Some decades ago, early in my Christian walk, I wanted to know the Lord better. In seeking to accomplish this I came across and purchased J. I Packer’s book Knowing God. I confess, I found it very dry and never finished it, as from my perspective it was more theoretical than practical. Given the popularity of the book (over 1,000,000 copies sold in North America) the shortcoming may have lain with me at the time. Be that as it may, I am presently not inclined to revisit the book. I am however inclined to think upon scripture and meditate upon the Lord’s attributes as that is a major part of knowing Him and what drew me to this verse.
9 We have thought, O God, on Your lovingkindness, In the midst of Your temple. Psalm 48:9 (NKJV)
This is a Psalm from the sons of Korah. They were prophetic musicians and worshippers as set up by David (1 Chronicles 6:22, 31) and were descended from the Korah who rebelled against Moses and Aaron. He and those with him perished (Numbers 16, Jude 11) yet since our Father’s heart is to redeem, we find that Samuel the prophet and judge of Israel was a descendant of Korah and an ancestor of the sons of Korah (1 Chronicles 6:22-23, 33-34).
Whether the temple of Solomon or the heavenly temple is in view in Psalm 48 we don’t know as it is not clear whether Solomon’s temple had been completed when this Psalm was written. What we do know is that being in the temple inspired them to reflect on Yahweh’s lovingkindness. The word in Hebrew is an important one, chesed, and it is generally translated as lovingkindness or mercy. It is the word we have in the famous Micah 6:8 passage where we are enjoined to ‘love mercy.’
Since we are now His temple it seems appropriate to reflect on His chesed and how it is evident in our lives. We may be tempted to view chesed in our lives in terms of health and abundance but that is not the case for many believers around the world. For the persecuted believers around the world life is very different and many have little in the way of material goods. Yet what they do have is a good and loving Father, one whose care and presence can be tangibly experienced where they are, just as it can be here.
One way to become more conscious of His presence and His chesed in our lives is to simply turn our thoughts to Him and reflect on His character. If we wonder what He is like Jesus said He came to reveal Him and in John 17:26 promises to still do so for us. We also have in scripture His character unveiled to Moses.
6 Then Yahweh passed by in front of him and called out, “Yahweh, Yahweh God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” Exodus 34:6–7 (LSB – Legacy Standard Bible, a new update of the NASB)
The word translated as ‘lovingkindness’ in this passage is chesed. We can thus pray something like this as we respond to the invitation from the sons of Korah,’ Father, I thank You that You are merciful, gracious and patient. I thank You that You abound in lovingkindness/chesed and that Your heart is toward me.” Pray and think about that and see how it affects your day.
Here is a song by Jesus Image extolling the virtues of Jesus.
I have shared some of this previously. In addition to a regular prayer and scripture time in the morning I like to pray and worship when I am hiking, walking or biking. I obviously also need to be aware of my surroundings so the prayer and worship in these times is part of what I am doing. I am simultaneously paying attention at a couple of levels. While doing this I can have a greater or lesser focus on each aspect depending on where my attention is being drawn in that moment.
While it doesn’t happen it nearly as often as I would like, due to my wandering thoughts, I want my heart to be drawn to His presence throughout the day. Earlier this summer I was cycling through the woods and praying when I verbalized a prayer that arose from my heart, “Help me to live in and out of your presence.” That is my desire and I hope it is yours as well. Yet to do to do this effectively we need His ongoing presence and leading. As Paul put it long ago.
14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. 2 Corinthians 13:14 (NKJV)
We need grace from Jesus to walk in the Father’s love for us and need to live in and out of communion/fellowship with the Spirit. This doesn’t simply happen to us; it is the result of the pursuit of His presence.
As I noted, I desire to do this more effectively. Presently I have struggled in my prayer life for a number of months and it has at times felt both routine and disconnected. Yet, in spite of how I ‘feel’ I encounter His presence resting upon me at various times, whether praying or doing something else. This past Sunday in a small congregation I felt His presence on me leading me to share something with the congregation near the end of the service. It was one of those times where I knew that I would be disobedient if I didn’t share so I waited for an opportunity but there wasn’t one. So, after the service was dismissed, I asked if I could share something. Permission was granted and I did. As we filed out of the service one person came up and thanked and encouraged me and someone else came up and said they thought the word I shared was for them.
I share this as in my experience I am generally more conscious of His presence during worship. Yet, as I shared earlier, I spontaneously released a prayer while biking because His presence rose up within me. That happened because I have cultivated the pursuit of His presence and I was thinking about Him and worshipping when this prayer arose from my heart. I believe and experience that the more we seek Him the more He opens up encounters to us.
This leads to a closing thought. Though I know theologically that at conversion each of us was transferred into Jesus’ kingdom (Colossians 1:13) I believe the fuller gospel message isn’t about getting us into the kingdom of God, that is the first step in a process. The aim of the gospel is getting the kingdom of God into us so that we can carry it in our daily activities and change the culture and environment around us. After all, He saved us to be a blessing to others, not to live for ourselves. To accomplish this let’s pursue His presence and purpose so that He spills over into more of our days.
Three decades ago, I realized the important connection in Exodus 33 and 34 between opportunity and experiential reality and wrote about it. I have often come back to this awareness and I am still pursuing the experiential reality. Given how I view the importance of it I have written about it again.
Over the years I have heard a number of sermons regarding Moses’ prayer in Exodus 33 and his heart cry for Yahweh’s presence to go with them to the land of their promised inheritance. With the exception of one I heard a couple of years ago, I believe they all missed the point. I will delve into the verses below to illustrate what I mean.
1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Depart and go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ 2 And I will send My Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” Exodus 33:1–3 (NKJV)
12 Then Moses said to the Lord, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people.’ But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.’ 13 Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.” 14 And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.” 17 So the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.” 18 And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.” 19 Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” 20 But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” Exodus 33:12–20 (NKJV)
We see in these verses that Yahweh promised His presence as they traveled and Moses knew the importance of His presence, given he had spent so much time in it. Yet in spite of that assurance his heart longed for something more. He had the realization that while Yahweh’s presence was to be valued it didn’t automatically confer intimacy! It was the doorway or access point, a thin place. The opportunity to pierce the veil between the natural and spiritual realms.
We see a remarkable event being played out starting in verse 12. Moses had been on the mountain with Yahweh, he had spent hour upon hour interacting with Him in ‘the tent of meeting,’ that Yahweh’s visible presence rested upon. They met ‘face to face’ (though Yahweh spoke, it is clear from the text that Moses never actually saw His face). Here in verse 12 Moses in essence says, “You know me but I don’t really know You, who are You?” Moses has the realization that though Yahweh knows Him, all of his time with Yahweh has not given him a revelation of Yahweh’s character.
This whole episode wasn’t about whether Yahweh would go with them, it was about who Yahweh was, the one going with them.
Now we may wonder what this encounter has to do with us and our walk of faith. Let me carry it over to our prayer and worship times, whether individual or corporate. In both circumstances, like Moses, we are spending time with Yahweh. Like Israel, we have a given, His presence is with us. I believe prayer and worship times are thin places, places that provide the opportunity for intimate encounter. They are an opportunity to know Him, to ask Him to show us His glory (we see from Exodus 33:18-20 and 34:5-7 that Yahweh’s glory is His character).
Times of prayer and worship are ‘thin places.’ Places where if we are sensitive to His presence, we have encounter opportunities. May we use them in a wise and ‘timely’ manner.
Thin Place by Vineyard Worship captures this concept.
Written by 40 authors over a period of about 1,500 years the scriptures are remarkably consistent in their message, as they are inspired by the Spirit. One area of consistency is what the scriptures have to say about where and how our mind and heart are to be fixed, where they are to come to rest. That is what we will examine.
First, allow me to illustrate my point. I coached basketball for a decade and I grew up with the expression, ‘practice makes perfect.’ Partway through my coaching tenure it was wisely changed to ‘practice makes permanent.’ I used to tell the players, “You can get really good at doing the wrong thing.” It is similar to the old idea, ‘experience is the best teacher.’ That one is also well intentioned but insufficient. The best teacher is guided experience. That is why we have teachers and coaches.
Now we will look at the scriptures.
7 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, But his heart is not with you. Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV)
3 You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29 (NKJV)
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 (NKJV)
The message in each of the passages is essentially the same. We are called to set our minds on things that are good and right and the result will be experiencing His peace and rest. This takes us back to the ideas of ‘practice making permanent’ and ‘guided experience.’ To get there we need to dig into the first verse I posted, Proverbs 23:7.
Proverbs 23:7 is a fascinating verse when viewed in context. This means going a bit broader followed by digging into the meaning of some Hebrew words.
6 Do not eat the bread of a miser, Nor desire his delicacies; 7 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, But his heart is not with you. 8 The morsel you have eaten, you will vomit up, And waste your pleasant words. Proverbs 23:6–8 (NKJV)
The context is a warning to not eat with a miser or selfish person. The key phrase is, “as he thinks in his heart’ with the key words ‘thinks’ and ‘heart.’ Thinks is the Hebrew shaar, which means to calculate or think. Heart is literally nephesh or soul. The New American Standard translates the phrase ‘as he thinks within himself.’ While the focus is on a miser or stingy person the message of this passage is that our behaviour flows from how we think about or measure things in our thought life.
Now back to our other verses. What determines our peace and rest is how we think. Isaiah noted that we will experience peace, shalom, by setting our minds on the Lord and trusting Him. We see the same message in Matthew. When we take Jesus’ yoke, culturally, when we become His disciple, we find rest for our souls. Inwardly we have peace. Paul provided the same message. When our thoughts are deeply set on what He defines as good, true and right and those things govern our behaviour, we have peace.
Now to the practical issue, guided experience and practice making permanent. My experience is that when I take these verses at face value and intentionally focus my heart on Jesus, the Father or the Spirit, I experience His presence and His peace resting upon and in me. That may include praying out loud, thanking Him for His presence or simply sitting listening for His voice. We live in a noisy busy culture and distractions abound. Yet whenever I choose to set my mind and focus my heart on Jesus His presence and peace come. This can be in a worship service or sitting on my own, the latter being the more frequent experience. I can then carry His presence into whatever activities I am engaged in. Whenever I become aware of His peace not being there, I need only turn my heart back to Him and He is present. The more I do this the more it becomes simply a habit of the heart.
I share this as an encouragement. If you need His peace, look to His presence and let your heart and mind rest there.
3 You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)
Easter looms large for the church each year as we celebrate Jesus sacrificial death and resurrection. As we prepare for Easter it is helpful to reflect on an event. In the days leading to Jesus sacrifice we have the oft told story of Mary anointing Jesus with oil. I don’t know about you, but had I been in Jesus’ place I would have been very uncomfortable with this level of public attention and public demonstration. Embarrassment would have likely been my response. Yet Jesus not only accepted the attention, He embraced it. I think there were two reasons for that. Frist, when we view Jesus’ interactions in the gospels He presents as utterly unselfconscious. Second, He knew the prophetic purpose of Mary’s anointing, preparation for His crucifixion and burial.
8 “She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.” Mark 14:8 NKJV
To go deeper let’s set the stage a bit. We know from the different gospel accounts that the event took place at the house of Simon the Leper/Pharisee (the passages from Matthew, Mark and John are below). We can safely conclude that Jesus had healed him or there would have only been the two of them at the meal given the culture of the day! We also know that Judas was Simon’s son (John 12:4) so this event appears to have taken place in his family home. This explains Judas taking such offense when publicly rebuked by Jesus. Judas being the son of a Pharisee also explains his easy access to the religious leaders to betray Jesus.
Having set the stage consider the event. The main characters are Mary and Jesus. The others have a role but Mary takes centre stage by way of her sacrifice. She breaks an alabaster box filled with spikenard. Referred to as spikenard or nard, this costly oil was made from the dried roots and stems of the nard plant and imported from India. Not only does Mary engage in an extravagant financial sacrifice, she engages in an extravagant social sacrifice.
Mary defies convention, and out of love for Jesus violates custom and interrupts both the meal and the discourse. She pours the fragrant oil on Jesus’ head and feet and cleans His feet with her hair. The fragrance would have permeated the room and since she poured it on Him, then rubbed it in, the fragrance would have lingered for days on Jesus’ hair and clothes (They didn’t get up and have a hot shower every day in that time and culture).
Now we come to us. What Mary really poured out on Jesus was her love and devotion and the fragrance spread to others. She was willing to sacrifice to love Jesus and He calls us to do the same. I am confident that Mary was directed by the Spirit in what she did, simply based on Jesus’ response. Mary’s sacrifice cost her something precious that she poured out on someone she considered more precious.
As we are in this season of reflection on Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection let’s consider what we have or are willing to sacrifice out of love for Jesus. I know I have poured out my worship on Him, I can’t say that I have loved and worshipped like Mary. When she did this nothing in scripture suggests Mary had any awareness of Jesus pending crucifixion and resurrection. I believe her love for Jesus caused her to act. We don’t know how she felt as she stepped into the room and all eyes turned to her as she broke this box, we do know that her focus was on Jesus not the other guests. Let’s focus on Him and see where it leads us as we seek to leave a lingering fragrance through our worship.
John 12:1–7 (NKJV)
1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. 2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. 3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. 4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. 7 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.
Mark 14:1–10 (NKJV)
1 After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by trickery and put Him to death. 2 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people.” 3 And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. 4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8 She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” 10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them.
Matthew 26:6–16 (NKJV)
6 And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. 8 But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.” 10 But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. 11 For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. 12 For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. 13 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” 14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. 16 So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.
Our individual and corporate worship and prayer times are an opportunity for pouring something out upon Jesus. An opportunity to minister to His heart and bring Him pleasure. I don’t think about this often but I do think about it. Our worship is twofold, for Jesus because He is worthy (worthy is the Lamb Revelation 5:12) and for us because it changes us and enables us to encounter His presence (Revelation 4:9-11).
We received Jesus’ nature in our spirit when we experienced the new birth, our spirit encountered the fullness of life. At the same time, by giving something of Himself to us, Jesus was and is in no way diminished. We now have something of Him that we can offer back to Him. We can worship in spirit and truth and live out of the reality of this verse.
26 “And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:26 (NKJV)
This love the Father has for Jesus was planted in us at conversion and we can now return it to Jesus. In pouring out worship not only is His presence in us not decreased, it increases! We experience more of His presence and He is blessed and pleased by what we pour out.
You may wonder how we can affect any change in Jesus or the Father given scripture says “For I am the LORD, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6) or as it says in Hebrews,
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV)
The answer lies in His consistency and faithfulness. When we read through scripture we see Yahweh’s jealousy, anger and sorrow. A full range of emotions. Yet at the same time they are all governed and motivated by love. We know from 1 John 4:7 that God is love, that is His essence. We see it in the most famous verse in scripture.
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 (NKJV)
There are numerous verses in the Old Testament that refer to Yahweh’s pleasure at the sacrifices offered. The pattern continues in the New Testament.
15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 2 Corinthians 2:15 (NKJV)
18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. Philippians 4:18 (NKJV)
16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Hebrews 13:16 (NKJV)
Thus, we can see that while pouring out our worship on Him will not change His essence, it will bring Him pleasure. Let’s do that!
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.
There is an interesting phrase early in the Song of Solomon. Chapter 1 verse 4 begins with the phrase “Draw me away!” There is ardour inherent in this expression of a desire for the heart to be drawn to following the one we love. Whether we view the focus or intent of the Song of Solomon as being primarily about Israel and Yahweh, Jesus and the church or a bride and bridegroom, we can know one thing, as believers we are called to passionately love Jesus with everything we have (Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:30). Thus, the Song of Solomon can teach us about the love relationship we are called to have with Jesus.
The bride begins by expressing a heart cry, the desire to be drawn away by her beloved, to be with him. Later in the book we find her desire compromised by inconvenience.
2 I sleep, but my heart is awake; It is the voice of my beloved! He knocks, saying, “Open for me, my sister, my love, My dove, my perfect one; For my head is covered with dew, My locks with the drops of the night.” 3 I have taken off my robe; How can I put it on again? I have washed my feet; How can I defile them? 4 My beloved put his hand By the latch of the door, And my heart yearned for him. 5 I arose to open for my beloved, And my hands dripped with myrrh, My fingers with liquid myrrh, On the handles of the lock. 6 I opened for my beloved, But my beloved had turned away and was gone. My heart leaped up when he spoke. I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer. Song of Solomon 5:2–6 (NKJV)
In this scene the bridegroom came for the bride but she found it inconvenient to respond even though she longed for him. As a result, she lost out. If we carry that over to our relationship with Jesus, He sometimes calls our hearts to engage with His at inconvenient times. I know at times I have not responded because I was ‘busy.’ What a foolish choice. Other times my heart has simply responded to His drawing and I have rested in His presence, even in the midst of activity. I don’t need to stop and assume the right posture or breathe the right way to know and enjoy His presence. I can simply let my heart encounter His.
In the above scene the bride was left with myrrh on her fingers, scented oil. In our walk with Jesus the scented oil represents anointing and the fragrance of His presence. We can be left with a measure of anointing even if we miss responding to His presence but it will fade over time. We need more than a reminder of His presence; we need to daily walk closely with Him knowing His heart.
The danger of not responding to His call is found in Revelation and Hebrews. In Revelation Jesus commends the church at Ephesus for many things but chastises them for their failure in their call to love Him.
2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Revelation 2:2–4 (NKJV)
The primary message in this warning is that good works are no substitute for a good relationship. Jesus may be pleased with our works but what He desires is our hearts. Similarly, in Hebrews 2:1 we are warned of the danger of drifting away. Not walking away, drifting. We see that with the bride in the Song of Solomon. Her passion was intense in her desire to be drawn away but then when the bridegroom came for her later, she failed to respond with the same intensity. She had to some extent drifted away.
We too can drift away simply by becoming caught up in other things or being busy doing things ‘for Jesus’ rather than being with Him. The good news for the bride in the Song of Solomon is that she came to the place where her one desire was the bridegroom and she gave expression to it when she asked not to be drawn but to be set as a seal upon his heart (Song of Solomon 8:5-6).
For us, we may start by asking to be drawn and we may then drift. Yet, if we look at the pattern in the Song of Solomon, when we renew our pursuit of Him we find Him and again find ourselves in the place of intimacy with Him. I don’t know if can we be sealed in this lifetime, I do know we can always reorient our heart to pursuing His presence and thus His purpose. I pray we all remain sensitive to His call and respond when He calls.
As I reflected on what I had written He brought a well known hymn to mind, here are the last two verse of an 18th century hymn by Robert Robinson, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, they capture what I have tried to write quite well.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it Prone to leave the God I love Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it Seal it for Thy courts above
Here’s my heart Oh take and seal it Seal it for Thy courts above
I am no musician, as I am sure others will attest, and though I love to worship I cannot read a note of music. Yet I do know that in tuning an instrument it needs to be tuned to vibrate in harmony with the note on the tuning fork. For example, the tuning of a piano. When the tuning fork is struck it gives off sound and then the tension on the string on the piano needs to be adjusted so that it vibrates in harmony with the sound of the tuning fork. The tuning fork sets the standard.
In a similar manner our lives are to be tuned, adjusted to His presence and purpose over and above our desires, adjusted to His standard. Ideally our desires will align with His. Yet in my experience, and I know it is the same for many others, they are often in conflict. I don’t believe we will ever fully understand all the where’s and whys of His purposes from the perspective of earth. However, just as the piano string needs to be turned, stretched and adjusted to stay in harmony with the note on the tuning fork, He is continually adjusting our lives to be in harmony with His purpose whether or not we understand it.
To carry this a little further think of a traditional upright piano. We see the pianist striking the keys and we hear sounds come forth from the piano. However, the keys are not producing the music. The keys activate a pad that strikes a string that produces a sound. Activity is taking place inside the piano. In a similar manner, what expresses Jesus character through us is something that takes place where He works, on the inside, in our spirits.
I believe that we need to tune our hearts to hear and respond to the sound of heaven inside! One way I find to do this is to engage deeply in worship. When I worship Him and begin to encounter His presence, I find He is tuning my heart to hear His voice. I become sensitized to what He is saying and doing in a room, with a group of people. He begins to reveal things to me. You may experience that through reading the word or praying. I find intimate worship the most effective tool to tune my heart to hear His voice, to move in harmony with Him. My desire is expressed in a line from a song I wrote in the 90’s, “I’m moved by Your moving within.” I desire to encounter His presence within and then give expression to what He is doing and minister to others.
Let’s ask Him to tune the strings of our hearts to vibrate in harmony with His presence and purpose. As Paul put it.
Colossians 1:27 (NKJV)
27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
you ever wondered how to turn sheep into horses? No I am not talking about
evolution: this is more akin to revolution. In general Christians, like the
nation of Israel, are often referred to as sheep. We have Psalm 23 with the
Lord’s people being the sheep and Him the Shepherd. We have Jesus affirming
this in John 10 saying He is the good shepherd. We also have Jesus restoring
Peter in John 21 referring to His people as sheep. Suffice to say this is a
well established teaching and perspective, nor is it a wrong one. Yet we have
this interesting verse.
Zechariah 10:3 (NKJV) 3 “My anger is kindled against the shepherds, And I will
punish the goatherds. For the LORD of hosts will visit His flock, The house of
Judah, And will make them as His royal
horse in the battle.”
the church believers are frequently referred to as sheep, and treated that way,
herded into pens and fed once or twice a week. There are varying degrees of
leadership and mindsets that drive that leadership. While some leadership is
very effective we are all deceiving ourselves if we think we can lead as effectively
and with the same wisdom as Jesus. He alone can make sheep like horses in
current situation is a bit like Joshua’s encounter (Josh. 5:13-15). The Lord
had trained Joshua through Moses, displayed His power through Joshua in the
crossing of the Jordan, the people had been circumcised, and now Joshua meets a
warrior with a drawn sword. Joshua wants to know whose side the warrior is on.
It is the Lord and in essence He says, “I didn’t come to take side, I came to
Jesus is always present in our services the environment shifts when our
experience moves from His omnipresence to His manifest presence. When He begins
to move on our hearts and manifest His glory our responsibility is to bow our
hearts and knees and passionately walk in obedience. Presently, like the sons
of Issachar, we need to know times and seasons and know what to do (1 Chron.
12:32). I believe it is time for His church to arise and shine (Is. 60:1-2). As
darkness has been increasing in our nation I believe a shift is available for
hungry hearts. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice (Jn. 10:3, 16). Do we
hear Him calling us to be a horse in His battle? Is this our heart cry? If it
is let us join in this ancient prayer.
1 Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You
would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence – 2 As
fire burns brushwood, As fire causes water to boil – To make Your name known to
Your adversaries, That the nations may tremble at Your presence! 3 When
You did awesome things for which we did not look, You came down, The
mountains shook at Your presence. 4 For since the beginning of
the world Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, Nor has the eye
seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him. Isaiah