many of you, we have been faithfully praying for revival and spiritual awakening for many years. There have been times I have been led to pray, "Lord, if your Church needs a wake up call--even if that call is painful--bring it on!" No way could I have foreseen this as a possible way for God to answer our prayers.
Now, I don't like pain any more than you do. But, we desperately need revival and spiritual awakening! And let's face it: we don't typically change our course in life unless we become uncomfortable with the way things are now.
You can see the same pattern throughout Scripture: when God's people lose their first love of God, God brings discipline in an attempt to bring them back. But if they don't respond to His discipline, while He is slow to anger, He will ultimately bring devastating judgment. Folks, He's clearly talking to our nation! But will we respond? I pray so!
I think God gets tired of our assuming that "real Christianity" is just putting our time in at church every week, throwing a few bucks in the offering plate, and otherwise just trying to be "nice" as we pursue what we selfishly think is really important in life.
My friends, Jesus gave His all for you and me. After we accept His free gift of salvation, He asks us to give ALL of ourselves to Him, to hold nothing back, to love Him with ALL our heart, soul, mind and strength. Not just "sprinkle a little Jesus" on top of the other interests in our lives that we consider of greater importance than Him and His Kingdom.
Since He put an end to our church attendance for awhile, as we sit in our homes, what will be our response? Like C.S. Lewis's comment at the top, It's high time to BE the real deal: our families, our relatives, our neighbors and our friends need to see Jesus Christ in and through us.
What will that take? Five things:
1. Daily reading the Word of God. Not just to check off the block, but first to ask God to show us, by His Spirit, what He wants to say to us. Then read it, alert to His word to us today.
2. Daily communicating in prayer with our Lord. Be IN His presence. As someone said, "Pray until you pray." Linger with Him, telling Him your heart, but also listening to His heart for you.
3. At least weekly engaging in life-on-life fellowship with other believers: "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:24-25). While you can't go to a church building, you can still meet with small groups of believers to help you and them deal with your blind spots. Feel free to meet as couples and/or families, but same gender gatherings can also help us be especially vulnerable and real. In many ways, this could be far more life-changing than merely going to a big church gathering and checking off the block: "Done!"
4. Being consistently filled with the Holy Spirit. Daily confess any known sin of pride, self-pity, fear, lack of faith, etc., and pray to be re-filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)
5. Being ready to give away your faith to those who don't know Him or have back-slidden and need to come back. Here is a helpful tool to sharing the Gospel. The fields are white unto harvest, but the laborers are few. Pray for more to go gather in the great harvest! And join them yourself!
For those of us in West Michigan, we have a growing number of prayer conference calls that have sprung up. This past Thursday, we had three different calling times to pray. Despite the late notice going out, we still had close to 100 folks from a wide variety of West Michigan churches on the calls and praying their hearts. We plan to continue this pattern every Thursday for the foreseeable future. See below for details.
JOIN US every Thursday at
8:00 am, 12:00 noon, and/or 7:00 pm for
West Michigan Prayer for:
Dealing with COVID-19 in the Power of the Spirit and for
Revival and Spiritual Awakening
To Join: dial (515) 606-5187 and,
when prompted, enter 965279#
Below are some of those facilitating the prayer times: Anita Christopher of West Michigan Prayer Center, Suzy Parrott of Ada Bible Church, Tim and Brooke Collier of 247 Prayer USA, and Randy and Marcia Hekman of Grand Awakening.
If you are like us, you have become weary of the nonstop bad news that now blankets the airwaves and internet. Central to it all seems to be this coronavirus (COVID-19) that is closing schools, churches, and colleges, emptying sports stadiums, cancelling airline flights, and even closing the U.S. Capitol.
What is going on? It's tempting to begin to panic. We find ourselves looking around for comfort, for a light at the end of this seemingly endless tunnel.
A couple days ago, I was drawn again to the message of that old, but very popular song by Anne Murray "A Little Good News." Feel free to click on this link and listen for that key line, "We sure could use a little good news today." (Truth be known, watching this video the other day actually drove me to a few tears. God made us with hearts that long for the perfection of the Eden we lost and the Heaven that awaits us His children.)
But let me suggest to you that in spite of this crisis we face, we have LOTS of good news right now! No, I am not delusional as I say this. I base my belief on solid biblical grounds. Allow me to explain:
1. God is still sovereign over ALL things. Science and chance are NOT in charge. He knows what He is doing, and those of us who follow Him are not victims; we are MORE than conquerors. (Romans 8:37). He has promised to protect us. When you are tempted to get scared, read and meditate on Scripture, like Psalm 91:9-10, "Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge—no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent."
2. As we pray and obey, we believe that God can and will get good out of this pandemic. Why do I say this. Because now people are forced to face their own mortality. The death rate in this life is still 100 percent! But most people don't usually think about this much. The uncertainties that surround us are making people hungry for security, which often makes them ready to hear the life-giving truth of the Gospel! Let's share it!! Jesus put it this way, "Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die." (John 11:25-26) When we come to Christ in faith, our spirits begin eternal life. That is too good an offer to pass up!
Related to this, a couple of respected friends independently forwarded me this video to watch. It is truly outstanding!! Bottom line, it tells how a Jewish follower of Christ sent a prophetic word to our President, asking him to declare a National Day of Prayer for this coronavirus issue. In response, our President declared TODAY a National Day of Prayer!! I firmly believe we are going to see some amazing things happen all for God's glory!!!! LOTS of Good News!!
3. I also firmly believe this virus will do what we have been praying for (and Jesus prayed for in John 17:20-23): it will increase our unity as His followers! I pray we will finally give up our petty differences as His followers and show the world our love for each other which will have such powerful results! Look at John 13:35, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And also John 17:23, "I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."
4. Finally, I anticipate real revival and spiritual awakening will come from this pandemic. Look again at the oft-repeated words of 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence [or plague] among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
Friends, let's humble ourselves, pray, seek His presence, and really turn from our prayerlessness, love of comfort and stuff, lack of sharing our faith, self-centeredness, etc and be ALL IN with Jesus! Then just watch Him pour out His Spirit in power on our nation for His glory and the salvation of millions!!!
Let's do it, together!!
I recently watched a great video by Derek Prince about intercessory prayer. In it, this former Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge University in England, describes the incredible power we possess as Christ-followers when we pray for our government and our nation consistent with the will of God. He gave a specific illustration that he personally witnessed concerning prayer for Kenya in 1960. I encourage you to take the time to listen to his story and teaching.
As I was praying about the agenda for our recent prayer meeting, God brought to mind how England potentially avoided a Civil war in the early 1800s over the issue of slavery. You see, in the late 1700s and early 1800s England's economy was bolstered hugely by the slave trade carried on by a number of British business owners. Their employees would kidnap men and women in Africa, transport them to America and sell them, making a huge profit.
One of my heroes, William Wilberforce, a member of Parliament and a devout Christian, tried unsuccessfully for 17 years to have England outlaw the barbaric, yet very profitable slave trade. But providentially, through Wilberforce's writings and speeches and the prayers of many, the English people were touched deeply by the Second Great Awakening. As a result of the heart change that occurred, William was finally able to get the votes he needed to outlaw the slave trade. It happened in 1807, 18 years after he began his quest. The final vote in Parliament to end the slave trade was 283 to 16! God obviously moved in power, allowing this great controversy in England to be settled peacefully by a vote rather than by a greater conflict!
So, the Second Great Awakening that lasted for decades in England and America had a profound impact on both nations. But by 1840 in the U.S., things had pretty much reverted back to more normal times where people lost the great selflessness and courage that a fresh move of God brings. Charles Darwin's teaching of evolution during those days suggesting the superiority of certain types of people only added more fuel to the fires of racial conflict and seemingly providing cover for those advocating and practicing slavery.
But then came the great Revival of 1857 which impacted millions of Americans. People were praying in huge numbers all across our nation. Yet, in contrast with the Second Great Awakening that went on for decades, this revival was short lived: it was largely over in 1858.
Fast forward three short years to April 12, 1861: the beginning of the American Civil War that ultimately resulted in over 600,000 soldiers' deaths. To suggest that Americans at that time had lost track of God and earnest prayer is not idle conjecture on my part. Listen to what President Lincoln said in March of 1863 during the dark days of our Civil War in his call for a national day of fasting and prayer: "We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!"
Here's my point: what if the Revival of 1857 had continued and grown into a full-fledged Great Spiritual Awakening? What if, as a result of deep heart change, devoted Christ followers in both the North and the South continued to earnestly pray that God would show them what God expects of people whose God is the Lord that would lead them to acknowledge the evils of American slavery?
What if they saw Darwin's anti-scriptural craziness for what it is: lies from the pit of hell. That all men and women, boys and girls--regardless of skin tone--are wonderful creations of God, made in His image, descendants of Adam and Eve, and ought not to be owned by others but rather deserve to be loved as our dear neighbors consistent with Christ's command to love our neighbors as ourselves?
What if the vast majority of citizens in America became totally willing, for God's sake, to forgo their love of money like our British counterparts did earlier in the century, and thereby to give up anything that offends our Lord?
Let me ask this: could/would the Civil War have been avoided if our people genuinely and wholeheartedly were following the teachings of Jesus? For sure!! And was not this God's will for them? Absolutely!! And are not the earnest prayers of righteous people hugely powerful and effective when we pray according to God's will? Yes!!
Bottom line, I believe that the bloodiest war in our nation's history could have been entirely avoided if God's people had continued to be revived and were living wholeheartedly and selflessly for our Lord instead of falling back into their comfortable "Churchianity" where we "sprinkle a little Jesus" on the surface of our lives. And I further believe that fervent, united prayer is the essential catalyst to promote ongoing revival and spiritual awakening.
So, coming back to the present, as our nation today becomes more and more divided, is it stretching things too much to suggest that we could face growing national conflict that could get pretty messy as trends continue to accelerate in our land? Shouldn't we Christians realize how crucial are our prayers and relentless pursuit of God at this time for revival and awakening?
Recognizing where we are as a nation, but also acknowledging the mighty power of united prayer, we have increased the fervency of our prayer for our nation in recent prayer gatherings. God seems to be confirming in our hearts that our prayers ARE making a difference. Please join us!
left to right: William Wilberforce, Charles Darwin and President Abe Lincoln
Many years ago, we lived near a large woods where I would often hike with our kids. Near a small pond in the woods was a tree that had a birdhouse nailed to its trunk. I would sometimes (with tongue in cheek) say to my kids, "That birdhouse just happened by itself. A log was on the ground and got pushed into the tree by a huge wind. Then some stones shaped like nails also blew up and nailed the stick to this tree."
In response, my kids would in unison say, "Dad, no way! Somebody put that birdhouse up there." Deep down they knew I had to be joking. And, of course, they were right. I was trying to make a bigger point that, even though we don't know who or how or when, the evidence was unmistakable: intelligence and focused energy produced and installed that birdhouse.
How much more when we look at the overwhelming design, beauty and order of the Universe! It HAD to be designed by an incredible intelligence to make it and then to keep it functioning.
Why in the world do otherwise smart people conclude differently? Because they have embraced a worldview friends of mine would call "One-ism." That is: they believe there is only one reality: the universe that we know and live in. There is no God outside of it. So since the universe is all there is, we are forced to somehow explain how all this order and beauty created itself. (The other worldview, that Christians should embrace, is called by my friends "Two-ism" which holds that an all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God exists outside of His Universe who has created it and sustains it.)
One-ism says that despite the Second Law of Thermodynamics ("The entropy (randomness) of the universe is always increasing."), given enough time, order will somehow flow from disorder. Which, of course, begs another question asked even by atheist Richard Dawkins (for which he admits he has no answer), "Why is there something and not nothing?"
And how about the critically important constants in the Universe that must be precisely what they are for life to exist at all. Constants like the gravitational constant, Planck's constant, the speed of light, etc. etc? And where in our own experience have we ever waited long enough for our socks automatically to be placed back in the correct drawer by themselves? Or for a birdhouse to magically appear on a tree?
My friends, the fact is we live on a tiny speck in a huge universe with billions of galaxies each filled with billions of stars. Right now you are traveling at 67,000 miles per hour around the sun. Our relatively thin atmosphere with the right gas mixture and our precise distance from our sun amazingly allow higher forms of life to exist on this planet. Our Creator God sees every bird that falls from the tree. He knows each one of us better than we know ourselves, yet He loves us completely! This is not just our religious opinion. This is ABSOLUTELY TRUE!!
We need to quit playing defense and apologizing for believing in the God of the Bible and start boldly (and lovingly) sharing its wonderful truths with our neighbors, fellow students and fellow workers who don't yet know Him. Need some help? Go here to download a helpful card with which you can share the Gospel. Below is the front and back of the Gospel card.
"You do not have, because you do not ask." (James 4:2)
Spiritual awakenings are happening in a number of places around the world right now. We hear of many coming to faith in Christ in unexpected places like Iran, India and China. Places where people often pay a high price to follow Jesus.
Let me ask you this: Could persecution actually BE one of the chief reasons the gospel is spreading so rapidly in those nations?
You see, for people to come to Christ, they need to see more than just "nice" people who go to church on Sunday and generally behave themselves during the rest of the week. They need to see Jesus! When people are threatened with imprisonment or worse for following Christ, they are confronted with a choice: either courageously stand for their Lord or capitulate to the pressure.
When Christians boldly and lovingly endure hardship, they powerfully communicate the reality of Christ to a watching world.
This reminds me of the time the founder of the Voices of the Martyrs ministry, Richard Wurmbrand, came to my college campus many years ago. Richard was a Romanian pastor at a time when Christians were often persecuted for their faith in that land. He himself had to endure 14 years of imprisonment accompanied by torture for his faith. During his speech at my school, Richard took off his shirt, and showed us some of the 18 scars he had resulting from his numerous beatings and other painful assaults.
Besides seeing his injuries, I will never forget Richard's words comparing Romanian believers with those in our country: "In Romania," he said, "you have only one kind of Christian, a Christlike Christian. However, in America, you have many kinds of 'Christians.'"
Has it been too easy to be a Christian in America? Are we like those worldly believers whom the Apostle Paul describes in Philippians 3? There, after challenging the Philippian Christians to follow his example of forgetting the past and "pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus," Paul then sadly tells where some errant believers have gone: "For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself." (Philippians 3:18-21)
Do we need more pain in our lives before we pray more, before we share our faith more, before we set our hearts and minds on heaven more? Do we really need full scale persecution before we really let Christ live courageously through us? Or can we choose--even now in our relative ease--to be "all in" for Jesus and His Kingdom? I pray so!
A growing group of Christ-followers in West Michigan are praying for the church in our area to be revived, to come fully alive, leading to the biggest spiritual awakening in the history of America. Will you pray daily for that to happen in your community too?
Someone has well said, "Revival and spiritual awakening are going on somewhere in the world today. Why not here? Why not now?"
Consider Leonard Ravenhill's quote at the top of this letter. Do we want revival enough that it leads us to fervently pray and enthusiastically obey until He graces us with His awesome power and manifest presence?
This video about the Second Great Awakening will remind you of the amazing things that accompany spiritual awakenings.
"You do not have because you do not ask God." (James 4:2)
Jesus never taught His disciples how to preach, but He repeatedly taught them, by word and through His own personal example, how to pray.
In Luke 11, after giving His followers what we call The Lord's Prayer, Jesus told one of the most amazing stories about the manner in which He wants us to pray. Please don't let your familiarity with this story cause you to miss its incredible impact.
"Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence." (Luke 11:5-8 NLT)
Wow! "Shameless persistence!" Other translations render this term "shameless audacity" (NIV), "importunity" (KJV), "impudence" (ESV), or "persistence and boldness" (Amp).
Does God really want us to pray with this sort of attitude? Aren't we supposed to treat God with incredible reverence and respect?
Yes, but we are His dear children. And He is 100 percent faithful to every promise He has ever made. Friends, He wants us to trust Him and go to Him with our hearts fully expecting He will certainly answer our prayers if we pray: (1) consistent to the Word of God; (2) for His glory, not ours; and (3) prompted by the Spirit in our hearts.
If these three aspects are true for something you are praying about, DO NOT QUIT KNOCKING on heaven's door until the answer comes! He wants us to pray with this sense of expectancy.
When I talk to folks about prayer, I am often reminded of my dear son Daniel. While he is now an MD and is bringing God's blessings to many, when Dan was only about 4 years old, he had a habit of asking me difficult questions. Like . . . "Dad, how did God get started?" I would answer, "Well, Dan, God has always been." With a look on his face of total disbelief, Dan would say, "Dad, how is that possible????"
When I couldn't satisfy Daniel's insatiable curiosity, he would essentially grab my face with his two hands and say, "Dad, just tell me!!" Did that make me upset with Dan? On the contrary, it would endear me to him. He thought his dad knew everything (which, obviously, is very far from the truth!)
Sometimes, I do the same thing with my Heavenly Father (who DOES know everything and is all-powerful and all-loving as well!) When I believe He wants to do something for those I love and for His glory, I have the sense of holding His face with my hands and coming to Him with shameless audacity. As I grab His face, I see God smiling at me. And, my friend, He will do the same with you!
Will you pray with a growing group of us in greater Grand Rapids who are praying with this sort of persistence for revival and spiritual awakening in our area for His glory and the salvation of many?
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. “You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:9-13)