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