As we journey through life each of us leaves a path for others to follow. One thing that got me thinking about the path we leave is a quote I read a couple of years ago by Scott Rodin. You may have never heard of him but he teaches and focuses on our responsibilities as stewards of God’s gifts and grace. A saying of his that I saved in my prayer list is, “It is not whom you are leading but who is leading you that will determine your legacy.” Implicit in this expression is the idea that we are all walking a path following someone. The other thing that got me thinking about the path we leave is the poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. Implicit in both is the idea that our path is the fruit of our choices. Jesus highlighted this issue of our path choices as well.
13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7:13–14 (NKJV)
Clearly our choice of path as Jesus presented it in The Sermon on the Mount is one with eternal consequences. Yet beyond that choice we also make daily choices in our walk with Jesus. Below we see some things that the scriptures have to say about the path we take as trumpeted forth by Jeremiah and highlighted by Job.
16 Thus says the Lord: “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Jeremiah 6:16 (NKJV)
7That path no bird knows, Nor has the falcon’s eye seen it. 8 The proud lions have not trodden it, Nor has the fierce lion passed over it. Job 28:7–8 (NKJV)
These scriptures point to paths not well trodden but important. Yet scripture tells us not only how to find the right path, it also tells us how to stay on it. When we look to Him for guidance and seek His presence, we can be confident He will guide us on the path of life.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5–6 (NKJV)
11 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 (NKJV)
Thus, I leave you with these thoughts. While we all leave a path for others if we continually look to Him for guidance our path will be marked with signposts like truth, integrity, faithfulness, prayer and meaningful fellowship with others. While there will be failures on our path, we all have them, they can be marked by signposts of repentance. We can leave a path that others will want to follow.
In my last post I stated that in this one I would delve into how the kingdom of God functions and our role in it. The first thing to note is that the kingdom functions based on authority. That may seem too obvious but it is an important reality. Jesus operated under the Father’s authority in His earthly ministry. His submission in His humanity is what enabled Him to function. The key passage in scripture that relates to our role in the advancement of the kingdom is what we refer to as The Great Commission.
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18–20 (NKJV)
Here we see that all authority has been given to Jesus due to His sacrificial submission to the Father’s purpose in redemption. Next, we see that He has delegated to us the responsibility to extend His kingdom on the earth through two things. 1 – Evangelism, 2- Discipleship. Every time someone is newly born again the kingdom is extended or expanded in the earth. Every time someone grows in their faith and the application of it, the kingdom grows deeper in the earth.
Practically we need to walk in submission, come under His authority, to operate in the authority He has delegated to us. We see this with Jesus when He submitted to baptism by John the Baptist and when He shared how He ministered in response to what the Father was showing Him.
14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” 15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. Matthew 3:14–15 (NKJV)
19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. John 5:19 (NKJV)
The practical implication of these verses is that for us to walk in authority and live out The Great Commission we need to embrace submission to the Father’s heart and move as He directs us. When He prompts us to speak up, we need to speak up. When He prompts us to remain silent, we need to remain silent. When He nudges us to give a prophetic word to someone, we need to give the word.
In my own experience I have ministered to a lot of people over the years through both teaching and prayer ministry. I have sought to be sensitive to His voice in the process. At times I have had words from the Lord for someone that I had to wait to share. At other times I have given words from the Lord when it was clear He had opened a door, a kairos moment. I have had things to share with individuals or groups that I knew needed to be bathed in intercession prior to being shared. Each of these moments were the extending of His kingdom and exercising His authority through submission to His word and presence.
The above illustrates some ways that He has called us to embrace His kingdom. They may be different for each of us. Some are called to focus on evangelism, some to focus on intercession, others on discipling others. I know in my own life my primary calling is to build His body through teaching and intercession.
A key factor I referenced last week was the distinction between seeing and entering the kingdom as Jesus presented it to Nicodemus.
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” John 3:3-5 (NKJV)
When we were born again, we perceived and became aware of the kingdom of God. Our next choice was whether we entered into it and became actively involved, whether we embraced the kingdom. I encourage you, ask Him how He wants you to be involved then walk in submission to Him exercising the authority He has given you to extend His kingdom.
As a follow up to my last post I want to touch on a phrase from my regular prayer list. In recent years I wrote down this phrase, an aspirational goal really, of how I want to live. The phrase was generated when a friend presented three questions to me as an assessment tool. You will find them further down. The first question was, “What does my ideal day look like?” After reflection I wrote this down for myself, ‘Walking in Presence Centred repose throughout the day.’ What I mean by that is having my heart at rest in His presence and my thoughts centred on Him in my thoughts and actions. I believe that is how Jesus walked with His Father and it is how I desire to walk. I haven’t ever achieved it for an entire day but I have had varying periods of time throughout days that I have walked this way. Even reflecting on the idea brings a sense of rest.
One of my favourite verses from Proverbs is below.
33 Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding, But what is in the heart of fools is made known. Proverbs 14:33 (NKJV)
My focus is on the first phrase, wisdom resting in an understanding heart. Proverbs 14:33 is what led me to write the phrase, “walking in Presence Centred repose throughout the day” in my prayer list. The three questions are below, and because I have a tendency to take on too much, I added the fourth. The idea of Presence Centred repose is similar to an expression I came across many years ago, ‘Live from a great depth of being.’ The questions are below.
What does my ideal day look like?
What gives me life?
Who do I need to talk to?
What do I need to stop doing?
These questions are a tool we can use to anchor our days, which anchor our weeks, which anchor our months – you get the picture. We can build a life of our hearts resting in Jesus and Jesus in us because He is wisdom (Proverbs 8, 1 Corinthians 1:30, Colossians 2:3).
I believe scripture points us in this direction because Jesus told us how He lived.
19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. John 5:19 (NKJV)
30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. John 5:30 (NKJV)
In these verses I see that Jesus lived in and from ‘presence centred repose’ because His focus was always on the Father’s heart. Thus, I believe that we can live like this if our focus is on Jesus’ heart, seeking to see and hear what He would have us do and how He would have us respond in the many interactions we have throughout the day.
Numerous times over the years, yes, I have a few behind me now, I have heard Matthew 7 referred to regarding those who did things in Jesus name being rejected because they didn’t actually ‘know’ Jesus. That is, they never developed an actual intimate relationship with Jesus. I agree. At the same time, I want to look at the broader context. First the well-known verses.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7:21–23 (NKJV)
It is obvious from these verses that moving in sign gifts and affirming that Jesus is the Lord is not a guarantee of entering the kingdom of heaven. However, the issue in the passage isn’t whether someone was moving in sign gifts, it is about the relationship with Jesus that they demonstrated. Scripture is clear that we are to both pursue love and desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1). We are to make love our priority and use His gifts to demonstrate it.
In the broader context in Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus tells us that we can discern true and false followers by the fruit they produce. After His subsequent warning about the need for intimacy in doing works He goes on to highlight in verses 24-27 the importance of heeding what He taught (Matthew 5-7. The summation of the Sermon on the Mount). Obeying Jesus words is like building our house/life on a firm foundation while ignoring His teaching is building our house/life on shifting sand, which lead to it collapsing.
Now let’s take a closer look at the context of what Jesus taught. First, a phrase you may be familiar with, that it is important to repeat. Broadly the scriptures were written for us, not to us. In this case Jesus taught these things on the other side of the cross to an Israeli audience. Yet contextually it is clear that Jesus was looking ahead beyond the cross because He was referencing end of the age events in terms of a coming judgment.
For us, we need to read and heed this looking back. It isn’t enough to do things for Jesus, we are called to do things in partnership with Jesus. Part of that is understanding the cultural context of those who heard Jesus. His hearers were intimately familiar with the Great Shema. It is rooted in Deuteronomy 6:4 and begins ‘Hear O’ Israel.’ The Hebrew word for ‘hear’ is Shema and means to hear with the intent to obey. The regular morning and evening prayers began with that phrase. The hearers of the Sermon on the Mount understood that love was an action. To love Jesus was to obey Jesus. You could not separate the two. Intimacy was about walking together, being yoked with Jesus and doing works for and with Him rather than for attention or to make a name for ourselves.
That is the real warning of Matthew 7. If we are wise, we will walk with Him doing works as He leads while remaining attentive and obedient to His voice. When we are seeking His face and walking in what He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10) we can be confident of the ultimate results of our faith and obedience.
In business in recent decades there was a movement to the practice of ‘just on time’ inventory. Rather than businesses needing to stockpile parts and take up warehouse space they planned for when they would need their inventory and ordered it for that time period. It was a way to save money and function more efficiently. Covid kicked that idea to the curb. The shutdowns created massive backlogs in both the creation of needed products and their shipping and delivery. When goods began moving again antiquated port systems were clogged with container ships waiting weeks, at times months, to unload their cargo. I watched a 60 minutes episode and there were problems up and down the system with the separate parts all pointing the finger at one another. I recall talking to the owner of a local bike shop who lamented that his orders were two years behind! ‘Just on time’ just wasn’t working!
Now to the scriptures. There are different names for time in the New Testament. We have chronos, chronological or sequential time, and kairos, things that take place at just the right time, the opportune moment. As Christians we assert that God is outside of time. That makes sense given that time, space and matter all began at the moment of creation. At the same time (yes the pun is intentional) Jesus is always on time now that we have it. Let’s look at that a bit.
Scripture tells us that Jesus was born in the fullness of time, a kairos moment.
4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4–5 (NKJV)
Creation was pregnant with opportunity and Jesus showed up on the scene. The Greek word that fullness expresses is the same word used for being ‘filled’ with the Spirit. The planet was ready for the arrival of the Messiah and Jesus appeared on the scene.
Now we will look at an example in the life of Lazarus. Jesus was informed that Lazarus was ill and Mary and Martha were asking for His help, so He rushed off to heal Lazarus. Actually no, He stayed for two more days (John 11:1-6). When Jesus finally arrived, it was too late.
17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. John 11:17 (NKJV)
At least from the perspective of Mary and Martha, I’m not so sure about Lazarus, Jesus was too late. In verses 21 and 32 Martha, then Mary, both point out to Jesus that if He had been there Lazarus would not have died. I am sure you know the rest of the story; Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.
The important part is the reason behind Jesus waiting. In the cultural tradition the Jewish mystical teaching was that a person’s spirit stayed around their body for three days then departed for Sheol. After that only the Messiah could raise someone. Jesus was demonstrating who He was in raising Lazarus. It was a kairos moment.
Now to apply this to our lives. I think there are a variety of ways to present this but I will focus in on one. Are there dreams in your life that have died with the passage (chronos) of time? I know I have them. Yet because I trust Jesus I know that if those dreams are from Him then if I hold on to them and remain focused on Him they will come to pass in the fullness of time, my karios moment. I pray we can all bring our hearts to a place of rest in Him as we wait and seek to be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2).
In the verses below I want to focus on a single phrase that I will address below.
14 So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them. Deuteronomy 28:14 (NKJV)
1 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. 2 And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 2 Chronicles 34:1–2 (NKJV)
27 Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil. Proverbs 4:27 (NKJV)
Not turning aside ‘to the right or the left’ is the phrase. Let me give you my paraphrase, ‘Ignore distractions and remained focused on the task at hand.’ When it comes to following Jesus, this is sound advice.
When we choose to follow Him this is what He desires to do in our lives, lead us in the way of wisdom and follow the path He is leading us on. An interesting analogy I see comes from my hiking. I have hiked up a lot of mountains and sometimes there is a clear view of the trail ahead and other times you can hardly see around the next bend. When the trail narrows in the trees you can see the person in front of you, often not beyond them or very little. You stay on the path by focusing on the person ahead of you and trusting their leading. If we take that back to following Jesus there is an important truth. As we walk through life when we will encounter difficult times and it becomes difficult to see the road ahead. This is when we need to be more aware of and dependent on His leading.
As you walk with and seek to follow Him here are some things you may find helpful. I regularly focus on them in prayer and they are rooted in my awareness of Ephesians 2:10. He has works and a plan for me so I want to discern and walk it out with Him each day. My goal is to be sensitive to His leading and respond with obedience. To that end I reflect on or pray about these areas.
Jesus, I begin my day connecting to Your presence and focusing on You aligning me for today.
Holy Spirit, as I sit and walk with Jesus, I ask You to draw me into the subtleties of the interaction that I might deepen my awareness of Your presence and leading.
Father/Jesus, I thank You that You are here. I give myself to You afresh today. What do You have for me to do today? (Over saturating our soul with activity dulls our spirit.)
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)
If we approach our walk with Him with this type of perspective, I think we will find ourselves not ‘turning to the right of the left.’ I don’t anticipate any of us will do this perfectly but I believe doing it will lead to us staying focused on and attentive to His agenda and avoiding distractions.
Following my last post that referenced Revival, Awakening and Reformation I am here focusing on reformation. The reason being that wisdom points to the need to pursue reformation as both a means and an end for revival or awakening. Now, I confess this post has been a struggle to write. Partly because it is a broad subject that requires focus and partly because I need things to settle in my heart to write about them. So here we go.
To reform something implies that we have the constituent parts but need to make them into a new shape. Obviously Jesus is the most important part. If we remake church structures that He doesn’t fill we have merely wasted our energy. That being said, a thought has persisted in my mind for some time. I have been thinking about Choice Architecture. I came across the term and included it in my Dissertation. The basic idea of Choice Architecture is that we can structure environments to influence behaviour.
I have been thinking about this in terms of how the average Sunday church service is structured. There are two aspects, the physical space and the relational space. I will go a bit deeper, but first some scripture followed by some thoughts on leadership.
26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (NKJV)
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; Ephesians 4:11–13 (NKJV)
These passages focus on having the body engaged in ministry. The first one referencing the need to make space for body sharing and ministry. The second looking at the role of leadership.
Leadership isn’t about power and control. It is about drawing out the gifts and callings in people and releasing them into their gifts. When I lead teams at work in my various roles I believed that my responsibility as a leader was to create an environment that freed my staff to function most effectively in their gifts and calling. I have long believed the same thing about church leadership. Whether in small or large groups I believe leaders need to create space to release the gifs in others (there are some great example of this in the article by Craig Keener at the link below).
When we think of creating physical space, we may have limitations but consider the focus of the average church building. The focus tends to be on the sanctuary and the pulpit. Just as the frame and matting are designed to draw our eyes to certain aspects of a painting, so too, our physical spaces are designed (or default to) drawing our focus to certain places. In considering this I invite you to think of ways to make the physical space about Jesus and about creating opportunities for the body to minister to one another as Paul encourages in 1 Corinthians 14:26.
Relationally, how is the church body structured. Is the default mode power and control or relationships. For decades I have been personally opposed to using the term pastor as a title. I have no issue with the term, I simply recognize that the terms apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher in Ephesians 4 are job descriptions not titles. Thus, I think we need to relate to people as people to build relationships and titles, in the church or elsewhere confer something but also create barriers (Choice Architecture). I could say, ‘that is pastor Fred’ or I could say, ‘that is Fred, he is a pastor. His focus is on nurturing and feeding the body.’ The latter creates a different expectation.
As this is getting long, allow me to draw a conclusion. I think if we reform our churches to be more relational and to release the many gifts among us, we will see more revival and awakening. Conversely, if we persist in intercession for prayer and revival and awakening, we have an opportunity to reform our churches. Either way, we have before us the opportunity to build something that looks like the church Jesus said He would build and see it spread into the broader culture. As we become a place where those who become part of us are released fully into who they are called to be they will affect those around us in the culture with truth and life.
Revival, Awakening and Reformation. I could have added renewal but three is enough words. Presently in Canada we are in a period of heightened expectation with what began at Asbury and has spread so it seems prudent to understand what these things look like in practice as these words are frequently used but generally without clarity. To aid in understanding and praying let’s take a look. To revive a person after they have passed out or been knocked out for example, our hope is to see them return to a previous state. To awaken is similar in that we return to a prior state such as waking from sleep or coming to a realization of something. For example, awakening to the possibility of some endeavour. The meaning of reformation is found in breaking down the word, re formation. Taking the constituent parts and reforming them into something else.
From a church history perspective, we have the Protestant Reformation, a fire that Luther set ablaze but initially kindled by men like Wycliffe, Hus and Tyndale and Savonarola. Savonarola was a Dominican Friar whose fiery preaching against the sins and excesses of the Roman Catholic Church paved the way for Luther but led to his being burned at the stake. The Roman Catholic church responded to the Protestant Reformation with a counter reformation to shore up their doctrinal positions.
This is a very scant overview of some church history. In this season we had revival, awakening and reformation. The revival and awakening were an awareness of the need to recover the truth of scripture and the reformation aspect was the reforming of the church into new structures.
Today I believe we again need revival, awakening and reformation. In scripture we have examples of revival and a return to godly practices under king Josiah, and later Ezra and Nehemiah. There was an awakening to danger and purpose in Esther. When we read through Acts (it covers a period of over three decades) we see the almost immediate need for revival and awakening with the attempt by some to bring the new church into formulas and rituals contrary to the original freedom of the gospel. This fight for freedom is presented in Galatians and highlighted in the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15.
In history we always see rules and control seeking to come in and ‘manage’ things whenever the Spirit begins to move. Given that life and relationships are dynamic, we never ‘arrive’ at a place where we don’t need to continue to be aware of the ongoing tension between freedom and control. We always need to invest in relationships and be aware of what is happening around us. The same is true of our relationship with Jesus both individually and corporately. This leads to Paul’s prayers in scripture. Prayers for believers to walk in freedom in Christ and be formed in His image. The following prayers speak to revival, awakening and reformation.
15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, Ephesians 1:15–17 (NKJV)
14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14–19 (NKJV)
9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; Colossians 1:9–11 (NKJV)
1 For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:1–3 (NKJV)
19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, Galatians 4:19 (NKJV)
My purpose thus far in broaching the subject of revival, awakening and reformation is to stir up our thinking and prepare our hearts. More to come.
When we step out into the sun our body casts a shadow. When we walk in the light of the Son we cast a shadow a different shadow, we reflect His glory. To see how this works the presentation of some scriptures is in order.
1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1 (NKJV)
18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)
5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:5–7 (NKJV)
Psalm 91 informs us that we need to abide, 2 Corinthians that we need to behold and 1 John that we need to walk in the light. I believe these are different aspects of the same reality. When we choose to engage with Him and enter into and remain dwelling with Him we experience His abiding presence over our lives. Coming into this secret place creates the opportunity to behold His glory. The result of abiding with and gazing upon Jesus is that we walk in the light. Interestingly, John says that one of the by-products of walking in the light is that we have ‘fellowship with one another.’
In that vein, I have met people who I just ‘knew’ were a fellow believer and I have had conversations with others who detail the same experience. They meet someone who they sense is a fellow believer and it is confirmed in conversation. It happened to me this winter while on vacation. I met a fellow that I had met the previous summer a couple of times while in the mountains. We had only spoken for a few minutes but I sensed the Lord’s presence in him. When we met again this winter my sense was confirmed and we experienced genuine fellowship.
Understanding this experience comes when we examine a verse of scripture in Romans 8.
16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, Romans 8:16 (NKJV)
If His Spirit is in me and in you then I should be able to sense His presence in you as the Spirit is bearing witness, bringing that awareness to me. Which takes us back to abiding, beholding and walking in the light. Nothing in scripture or experience has ever led me to conclude that spiritual growth is automatic. Pursuing a deeper relationship with Jesus is a choice. Let’s make that choice so that we live under His shadow and reflect His glory.
This week I am more of a reporter than a writer. If you are not aware of what began at Asbury on February 8 (scripturally 8 speaks of new beginnings) please read on.
First some context. Nearly two decades ago I gathered a group and together we organized a conference on Israel and the church which we held at Central Baptist church in Edmonton. The conference title was Prepared for His Purpose. The point we sought to communicate with the name of the conference was that it was about Him, not us. Proverbs 16:1 in the NKJV says it is our responsibility to prepare our hearts and He decides how to answer. In that vein I and many others have prayed for revival for many years. I have had encounters with Jesus’ presence, experienced moving times of worship and seen some dramatic things. I have never been part of anything I would describe as revival of the type I have read about in history or what is taking place now at Asbury.
I have read a number of articles and firsthand accounts of what is happening at Asbury and the tears start, it happens even as I type this. What I love about this movement is that it is quiet worship and genuine repentance and healing of hearts. One of the staff said he didn’t go for the first day and a half because he needed to complete some work. When he went, he said 10 minutes there altered his life forever. One person who drove to Asbury received the following reply when trying to book a hotel room. The staff person at the hotel said, “We have no rooms, we weren’t prepared for revival.” Are we prepared? Please read on.
Most of the rest of this is about what is happening at Asbury and spreading. For context, I have long believed that one of the things that stops moves of the Spirit is our lack of practical wisdom. I have long believed that in a revival context there are two things that need to happen, ongoing encounters and ongoing teaching paired with practical wisdom. We see this in Acts 6:3-7 when the apostles put the deacons in place to manage practical considerations yet said they would give themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word (verse 4).
There is wisdom needed to steward the human part of what the Spirit is doing. I have just finished reading another book on revival and a common theme is people got off track because they loved the Lord’s presence but failed to exercise wisdom regarding when to rest, when to engage and when to let others lead. Then there are all the practical matters, examples of which are enumerated in the information from Dutch Sheets and others. Here are the accounts.
Craig Keener – a prolific writer and scholar, a Professor at Asbury, here is his comment on what is happening, “The university chapel (seating 1500) and seminary chapels (seating 1000) and a local church are filled and lines are waiting outside. But what strikes me most is that, even walking near the chapel or out on the street (itself full of cars), I CAN FEEL THE TANGIBLE PRESENCE OF GOD. Not something that can be manufactured. We’d prayed for this to happen someday, but it’s still way beyond my expectations!
Brian Blount – a Vineyard pastor from Oklahoma – “Here are my thoughts so far on the Asbury, outpouring/revival…This is real. No hype, no flash, no superstars. Real people hungry and thirsty for Jesus. It’s sweet, full of the love of God and love towards one another. It’s an authentic outpouring. Lots of worship, prayer, and testimonies with a bit of teaching and instruction. It’s multigenerational. It’s very much lay led. It’s deep, contemplative, vulnerable, very humble. It’s a move of the fruit of the Spirit and the deep working of the Love of God.
It’s really authentic. It’s really Jesus! This could lead to a real Jesus movement. The main focus is the love of God, and repentance through and only by the love of God. It’s nameless and faceless. The only name and face is Jesus!!! It’s ALL about Jesus moving through His people.”
Pete Greig – pastor and teacher and promoter of 24/7 prayer. Here he includes comments from his friend, the former chaplain at Asbury – The reports coming in privately from those on the ground and behind the scenes at Asbury are…encouraging. Something sovereign does appear to be unfolding and there are seasoned leaders – neither famous nor naive – quietly minimising the hype and maintaining the focus on Jesus.
You won’t find a more trustworthy source, for example, than my friend J D Walt. J D was for many years the Asbury chaplain. He knows the place like the back of his hand having sowed in tears with rare zeal, yearning and longing for something like this to take place.
“Here is the most compelling evidence of authenticity for me,” writes JD. “The first picture (below) depicts the chapel immediately after the usual chapel service last Wednesday. Nothing impressive. Just another day. But then students for unknown reasons other than the hand of God began to come back to the chapel. They asked their professors if they could return— uncharacteristic to say the least—- and within a few hours it was… the second picture below.
“It hasn’t stopped since then— 24-7. People are coming here from all over the country and world. Last night we opened up four overflow buildings and all were packed. Student groups from many campuses are here.
“It is clearly an outpouring of the Spirit but beyond that we are reticent to call it anything else. History can define it as it will. It is extraordinary and yet nothing new. Many of us have seen and experienced all that is happening here elsewhere. And yet none of us really have been in this kind of sustained move.
“The hunger of people coming from everywhere is enormous. It is characterized by exuberant worship— empowered by the Spirit— led by students, no production whatsoever—- no screens or words projected—seemingly no song lists— they sing until the Spirit seems to give another song. There is a lot of prayer being led all over the house, there are testimonies given throughout the day. It is the holy love of God rising like a tide and rolling like waves.
“Jesus is the only celebrity here. No one even remotely considers the names of anyone in leadership here. They are not unseasoned just unknown. Incredible humility characterizes this whole move. This has been enormously disruptive to the life of the school but no one seems to care. There is a vigilance of love supporting these students.”
Dutch Sheets – I am receiving numerous reports and updates regarding what is occurring at Asbury University (and elsewhere). Carol Stratton shared the following report, which is especially helpful, as it gives behind-the-scenes information regarding how to pray and support what is taking place. The logistical details that have to be thought through and implemented, as well as the tremendous weight of spiritual responsibility on the leaders, is no doubt daunting.
Carol and her husband, Dr. Stephen Stratton, are local residents, alumni of the university, and active in the community. Dr. Stratton teaches in the seminary. Her insights are astute. She states:
“‘Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I WOULD
RATHER BE A DOORKEEPER in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of
the wicked.” (Psalm 84:10)
“Last night, I got an entirely different perspective on the Asbury Revival, which
is still robustly happening, by the way!
“First, let me provide some context. Wilmore, Kentucky, is our home. Steve and I are alumni of the university, and Steve has enjoyed a career at both the university and the seminary. The leadership team of this Revival are our friends and neighbors. This is happening in our backyard!
“So, yesterday, I arrived on campus at supper time, hoping the crowd had adequately thinned to provide me with a seat in Hughes Auditorium. I didn’t HAVE to be there, but I LONGED to be there. The line that stretched toward entry to Hughes was as long as the line to a thrill ride at Disney!
“By this time, I knew there was no way for me to be a participant as an attendee, like Mary, basking in the presence of Jesus. But I could ‘Martha’ if needed. I walked around to the back and was stopped by a worker, but quickly
informed them that I was a community person and just wondered if the lead team needed anything. I would be happy to run an errand. Get something? Help in
“A long-time buddy quickly handed me a ‘prayer team’ tag, and instructed me to monitor the side door near the Library, because people were slipping through there. For safety’s sake, the leaders needed to be able to get a head count of folks in the auditorium. So, from 5 to 9:30, I ‘guarded’ the side door, in an alcove behind the auditorium. It was fascinating. I was able to engage attendees with grace and humor, while explaining the needful boundary.
“I was able to thank prayer teams and worship leaders as they entered and exited. I was able to experience the ‘runoff’ of the River of Life, as it swelled its banks and overflowed into my little nook. I was also able to visit with a couple of leaders who gave me an insightful glimpse into all they are addressing as this miracle keeps unfolding! Here are some observations from my Doorkeeping Duties last night:
“Every worship team is prayed with and prayed over before they step on the platform.
“As they exit the platform, every worship team of musicians is met by a leader who helps them process what they just experienced and prays over them. This intentional intervention guides these young musicians back to the focus: Always Jesus. Always God’s glory. Don’t confuse His goodness [with a feeling of greatness on your part]. You had the privilege of participating in a ‘God Thing’!
“Like a River, this God Event is fluid. The leadership is constantly challenged to respond to the ever-increasing swell of people and their needs. Parking, seats, food, water, restrooms…are just the basics. (One mother drove non-stop from North Dakota with her daughter, and begged that her daughter might take a shower, so they didn’t have to leave!) AND the Community is responding again and again! One attendee (knowing I hadn’t eaten all night) handed me a chili dog and informed me that ‘a venue down the street’ was giving away FREE chili dogs, chips, and water!
“More structures and guidelines are being constructed.…college-age folks can attend actual ’Chapel.’ The remaining ‘Program’ starts at 2 PM, though worship continues [after chapel]. Overflow venues are being made available, including Estes Chapel, McKenna Chapel, GCF, and Wilmore UMC. They are all bursting with hungry worshippers. Some buildings are being closed during the early morning hours for the safety of attendees and equipment.
“Prayer is happening constantly: in pockets backstage, in hallways, in places hidden from view but not hidden from God.
“The Front Line of leaders is running on grace. They are understandably weary, yet undaunted in their mission. One leader had worked a 40-hour week as of yesterday (Tuesday night). They need reinforcements and refreshments. God is sustaining them, and they continue to serve with unbridled joy and faith-filled fatigue.
“The needs remain varied and enormous! One student gave a testimony from the stage, and immediately, people physically responded to his expressed need. It was like watching the Church in Acts leap into action! The eruption of applause as they responded to his need was deafening!
“Our prayers are making a difference. Just before I ended my ‘shift’ a couple approached my door. I asked if I could help them. They looked at my tag and said, ‘We just wanted someone to pray with us before we drove home to Memphis. We are dealing with a lot.’
“I smiled, opened the door, ushered them into the warmth, and said, ‘Right. Come talk with me, and we will pray.’ And we did. I walked them to their car, and they left satisfied by the One who is ’feeding the 5,000’ again!
“YOUR prayers are needed. The needs are enormous. The mechanics of practical need-meeting are daunting. The Leadership Team is tired. God continues to pour out His Spirit in box-bursting ways! Please cover all of this in prayer!! It is THRILLING!! God is pouring out His power, grace, mercy, and goodness! And He is pouring out opportunities for each of us to be the hands and feet of Jesus where we are!
“I heard someone quote: ‘There are FIVE Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and You. Most people will never read the first four.’
“Keep praying. Keep watch. Hold the door OPEN that all may enter!”
Thank you, Carol, for allowing us to share this insightful, first-hand report. Finally, we must also pray for this entire community. As glorious as this is, Wilmore will likely be hit with a tidal wave of people. Unlike past revivals there and elsewhere, social media has already caused this one to go viral. Millions have heard about it. And people are hungry. Alumni, pastors, and seekers are showing up from everywhere. If my sources are correct, busloads of students have arrived from:
Bethel University (Mishawaka)
Eastern Kentucky University
Eastern Nazarene University
God’s Bible School (Cincinnati)
Indiana Wesleyan University
Kentucky Mountain Bible College
Mt. Vernon Nazarene University
The Ohio Christian University
Ohio State University
Olivet Nazarene University
Oral Roberts University
Southern Wesleyan University
Spring Arbor University
Trevecca Nazarene University
University of Kentucky
University of Cumberlands In conclusion, let’s pray that this grows and spills over here to Canada. Moves of the Spirit always start with scenes like the ones below from Asbury. They are the pictures Pete Greig referenced. The first picture, a handful of the faithful praying after the chapel service that started this off. Later that day the second scene emerged.