[I started this blog some days ago. As I was writing it, our pastor brought a study on revival and prayer, even calling on a reading of 2 Chron. 7:14 in the same manner as mine here. I take that as confirmation of my post, though I am addressing the consequences of revival, not the methods.]
I have shared here before how I came to Christ at age 14, but spent my whole first year as a new Christian not setting foot across the threshold of any church building. This gave me a unique insight into my faith since I was shielded from so much of the cultural baggage that goes along with a ‘Christian upbringing’. The first church I decided to settle in was actually a Congregational church, yet one very much geared towards the youth, and that exercised the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Very unusual, yes. Yes indeed!
The youth within that church underwent revival! We hear that word bandied about churches a lot these days, and I always think “do you really know what you’re asking for when you pray or sing ‘send revival, Lord!’ or grasp what that means?” People tend to get some things about revival right, and some wrong. What is right is that it draws more people in; there were a number of new converts, and we saw the numbers of the youth quadruple in 2 weeks! But numbers is not what it’s about; it’s more about a turning of God’s own people to a new way of living and thinking. The oft-quoted verse of 2 Chronicles 7:14 needs to be looked at carefully, since it is seen as the blueprint for ‘revival’. Let’s put a slight emphasis on it:
“If my people, who are called by my name, shall 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.”
Here is where the first common mistake is made. Believers tend to look at the world around them and cry out “save them from their wicked ways, Lord. Send revival for this land!” Note the emphasis there. We become too busy looking at the specks in their eyes, when Jesus exhorted us to remove the planks from ours, before we can see well enough to remove their speck. Is that not what our Lord God is telling us? We need to turn from whatever it is within us that is wicked before he will ‘hear’ our prayers and act. I am currently reading an excellent book by Benjamin Corey; ‘Undiluted’ – a book recalling us to the radical message of Jesus that strips away the infestation of our modern culture that has weakened the church. We need to relearn how Jesus decried ‘holy people’ who only did and said ‘all the right things’ and encouraged people to be holy by seeing the sin within themselves and changing that. He spent more time with ‘sinners’ than with ‘saints’. He wanted to encourage them to become more than those ‘holy people’ they saw looking down on them.
The second most common mistake; people look forward to revival since they are convinced they will feel so good and righteous and nice and cosy. WRONG!!! The single, undeniable, most striking, unforgettable thing I experienced during that revival was conviction! That which Jesus sought to instil in us i.e. looking inwardly at our own hearts. I don’t mean feeling bad about saying a swear word or feeling some desire for something you should know better to avoid. I mean a reaction in your soul to even the most simple thought not in line with the Holy Spirit that keeps you awake at night, that does not allow you to sleep well until you sort it out, or make restitution with a person you wronged in some way. I found myself at that time doing strange things, like approaching a brother in church and actually saying, “Brother, I thought a wrong thought about you the other day. I think it came from some sense of jealousy, but it was just wrong. Forgive me!” This would be an internal thought hatched within my own ears that nobody knew about in the slightest. Nobody except God, and his internal monologue within me convicted me, to the point that I just had to go ask forgiveness. In so many ways this was painful and troubling, but it was also so purging. Like that gruelling training you do to lose weight and gain fitness that hurts your body but you just know you’re achieving something good.
Alas, the revival that we went through was not to last. I was at that church for less than a year, but within that time the minister and his wife managed to make it their mission to exact a humbling and submission from those touched by the revival towards them, not God! We can give it many labels, the most prevalent being ‘shepherding’ (which is strange since it is what ministers/pastors are called to do!); meaning a giving of an allegiance that should be reserved for God and God alone to a flawed church leadership (they’re all flawed) with no questioning or challenging of motives or methods. We went through a bad patch right after the good time, and though the minister’s wife had a dream about having to leave behind a well of blessing that would dry up to travel through a desert to a new spring, then a river, then an ocean of blessing, she herself chose to interpret that we were still to stay at the well and not move. At one external meeting for the choir, heated words were exchanged, but I determined to stay and sort things out. So I approached the minister and told him – I recall clearly the conversation as though it were yesterday:
“That’s great, Tim! So you’re behind me, then?” [I knew what he was implying]
“Mr. ______, I can’t be 100% behind any man. All I want to do is the Lord’s will.”
“I don’t want any of that! I want you behind me!”
“Right!” I said as I looked him square in the eye, then turned and walk out the door. I am not ashamed to admit that I went home and cried. This had become my home, my spiritual resting place, and at that tender age I was suddenly lost and spiritually homeless. I thank God that I had my own personal faith, grounding me firmly in my following of Jesus, not man. I was not a ‘yes man’ – never will be either! I thank God that he has given me the ability to walk alone and not be overly mindful of the walk of others – I can be concerned and pray for them but their problems don’t affect my testimony (most of the time!)
Revival is never about them. It’s always about you! Whether ‘they’ are non-believers outside the door, or fellow brothers and sisters across the pew, they are not your concern when you seek God, when you wish to experience his revival. Look at your heart, pray, and ask, as the Psalmist did, “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51). Unfortunately, it may only take one person to withhold their heart from such examination to ruin any chance of revival (remember Achan!). This is maybe why it is so rare. Seek it yourself anyway, and you can only pray others come along with you. As I said, it’s about you in the end.
One of my favourite songs is ‘Comfortably Numb’ by Pink Floyd. Gilmour’s guitar solo is my ringtone, and though the song relates to drugs, his guitar is enough for me to get high! It means a lot to me, especially the closing words before that two-minute (far too short!) solo:“When I was a child, I caught a fleeting glimpse Out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look, but it was gone. I cannot put my finger on it now. The child is grown, the dream is gone. I have become comfortably numb.”
For many years now I have just sat in church feeling comfortably numb.
I’m not going into a huge debate on this topic. I’m sure there’s already about ten million comments out there! What struck me when I listened to Houston was something I actually wonder has been picked up much. It comes down to my constant rant: be informed!
That applies to you too, Houston! You see, you said “way back in the Old Testament… we had Muslims…”
Point of information: Islam was founded by Muhammad in the 7th century, WAY past even the NEW Testament! A little bit of education hurts nobody, Brian!
Let me surmise that maybe, just maybe, you mean the Ishmaelites, known today as the Arabs. Yes, they were around then. They are also descendants of Abraham, but through his concubine Hagar, not his wife Sarah. Yes, they knew who Yahweh (the Great ‘I Am’) was (as did the captive Israelites in Egypt when Moses told them “‘I Am’ sent me!”). We even read in the account in Genesis 16 & 17 how it was Sarah who forced Hagar out of Abraham’s house through jealousy, but that God sought her out and commanded her to return to Abraham and made promises of blessing to her and then to Ishmael. Yahweh was known to all these peoples and their descendants, but of course, they all at various times turned away to other gods and served their own desires and agendas (including the Israelites many, many times!). So, IF you mean that, Brian, then we are in agreement; they have always really known who God is, now they all just need to come to an understanding of who exactly Jesus is.
What Muhammad did was to turn his people away from this one true God to worship yet another. We say “we worship God!” Muslims say “we worship God!” However, this does not mean the same god, as many on both sides would try to make us believe. Did this ‘same god’ who gave us his sinless Son to fulfil his whole law and redeem (and offer freely his forgiveness to) all who would come to him, then seven centuries later, decide to tell another bunch of people that they had to undergo all this religious law-keeping again in order to please him and maybe work for a chance of redemption? I think not!
Mr. Houston, we have a small problem here in Northern Ireland when we talk about you, since we have to ask if someone means “Hillsong Brian Houston, or local Brian Houston?” – we have a local Christian singer-songwriter here of the same name. Actually, I believe he’s emigrated to Nashville now but maintains links here! Point is; just because you have a namesake, this does not mean that you are him! Obviously! We need to disambiguate (distinguish which one we mean) before we talk about either you or the other Brian. So it is with ‘god’. Are you then still trying to say that both Christians and Muslims worship the same god?
IF that is what you mean, you’re talking rubbish! And you undermine everything that Jesus accomplished for me and you, since you suggest that there are other religious ways to obtain God’s mercy. Islam is a false religion! And shocker for some: so is Judaism!! As is also the attempts to take Christians back to law-keeping!
My God is nothing like this Muslim god, who demands ritual, works, religion, and a lifetime of blind devotion to a tiny hope that you might just do enough for him. My God gives generously of his grace to all who would only believe and trust him: He is generous and faithful, and loving and giving, and I am assured of his gift of eternal life. Now he simply asks such things from me as devotion, praise, prayer, seeking, working for him and his kingdom, and my regenerated heart responds to that positively. I give to God not because I fear I must, but because I know he loves me.
I shall choose to believe you were simply a bit confused about timelines and applied ‘Muslims’ anachronistically to the Ishmaelites, unless I hear you spouting heresy like this again, sir.
Grace be with you.
In my humble opinion, Stewart Lee is one of the funniest men on television right now. Yeah, his humour is highbrow, satirical, deadpan, left-wing [oh, the horror!]… but he still manages to have me in painful fits at times, even to the point that my wife is woken from her bed late at night to come in and ask me what’s so funny.
He did a piece recently on political correctness, which is actually not one of his funniest routines, to be honest, but he made a great satirical point. Here it is if you’re curious (note that the F-word appears once, and another swear word appears at the end, which I shall not allude to as it would spoil a great punchline):
I highlight this to make a point that is, sadly, very poignant and relevant this week. We have learned of an appalling situation that arose in Rotherham. It would appear that ‘political correctness’ has now actually led to a truly mad situation. I am in favour of being PC, since it serves a great purpose, as Lee pointed out in his comedy; in that there was a time that all niggers were viewed in the same way, just as all Jews were viewed in the same way in Germany in the 1930s, just as (dare I say it) all Muslims are viewed in the same way now in the 21st century?
I should know, I’m Irish. Well, I’m a protestant from Northern Ireland, but what does that matter to many English people! When my father went to an army training camp in England, they all just called him Paddy. Fine, it was (for most of them at least) just friendly ‘banter’ but a misunderstanding of the complexities of Irish politics and culture was certainly present. Many of us faced such misapprehension and even hostility during those bad times. I had a police officer at a Welsh port look at the address on my driving licence and ask, without any smile or hint of jocularity, “do you know any terrorists?” yet that was mild in comparison to some stories I heard! Was it mild since the officer was Welsh (a fellow Celt) and not a dirty Sassenach? Would that attitude from me be called for, even though I can truly say that my experience of the Welsh and Scots to be better on the whole than of the English? Of course not! Does my experience make me hate or dislike all English people? Of course not!
The same propaganda that was waged against the Jews in Germany by the Nazis can be repeated anywhere by anyone against anyone else. And it is, believe me! I know whom I blame for the recent credit crunch – the bankers! We all know they’re to blame, so all bankers are greedy pigs who are not to be trusted, right? Right!? Right away, I realise that while their profession has been given too free a leash by our recent politicians and they have allowed greed to take them (and us!) down a slippery slope, they are not all evil, or selfish, or psychopathic (even though their profession contains more psychopaths than any other – fact). It’s the same principle for a simple thing like car insurance – for decades, we men were subjected to higher premiums due to our gender, since we were a ‘higher risk’ according to the stats. Women joined in the chorus of ‘that’s right!’ while I witnessed slow, careful men with no worrying driving issues being forced to pay higher insurance than women who scared the life out of me with their demonic driving! Now that has changed, for fairness’ sake. Were an insurer to say “stats show us that blacks are more likely to cause accidents than whites…” we would be boycotting them in a flash! Thank you, political correctness!
Tarring an entire race, or gender, or nationality, or even sexual orientation, with the same wide brush is the reason for ‘political correctness’ – it’s not just a trendy, liberal thingy that effeminates like to wave about when they’re criticised! It’s addressing the need in us to pigeonhole people just because it helps us decide who we like and don’t like without the worry of having to make the effort to get to know them and their background a bit better i.e. we need to get informed!
However, this case in Rotherham is mad, in the highest degree possible. The fact that most of the perpetrators (not all!) were of a Pakistani background, highlighting and addressing this crime was feared by some to be seen as racist. That in itself is politically incorrect, since it presupposes that the entire Pakistani community in Rotherham would be offended by such an investigation; as if they’d cry something similar to “it’s ’cause I’s black, innit?” when the truth is that the majority of that community would be as appalled at the crimes as much as any of us – they should be given the chance to condemn it and deal with it and not have it swept under the rug for their ‘benefit’. The fact that some of the white guys in authority treated some of the girls reporting the crimes as ‘sluts’ who sort of ‘asked for it’ tells me a lot about their attitude. The crimes and the politically incorrect attitudes that allowed the abuse to go on both need to be addressed and dealt with, and if there is a fear that you’ll be viewed as racist for addressing crime, then that is ‘political correctness gone mad’!
Members of the English Defence League cornered a LibDem councillor and asked him if he would not condemn ‘the Pakistani gangs abusing these girls’ – he answered “No! I will condemn all abuse perpetrated by anyone!” Correct answer, since the dismissal of these crimes also allowed non-Pakistani child abusers to get away with it!
Grace be with you.
P.S. If that was a bit too heavy for you after the good laugh Lee gave us, here he is making fun of Islam! (YAY!):
This YouTube video short is by a woman who saw the sign on a church in New York that stated that homosexuals should be stoned. She called the guy out on it!
First, if a church wants to go back to the Mosaic Law, the Torah of Judaism, the idiots should read Paul’s epistle to the Galatians before they decide anything!
Second, apparently this church and others have been referring to the account in John 8:1-11 to highlight how this still stands. Hold on!: THAT passage refers to a woman caught in ADULTERY, not a homosexual, AND in that case, Jesus refused to condemn her to death but simply commanded her to ‘sin no more’! Does this mean that Jesus was lax over adultery? Not at all! In fact, he raised the bar!
“You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:27-28)
So, best thing this church could do is call out for all those who have committed adultery and get them to line up in their car park behind the big pile of stones. Better than that, go the whole hog: Deuteronomy 22:13-21 outlines how a woman who is not a virgin when she marries should also be executed! Get all those women up off the pews too!
Emmmm? Can I raise my hand too? I think I can confess to doing that a few times, you know, that thing that Jesus said, looking lustfully at another woman; sure I’m a red-blooded straight man! OK, I’m on my way out to be stoned, right now.
If you are going to call out sin, call it all out!
Need I even quote the bit Jesus said about the plank and the speck? Well, since these people only really know a few bits of their Bible:
“For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:2-4)
We are called to be righteous, but not self-righteous.
Grace be with you.
A video link to watch:
David Simon is the creator of the TV series ‘The Wire’ – a show I dismissed due to the plethora of swear words in the first minutes (should have given it more attention) – here he is discussing the Reaganite/Thatcherite ‘experiment’ of the past generation in light of his experience of the drug culture he examined for his work:
What an excellent interview! What a great man! One of the newly-made millionaires who refuses to chuck his principles in the bin and just ‘join the elite’ – I agreed with every word he said. Simon is eloquent and agreeable since he’s NOT coming from the POV of a raving lefty loony (like me LOL). Thank you to benstupples.com for this link.
Grace be with you.
This is excellent! I have had thoughts like this at times, but it is so succinct. Ties in with my last blog about humility: “consider others better than yourself”