blogs about awakening
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)
No one, especially none of us pampered Americans, likes pain. While pain can warn us to quickly take our hand away from that hot stove to prevent deeper burning, it’s still not something we long for. Those who relish pain we call masochists.
Yet pain is an inescapable part of life. Not just the physical pain of stubbing our toes, jumping into a pool full of cold water or getting bit by an angry dog; but emotional and relational pain that, in some respects, can be more debilitating and even permanent if we let it.
Given the choice, wouldn’t we all choose a pain-free existence?
But should that be the case for us followers of Christ? Sure, we would love to grow into all God intends for us without pain. But students of the Bible know that because of our self-centered natures, we need pain to motivate us to mature in godliness.
So, we are exhorted by Paul to “glory in our suffering” (Rom 5:3) and to delight in our weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties. ( 2 Cor 12:10) James says we should “consider it pure joy” when we encounter painful trials. (James 1:2) Not because we are masochists, but because we know that pain is God’s way of helping our selfish characters grow more like Jesus’ selfless one. The author of Hebrews says that God disciplines those He loves and that no discipline is pleasant, but painful. (Heb 12:6,11) But what does it produce? “A harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Heb 12:11)
Consider the Biblical examples of Joseph and David who were unfairly treated by those around them, but all that pain produced in them persevering faith in God. A.W. Tozer put it this way, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”
In Hebrews 12, we see Esau who demanded his hunger be satisfied now even if it meant foolishly selling his precious birthright to his younger brother Jacob. In contrast, consider Moses described in Hebrews 11 as being willing to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Why did he do this if pain is our ultimate enemy and pleasure our ultimate friend? “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (Heb 11:26)
And that is the key! Not living for a short term benefit that is temporary, but for the long term, more permanent gain. We trust that God will reward us in the life to come. Jesus said that we should rejoice when we are mistreated for the cause of Christ because “great is your reward in heaven.” (Matt 5:12) There are promises like this all through Scripture.
So, like an athlete training for the Olympics, or a musician practicing scales day after day, we choose to endure the pain of preparation for the goal of ultimate, certain reward.
But what if your worldview says that this life on this planet is all you get? Then pain becomes our greatest enemy, because I simply must get all I can out of my 70 or 80 years of existence. So if you cause me pain, you owe me big time!
This sort of thinking explains the rise of what people are calling the evil of “microaggressions.” A microaggression is defined as “a subtle but offensive comment or action directed at a minority or other nondominant group that often unintentionally or unconsciously reinforces a stereotype.” One example of a microaggression comes from the University of North Carolina’s Employee Forum which, among other transgressions, warned against complimenting a woman on her choice of footwear. Why? Because, “To do so would be considered to be a microaggression meaning ‘I notice how you look and dress more than I value your intellectual contributions. How you look is really more important.’” (I think I can hear a number of gasps from you who just read these words.)
In any event, when we consider the pain that Jesus and His followers endured as they sought to obey God and demonstrate His love for us who would follow them, we need to have the attitude of Paul, who said, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” (2 Timothy 2:10)
Bottom line, while we do not choose suffering or pain, neither are we shocked when it comes our way in this world. And whether pain comes to us as loving discipline or to prompt our growth in character, we know it originates from the hand of our sovereign, loving Heavenly Father. He will surely give us the grace to be like Jesus, who kept His eyes on the joy set before Him and thereby was able to endure the cross. (Heb 12:2)
What a grief to hear of the vicious, unprovoked attack last night on police officers in Dallas. As a former prosecuting attorney and trial court judge whose role brought me daily into close contact with law enforcement officers for years, I hurt for the brave police officers in our cities who need now to be ultra-alert as they daily continue to put their lives on the line to protect us all. I also hurt for their loved ones who must wonder if they will ever see daddy or mommy again as they walk out the door to their daily posts.
Yes, it would appear some police officers have abused their authority and made deliberate or negligent choices that have resulted in deaths to otherwise innocent victims, some of which are African-American. These incidents are themselves tragic, but certainly do not justify the deliberate murder of men and women whose only connection to the errant cops is that they too wear a uniform and have a badge. To draw an analogy, it would be totally unjust to condemn every doctor as evil personified simply because we hear of one who abuses his position and carelessly or deliberately causes the premature death of a patient. Those who make wrong choices must bear their own punishment.
And, beyond deliberate choices people make to hurt others, in the course of everyone’s life, there are honest mistakes that we all make! We put erasers on pencils for a reason! Yet it seems that the public demands total perfection in certain areas of life.
I saw this reality repeatedly as a juvenile court judge concerning the system that dealt with child neglect and abuse. Often conditions in the child’s home required removal and placement in foster care. While the overwhelming majority of foster parents are wonderful caretakers, there are a few who are not. During my 15 years on the bench, I saw more than one case where we removed kids from their own neglectful or abusive homes, only to be neglected or even injured in the “licensed” foster home the system found for them.
I also saw instances where caseworkers returned children to their natural parents only to have the kids suffer repeated abuse or even death at the hands of their parents. Needless to say, the public was furious in such cases: “Caseworkers must never make mistakes in licensing foster homes or in returning kids to parents!” Newsflash: caseworkers are human too.
So enough of expecting 100 percent perfection from anyone in culture, including those in law enforcement. Excessive or repeated negligence must be responded to. But anyone who demands perfection from others needs to take a long look in the mirror and also seek the honest feedback of those around them, including their spouses. We all are in need of grace.
So how can we defuse the racial animus that seems to be escalating in our nation? I’m confident there will be calls by city mayors and other officials for all the races to “come together and work together” to bring peace and harmony among different ethnicities. Sounds good, but will it work? Unfortunately, not very well.
You see, if I continue to look at life through the eyes of how poorly “my people” have been treated by “your people,” I will never be satisfied until things are equal in my eyes. And even then, I’m going to feel you owe me for the past injustices against my people. Yes, maybe we can eke out a temporary truce of non-violence, but it can never engender true, unconditional love.
There is and has always been only one answer: Jesus Christ breaking down the barriers and producing genuine love.
How does that look? Let me offer a couple of true life illustrations.
One is Otto Kelly, a tall, muscular former football player who I met in Reno. Otto is Black and a pastor. Otto gets how his race has been systematically subjugated by white people over the years. Yet he told me, “Consider that Jesus was willing to go to the home of a Roman centurion to heal his servant. That would be like a Jew going to help a Nazi General in World War II.” Otto continued, “If Jesus can do that, I can forgive and love my white brothers and sisters." "Forgiveness,” he said, "is not a feeling; it's a choice to obey God."
Jesus commanded us not just to love our neighbors, but to love our enemies! That is precisely what Otto has chosen to do, and he gets the power of God to do it wholeheartedly. I love this brother and am so proud of him!
The other illustration is one very close to me. The highlight of my week is being part of a prayer group that formed only about nine months ago. While it continues to grow, it now consists of a dozen or so white, black, and Latino men who are pastors and ministry leaders. A year ago, few of us knew anyone else who is now in the group. Yet despite being relatively new brothers in Christ we genuinely love each other. And we love to be together. I am convinced these men would literally die for me if need be, and I for them.
The only way to explain this bond we all feel is that we are true blood brothers, a reality that far transcends race, ethnicity or background. We have all been bought by the blood of our big brother Jesus Christ and been adopted into God’s family. As I write this I am choking back tears of gratitude for these men who are so precious to me. God has done this and longs to do this more and more in our days.
Jesus prayed for this sort of unity the day before He went to the cross. Let’s not frustrate His prayer. Listen:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me--so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
National Day of Prayer event we sponsored in downtown Grand Rapids this past Thursday
Thank you to those who prayed for our National Day of Prayer event this past week in the center of downtown Grand Rapids. God gave us great weather, a good crowd and, most importantly, the blessing of His presence.
After an inspiring time of worship, we asked leaders from the Seven Mountains of Culture to share appropriate scripture passages and then asked local pastors to lift these areas of culture up in prayer. So, for example, we had a local mayor, a state representative and a trial court judge each share scripture relating to their governmental roles, and then a pastor covered that entire area in prayer. The same was done for business, education, arts and entertainment, media, religion and family.
People were clearly touched by God's presence. Here's a few comments that people posted on social media:
"What an inspirational, Spirit-led evening! Crowds praying for repentance, revival, and reconciliation! Moving forward together in Christ!"
"National Day of Prayer in Grand Rapids. The SUN showed up. And so did the SON!"
"Great in every way!"
"Powerful time!" "
Toward the end of the event, Grand Rapids First Church Pastor Sam Rijfkogel summed it up well. He said we will look back at May 5, 2016 as a major milestone in our pursuit of revival in our region, that God will certainly be responding to our united prayers. To which we say, "May it be, Lord! All for Your glory!"
Many asked what's next for The Grand Awakening. Please pray that we will clearly hear God and boldly follow His leading.
So you can get a better sense of what happened, below are a few more pictures of the event, most taken by photographer Tom De Vette. To see even more, click here.