You Are God’s Masterpiece

By W.P. Campbell

masterpieceI remember the one and only acrylic painting I attempted. It was a masterpiece. I wanted others to enjoy it and I hung it on the wall in my workshop.

In Ephesians 2:10, we read, “For we are God’s masterpiece” (NLT). The Greek word used for masterpiece is found in only one other place in the Bible, Romans 1:20, which reads,

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…”

When God made the world, it became and remained an expression of His person. So it is with any piece of art. When Michelangelo took blotches of color and spread them onto a plain white canvas, he fashioned unimaginable beauty that arose from within his person. When he sculpted plain chunks of marble, he chiseled away to release what was inside the stone and inside his heart.

The Greek word for masterpiece or handiwork, is “poema.” It sounds like poem, and that’s what it came to eventually mean in English. Michelangelo was able to take ordinary words and set them in a line to craft poetry. Each new word linked with the prior to form stanzas. Each stanza was massaged for just the right blend of nuance and resonance. Like a gentle stream, meaning and sound flowed in his poetry to fill the reader’s ears, minds, and hearts as with liquid gold. His poetry, his sculpting, and his paintings were masterpieces. They were expressions of his inner being.

God made the world to express his personhood (Romans 1:20). How much more will you and I be expressions of his eternal plan and glorious personality. Paul states that we “have been seated” with Christ in the heavenly realms so that He “can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace” (Ephesians 2:6-7, NLT). Seated is in the aorist (past) tense in the Greek, suggesting it has already been done.

The promised end God has for us is guaranteed to be fulfilled. As Paul told the Philippians, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, ESV).

Even the “good works” we attempt for God in the world are part of God’s handiwork in us (Ephesians 2:10). When we see this, we no longer find ourselves striving in desperation to please God. No longer do we compare ourselves with others, thinking we need to be something more. Rather, we surrender to God’s work. We rejoice in God’s promise. And we understand that what God is doing in our lives and in the Church universal is something very beautiful. Indeed, he is creating a masterpiece.

Politics of the Heart

JohnWoolmanQuoteThe word “politics” carries a dark and negative tone for many Christians. Perhaps this is because we’ve lost sight of the power of one dedicated life.

Take John Woolman, for example. If you are a Quaker, you likely know the name well. Woolman lived in the mid 18th century and traveled up and down the East Coast over a span of two decades talking to his fellow brothers and sisters in the faith about the inconsistency of a person who owns Christian convictions and slaves at the same time. Tirelessly, he spoke against the practice that formed the financial backbone for many Quaker merchants and communities.

Woolman wore plain white clothing because the dyes that were used in his day were the product of slave labor. He chose to fast when food offered to him was prepared or served by slaves. He was a man with convictions and the Society of Friends listened. Quakers became the first religious community to abolish slavery, and they did so some eighty years before the Civil War. In 1873, they petitioned congress to follow suit. It would take time and the spilling of much blood before politicians and the populace would catch on. The Quakers also played a significant role in the network of safe passages and safe houses, the “underground railroad” that enabled many slaves to find their freedom from 1827 and beyond.

We don’t think of Quakers as a “political” people. This is because they understood that it doesn’t take marches, lobbyists, and finances to move a people. Conduct trumped words. Theirs’ was a politics of the heart.

I once interviewed Parker Palmer (listen to the audio podcast below), a Quaker who speaks today with conviction about the means by which any common person, such as you or me, can make a difference in our democracy. He believes it is as simple as owning convictions with integrity, and influencing the people who are in our everyday spheres of influence. We don’t need to be brash or brazen…just bold. We don’t need to visit Washington, DC, but rather to carry our influence gently and quietly into our communities, our schools, and our churches.

In his book, Healing the Heart of Democracy, Palmer describes habits of the heart that enable us to have political influence in the most natural and powerful manner. It all begins with this simple truth: If we wish to influence others, we must not keep our convictions to ourselves. As we speak our minds with grace and show others honor by listening and learning from their perspectives, the tension of diverse opinions can build community and in some cases consensus. Ours is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Let us not forget that we are the people.

Has politics become a dark or dirty word for you? Remember the words of columnist and author E. J. Dionne Jr, “A nation that hates politics will not long thrive as a democracy.”  We might add, “Christians who avoid politics may lose their influence on the nation.” When we realize that politics begins in the heart, we may become a positive force on the street. John Woolman went against his tendencies as a tailor to wear bleached and colorless clothing as he spoke against the enslavement of fellow human beings. His words and life, however, were clothed in the bright colors of his heart convictions.

———————

Parker Palmer

William P. (Bill) Campbell is pastor of Hendersonville Presbyterian Church, Hendersonville, and host of the Christian talk radio program, “Beyond Words Radio”.

Day 8: True Repentance

Old Testament Stories

Read

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.  — Jonah 3:1-5, 10 ESV

Optional Reading: Jonah 1-4

Reflect

The Book of Jonah is a story of repentance. It is not merely the Ninevites who needed to repent, however. Jonah too needed to get right with God. He had heard and then resisted the call of God to bring a message to Nineveh. In this ancient epic, God helps the prophet get over his merciless attitude toward them.

The word for “repent” suggests a change of heart and mind. With this definition before us, we can see a rather surprising third line of repentance in the story of Jonah. We read in the narrative that not only did Jonah and the Ninevites turn back to God, but God also “repented” (Jonah 3:10, KJV). When God repents, it is not for any sin on His part, but rather it is to show compassion for the penitent sinner. God often changes His mind about a pronounced judgment when a nation or person turns from their sinful ways (Exodus 32:12-14; 2 Samuel 24:16; 1 Chronicles 21:15; Psalm 106:45; Jeremiah 4:28; 18:8; 26:3, 13, 19; 42:10; Joel 2:13-14; Amos 7:3, 6).

We who are made in God’s image can easily understand. Loving parents set standards and rules of discipline for their children to encourage good behavior and and to curb self-destructive tendencies. If a child is given warning about a particular action that is unacceptable and if the child has a complete change of heart for the better, the parents have a choice to make. They can rigidly apply the threatened punishment as a nonretractable law. Or, the parent can reward the child’s change of attitude with a lightening of the punishment as incentive for even better behavior.

There are instances in the Bible when God declares that his chastisement for the sins of a person or nation will not and cannot be diverted (Ezekiel 14:12-14). More often, however, God pulls back on the severity of his pronounced punishments when signs of true repentance are evident. We reap what we sow.

It might be asked, “How much repentance is required on the part of a nation to avert the rightful judgment of God?” No human can answer such a question completely because such decisions are in the hands of God. Based on the Book of Jonah, however, we may surmise that the surest way to elicit God’s mercy is to repent before God as did the Ninevites: En masse. From the greatest to the least, they put on sackcloth and fasted before God, pleading for mercy. And the King of Nineveh issued a decree:

“Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”  — Jonah 3:7-9 ESV

The greatest miracle in the Book of Jonah is not the big fish. It is rather that a large and wicked city full of people humbled themselves before God, seeking mercy and forgiveness. Would that God might perform such a miracle again in our day. Oh that our entire nation might be swept up by a revival based on the sure foundations of true repentance.

Pray

Great and Gracious God, we know that revival begins with repentance. And repentance begins with each of us, for your judgments come first to those who know your will but neglect or run from it—the people of God (1 Peter 4:17). Enable us to see our sin, our pride, and our complacency. And help us to turn back to you with our whole heart. Then perhaps you will show mercy on us as you did on Jonah first and then on the Ninevites. Lead us down the rugged road of repentance until we can energetically climb the mountain of your mercies. In the name of Christ our Savior, we pray.

Ponder

  1. From Jonah 1, why do you think Jonah resisted God’s call? What is God’s call on your life? Are you resistant? With Jonah’s story in mind, why is it stupid not to obey the Lord?
  1. In chapter 2, Jonah repented. In chapter 3, he obeyed, proclaiming God’s judgment for Nineveh. Picture Jonah walking down the crowed streets of evil Nineveh, preaching God’s message to the very enemies of the Jews. Describe his boldness. What, if anything, keeps you back from being so bold in obedience to the call God has placed on your life?
  1. Why was Jonah mad with God in chapter 4? What object lesson did God provide to help the prophet develop more compassion? Think about those you consider your enemies. Do you have God’s compassion for them?

 

Day 7: Scripture our Foundation

New Testament Insights

Read

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.  — 2Timothy 2:14-15 ESV

Optional fuller reading: 1 Timothy 1-6; 2 Timothy 2

Reflect

In a previous reading (Day 4), we noted that Paul’s last written epistle, 2 Timothy, contains a succinct declaration of Paul’s call for training leadership for revival. Today we focus on the key. The leader must be grounded in God’s Word. In Paul’s mind, whether or not Timothy would be able to “correctly handle” Scripture would make all of the difference.

The King James Version translates the Greek word for “correctly handle” as “rightly divide.” Orthotomounta, is a compound word composed of “ortho” (as in “orthodox”) and teono (meaning, “to cut”). This compound word would be commonly used for the stonemason who etched and then sliced through a piece of rock without destroying it. In the same manner, it described the surgeon who used the scalpel to heal rather than hurt patients.

To rightly divide Scripture is to cut through potentially divisive issues to find central biblical truths that advance God’s work. One must know how to rightly divide Scripture when teaching about styles of worship, the use of spiritual gifts, the meaning of prophecy, the call to holiness without legalism, the command to love without compromising truth, and many similar topics.

During The Great Awakening, John Wesley and George Whitefield sought to rightly divide the truth about God’s sovereignty in our salvation. Wesley emphasized one’s freedom to choose God. Whitefield emphasized God’s election of those who are His. These two men had spent their college years at Oxford together in the same small group for spiritual growth and service, called “The Holy Club.” Nevertheless, once they stepped into ministry, they preached and taught on opposite sides of this significant issue. So divided were they over the doctrines of election and free will that while Whitfield was on a mission trip to the American Colonies, John Wesley persuaded many of Whitfield’s followers to turn away from their leader. Nevertheless, when someone later asked Whitefield, “Do you expect to see John Wesley in Heaven?” The preacher replied, “No. John Wesley will be so close to the Throne of Glory, and I will be so far away, I will hardly get a glimpse of him.”

When Whitefield died in 1770, Wesley likewise proclaimed at the funeral his great appreciation for Whitefield. These men knew, as should all mature believers, how to rightly divided the Word, separating out doctrines that have been and always will be debatable among Christians from those which are core essentials to our salvation, unity, and growth. Laboring side-by-side in the kingdom for lost souls, they disagreed on the way in which God saves, but did not debate the need for everyone to hear and respond to the Gospel.

We too must develop a mature outlook on Scripture, balanced and focused on the core essentials of the faith such as salvation, growth, evangelism, holy living, caring for the poor, and being always prepared for the Lord’s return. If we are spending more time debating fine points of doctrine rather than obeying the clear commands of God, we are missing the declared will of God for our lives.

The goal of Awake! is to help foster revival and to raise up leaders of revival in a balanced and biblical manner, avoiding the extremes. To this end, we encourage you to make use of the resources provided by the host ministry, Scripture Awakening, and those offered by each of the partner ministries. Scripture Awakening, for example offers tools to help us to read the Bible (Bible in 90 Days, or B90), study it (BNEXT resources) and live it (BEYOND resources). OneCry, Prayer Connect, Church Renewal Journey, and the other Partner Ministries also aim to equip us for ministry that is balanced and effective.

On August 22, 2015, we will host a half-day seminar designed to equip you and your church or small group leaders to this end. Training and tools will be made available to you. Check out the Awake! Follow-up Seminar page and consider bringing several leaders from your church or fellowship.

Pray

Your Word, O Lord, gives us wisdom for living and light for the walking. Help us to know it and to follow it. May you bring a revival in our day that is based on a holistic understanding of Scripture. Guide leaders of this revival to teach in such a way that true unity grows through Christ and the Gospel, a unity that does not compromise either love or truth, a unity based on the Spirit’s power and purity.

Ponder

  1. Paul exhorts Timothy to “rightly divide” the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). List some of the doctrines or biblical teachings that tend to divide rather than unite believers. Which of these teachings do you wish you could “rightly divide” with more skill?
  1. List some of the core truths that should unite believers despite their differences. With this list in mind, do you think it is a good thing that we have so many denominations in the Christian world? Why or why not?
  1. Take a few minutes to highlight from 1 & 2 Timothy a few of the many areas in which Paul urged Timothy to use sound judgment to rightly divide truth. Pray for leaders of revival today to have such wisdom.

 

Day 6: Scripture our Foundation

Example in Church History

Read

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes;
and I will keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain!
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.

— Psalm 119:33-37 ESV

Optional fuller reading: Psalm 119:1-176

Reflect

“The Great Awakening” is the title commonly assigned to the great move of God’s Spirit that impacted England and the American colonies between 1725 and 1745. This awakening is considered “great,” not merely because of its impact on people and nations. Some later revivals would have a more substantial global reach. This first revival was so “great” largely because it was a first. In no former awakening of the Church had God’s reviving power been so markedly and simultaneously evidenced out around the world.

Just as the first book of the Bible, Genesis, is important to the whole of God’s Word because it contains the roots of every major biblical teaching, so did this first great awakening contain the ingredients that would be necessary for every subsequent spiritual awakening. The centerpiece of the 18th century Great Awakening was the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. Without biblical foundations, no revival can be sustained for long.

The three central figures in The Great Awakening were John Wesley, George Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards. We have already noted that John Wesley has been regarded as the architect of The Great Awakening. Through his keen organizational skills, he built on the experience of his childhood and of the Holiness Club at Oxford, creating cells of committed disciples around England and eventually in America. He trained a network of leaders to shepherd these groups and he wrote prodigiously to fertilize the growing work of God with biblical truth.

George Whitefield was more of an orator than an organizer. He helped to foster and spread revival through his passionate and persuasive preaching. He developed much of his spiritual fervency, with John Wesley, in his Oxford experience through the Holiness Club. Whitefield’s mix of enthusiasm and eloquence quickly set him apart from other preachers and he was in great demand in England in his early 20s. Overflow crowds attended his sermons. After a trip to America, he took his preaching to the fields where he could reach greater numbers of people.

Whitefield crossed the Atlantic seven times, and over 34 years he preached an estimated 18,000 messages through nearly every town in England, Scotland, and Wales, and up and down the American colonies. Benjamin Franklin befriended the revivalist and used the newspaper to publicize his sermons. Sometimes the crowds attending George’s preaching swelled to 20,000 or more and hearers responded with weeping and repentance, sometimes falling to the ground as if slain. In the words of J. C. Ryle, “His hearers were taken by surprise and carried by storm.”

In the autumn of 1740, Whitefield came to Northampton, New England, and finally met the man he so respected, Jonathan Edwards. Both men shared a Calvinistic approach to Scripture, Edwards was distinguished by his profound scholarship. He is recognized as one of America’s greatest intellectuals. He read his lengthy sermons in a monotone voice. It was the content of his messages and writings that stirred his Congregationalist congregation and that helped to spread the revival fires in England. Edwards fostered a biblical understanding God’s surprising works that would be necessary for The Great Awakening to continue and expand.

Pray

Great God of reviving power, you see and know how affixed we Americans are to the Internet and television. If a Whitefield came through town, we might not be interested enough to arise from our couches. If an Edwards wrote books today, we would likely not be interested in reading his books to glean insights for our lives. We have compromised diligence with negligence. We want Christianity light. Do what it takes, Lord, to stir us up. Awaken in us once again a passion for your Word.

Ponder

  1. Drawing from 2 Timothy 2:14-15 and 4:1-5, tell why a right understanding and teaching of Scripture the essential foundation for spiritual awakening.
  1. Success is often more difficult than failure. Pride can swell the head, making it difficult to stay on one’s feet. One key to The Great Awakening was leadership that remained humble and useful to God through a right understanding of the Word of God. From Romans 12:1-3, what advice might you give to a person who senses God’s call to foster and lead revival?
  1. When we read summary statements about movements such as “The Great Awakening,” it is easy to glamorize the high points and to overlook the persecution and hardships faced by those who led and experienced God’s revival. Leaders suffered. Churches split. God’s work advanced through fiery trials. So it has always been. Read 1 Peter 4:12-19 and list commands, promises and insights from this text.

 

Day 5: Scripture our Foundation

Old Testament Stories

Read

And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law … And there was very great rejoicing. — Nehemiah 8:1-3, 17 ESV

Optional fuller reading: Nehemiah 1-4, 8

Reflect

A true and abiding work of revival is centered on a fresh and holistic understanding of God’s Word. How easily we search for shortcuts to genuine spiritual awakening only to find ourselves riding emotional and experiential rollercoasters. A good illustration of these truths is well illustrated through the story described in the Book of Nehemiah.

It was 445 BCE. Nehemiah was cupbearer to the king over Persia, serving in the upper echelons of the monarch’s court. Report came to Nehemiah through one of his brothers that Jerusalem was in disrepair; the walls of the city were broken down and the gate burnt (Nehemiah 1:1-3). In years past, two groups of exiles had already returned to Jerusalem to commence the rebuilding process and yet the city was in shambles. Nehemiah mourned and fasted from Kislev to Nisan, between the general periods of Thanksgiving and Easter on our calendars.

During these months of prayer and fasting, Nehemiah came to realize that he should lead a group back to Jerusalem, to repair its walls. It must have seemed impossible to Nehemiah that the great king over Persia would bless such an expedition. It would require the release of a substantial number of Jews, the provision of timber and construction materials, and the granting of authorized letters from the king for safe passage on a treacherous journey through foreign lands. Nehemiah did the wise thing. He first approached the King of Heaven with his appeal. Only after extended time in prayer did Nehemiah bring his case to Artaxerxes.

The Persian monarch granted Nehemiah his request, and the cupbearer led a group of exiles to Jerusalem, the third wave of returnees. Zerubbabel in 537/6 BCE had led the first. Under his leadership, the foundation of the Jerusalem temple had been laid. The second group had returned under Ezra the scribe in 457 BCE. Ezra was known as one who had, “set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10 ESV). Under Ezra’s leadership, a spiritual cleansing and renewal had occurred among the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

And now under Nehemiah’s leadership, a third wave of pilgrims returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls. Through wise strategy, tribal unity, sheer determination and deep dependence on God, the Lord enabled them to repair the walls in a mere 52 days (Nehemiah 2-7). Once again, however, the people needed to get right with God. Ezra was still in Jerusalem and this scribe’s reading and teaching of Scripture would be central to the revival described in the Book of Nehemiah.

In Nehemiah 8, we read that the people assembled on New Year’s Day of their Jewish civil calendar, which was also known as the Feast of Trumpets on their ceremonial calendar. The people stood in the square before the Water Gate from daybreak until noon, for five or six hours, listening attentively as Ezra read God’s Word. He paused from time to time and with the aid of thirteen priests, explanation and instruction was provided, most likely in smaller groups. The people came to realize how much of God’s declared will they had overlooked and violated through their own ignorance (Nehemiah 8:9). They mourned deeply, asking God’s forgiveness. This deep sense of contrition, repentance, and brokenness is the line of delineation between a true revival and an emotional or experiential high.

The people were then instructed to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths. Thus would they feast before God and make sacrifices, living in booths for an entire week as a reminder of the huts the Israelites lived in during their forty-year desert wanderings. And their joy was great. It was the joy of the Lord. Not for a thousand years, since the time of Joshua, had the feast been properly observed. Thus the Word of God became the platform on which the people could meet with God and be made whole again.

Pray

Great and gracious God, in our country there are an average 2.5 Bibles in every home, and yet we don’t read them. We have more training schools and seminars available to us than any other country, and yet there is a spiritual famine in the land. We don’t know and understand the Bible. We have not done the hard work of studying it and applying it, as did Ezra the scribe. We repent, O God. Show us how to become a people of the book once again.

Ponder

  1. In Nehemiah 1, the cupbearer seeks God on behalf of God’s people. For months, he mourns and fasts and prays. Through this time, God reveals a divine plan to answer Nehemiah’s concerns. In short, describe that plan, as found in Nehemiah 2. What would Nehemiah need to give up to live out that plan?
  2. Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem and involved all of the people (chapter 3) to rebuild the walls amidst opposition (chapter 4 & 6) while serving God and the people with his whole heart (chapter 5). Under his godly leadership, the people completed the project in 52 days (6:15). Still, Nehemiah recognized that something more was needed. The people needed to become right with God. What parallels can you see between the state of the people in Nehemiah’s day and that of our day? Explain.
  3. From the commentary above and from Nehemiah 8, describe how the Scriptures were central to the awakening of God’s people. Do you believe a good understanding of Scripture should be foundational to any revival today? Can you illustrate or support your perspective with stories or teachings in Scripture?

 

Day 4: Nurtured for Revival

New Testament Insights

Read

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.  — 2 Timothy 2:1-7 ESV

Optional fuller reading: 2 Timothy 1-4

Reflect

Paul didn’t work alone. He ministered in teams. And he mentored others to become leaders for kingdom work. In a letter to Timothy, he explained,

…what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).

The location of this verse can easily be remembered. 2 Timothy 2:2 contains three twos, wrapped around the name, Timothy. To easily recall the verse location, we might say that the first two represents Paul’s relationship to Timothy. Two or more people are necessary for a relationship of discipleship. The second two describes Timothy’s mentoring commitment to a disciple of his own. The third two relates to the discipleship relationship between a person Timothy would mentor and yet another. Thus, 2:2:2 may remind us of how it is that Paul envisions three spiritual generations passing on the faith.

Paul and Timothy were following a pattern for kingdom leadership development that has marked the ages. In the era of the Old Testament, prophets had their schools, their groups of followers who were trained to use their gifts for God (1 Samuel 19:18-24, 2 Kings 4:38-44). John the Baptist, the last of this line of prophets, likewise mentored disciples to know and follow God. When his cousin, Jesus, came on the scene, John’s disciples followed our Lord. Jesus spent three years “with them” that they might grow and develop spiritually (Mark 4:14). He poured his life into twelve, who eventually grew in number and to whom the work of ministry would be committed.

Jesus ascended into heaven, leaving behind disciples who were equipped to carry on. If they did nothing else, they were to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). And they did. Barnabas, for example, put his arm around Paul and guided him to grow in kingdom understanding and ministry. Paul replicated the pattern with Timothy.

Paul and Timothy first met when Paul was traveling through Derbe and Lystra on his second missionary journey. Acts 16 informs us that Timothy’s mother was a Jewish believer in Jesus and his father was Greek. Timothy’s father was most likely not a believer. Timothy needed a spiritual father, a mentor. He accepted the invitation to be part of Paul’s team as Paul’s ministry assistant. Some years later, in 2 Timothy, the apostle gave this charge to Timothy: find faithful people and do for them what I’ve done for you. 2 Timothy is the last piece of written correspondence we have from Paul.

The ministry of revival, as with all aspects of God’s kingdom work, is built on relationships of trust. Life-to-life the kingdom advances. We tend to think of the Church as an enterprise. However, God tells us it is a community, a family (1 Timothy 3:15). We cannot imagine a mom giving birth to a baby and then leaving it in a crib the next morning saying, “The milk is in the frig, and leftovers are in the freezer should you still be hungry. Clean house, walk the dog, and do some weeding if you have any extra time. I’ll be back tonight.” Nor should we imagine a person who is called to help lead revival stepping up to the job without time to grow and to be discipled.

Do you hope to see revival sweep the land? Are you called to help make it happen?

If so, the first and most important thing you can do is to commit to the biblical pattern of leadership development. Ask God to put you in a mentoring relationship with another who is committed to the same. And as you grow in understanding and ministry, you will be called by God to touch another life, who will impact yet another. Life-to-life is how the kingdom advances.

Pray

I wish to see revival, Lord. I pray for it and hope for it. Help me to actually be part of it by committing myself to others who are engaged in the work of the kingdom. Show me how to be more connected in my family, my church, and key relationships of trust that exemplify the 2:2:2 principle that Paul described to Timothy. Even as I engage in this Renewal Journey, provide insights that I can transfer to others.

Ponder

  1. From Acts 11:19-30, describe how Barnabas reached out to Paul and pulled him into the community of faith to help him grow and develop in kingdom ministry. Do you think Paul would have had such a significant ministry if Barnabas had not connected with him and encouraged him?
  1. In Acts 12:25, John Mark is pulled into Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey. From Acts 15:36-41, what happened to the team as they launched into the second missionary journey? What do you learn from this about Paul? About Barnabas?
  1. In 2 Timothy 4:11, we find Paul and John Mark reconnected in ministry. Mark would later write the Gospel of Mark. Do you sometimes feel you are not useful to God? If so, what can you learn from this account to inspire you to connect with key people and to serve God alongside them in a relationship of mutual encouragement and accountability?

 

Day 3: Nurtured for Revival

Read

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”  — Deuteronomy 6:4-7 ESV

Optional fuller reading: Deuteronomy 6:1-25

Reflect

John Wesley is known as the primary architect of the first Great Awakening, in the 17th century, and the founder of the Methodist church. An itinerate preacher for 65 years, he traveled an estimated 250,000 miles on horseback to preach some 40,000 sermons. John left behind the legacy of 233 books and more than 130,000 Methodists overseen by 750 preachers in England and 350 in America. His brother Charles penned 9,000 hymns, many of which are still enjoyed today.

Suzanna Wesley, the mother of John and Charles, may be considered the mother of modern Methodism. With a heart to honor God and a determination to raise her children in the ways of God, she helped to shape lives that would impact the world.

Suzanna Wesley married a headstrong pastor, Samuel, and they had 19 children, nine of whom died as infants. At the end of Suzanna’s life, only eight of her children were still alive. As Anglicans, Susanna and Samuel were part of the dissenting church, refusing to bow to the dictates of the Church of England. As with many other dissenters, they lived in poverty, always struggling to provide for their children. Samuel was often gone on church business. At one point, he left for over a year due to a minor dispute with Suzanna. Twice, Samuel spent time in jail due to his inability to pay off his debts. Twice their home was burned down.

In one of the fires, young John Wesley, then six, was rescued from a second story window before the roof collapsed around him. He later referred to himself as a “brand plucked from the fire.” Suzanna decided to be especially careful with John’s soul as she felt God had so mercifully spared his life for a purpose.

The Wesley home was a place of strict discipline and learning. Once the children reached the age of five, their formal education began. They attended classes at home for six hours, learning Latin and Greek and the full classical education that was expected in that era in England. Suzanna practiced daily devotions throughout her life and she made it a habit to spend an hour with each of her children at night, one for each day of the week. She wrote to her husband,

“I am a woman, but I am also the mistress of a large family. And though the superior charge of the souls contained in it lies upon you, yet in your long absence I cannot but look upon every soul you leave under my charge as a talent committed to me under a trust. I am not a man nor a minister, yet as a mother and a mistress I felt I ought to do more than I had yet done. I resolved to begin with my own children; in which I observe the following method: I take such a proportion of time as I can spare every night to discourse with each child apart…” (John Wesley, The Works of the Reverend John Wesley, New York, 1861, Emory and B. Waugh, p. 261.)

Suzanna never preached a sermon or wrote a book. She did something greater: she nurtured her children in the ways of the Lord. Largely due to her dedication as a mother, a spiritual awakening eventually swept through England and colonial America.

Pray

Lord, forgive us for neglecting the ancient and timeless command to teach our children your Word and your will. Help us to see how one life given fully to you can impact the world. Show us today how to raise children who will impact tomorrow. Lead us into lives of devotion and guide families and churches to join hands, raising up generation of revival leaders in this hour of darkness. This we pray in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Ponder

  1. Note in Deuteronomy 6:1 the emphasis given by Moses on passing the faith on to our children and grandchildren. How well is the average Christian doing in this regard today? Did this occur in your life? Is it happening through you to your children or others?
  1. Verses 4-5 describe the core focus of God’s commands, the central goal for mentoring our children. List three things we can do to make this goal a reality for our children. Is this the central goal of your life? Why or why not?
  1. Read Deuteronomy 6:10-25. What significant truths or guidelines do you draw from this text that are important for the nurture of future leaders of spiritual awakening?

 

Day 2: Nurtured for Revival

Read

And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the LORD.” The man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the LORD the yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow. But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the LORD and dwell there forever.” 1 Samuel 1:20-22 ESV

Optional fuller reading: 1 Samuel 1-3

Reflect

Leaders of revival must be called of God. They must also be nurtured. Find a person who prays and preaches with power and you will discover that somewhere along the way, that person has been prayed for and has been taught God’s ways and God’s Word.

In 1 Samuel 1, we read about a woman named Hannah who pleaded with God so passionately for a child that Eli the priest thought she was drunk (1 Samuel 1:13). God gave her a child and she named him Samuel, which means “heard of the Lord.” He was a product of prayer. Hannah dedicated Samuel to the Lord, to serve in the house of God from a young age (v. 28). She kept Samuel, however, until he was weaned. He was likely weaned not only from breast milk but from the spiritual milk of the Word of God. Jewish historian Josephus Flavius believe that Samuel was twelve when he was brought to the temple, even as Jesus was twelve when he was brought to the temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:41-52).

In the presence of God, Samuel “was ministering before the Lord” and “grew before the Lord” (1 Samuel 2: 18, 21). Hannah made a new robe for her boy and brought it to him each year (v. 19). We can be sure that he was covered by her prayers as well. Thus, even in his youth, Samuel learned to hear and obey the Word of God (1 Samuel 3).

The care for Samuel’s soul stands in sharp contrast to the neglected spiritual direction in the two sons of the priest Eli. Even while serving in the temple, Hophni and Phinehas violated the commands of God and their father Eli did not rebuke them. Eli enjoyed the meat taken by his boys that was to meant to be saved as a sacrifice to God (1 Samuel 2:29). When Eli was old, his sons had gone so far in their debauchery as to sleep with the women who served at the tabernacle. The priest rebuked them, but his confrontation was too little, too late. Judgment came upon the house of God and the ark of God’s presence was captured by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4).

As an adult, Samuel called the people back to the Lord, saying, “If you return to the Lord with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the Lord and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 7:3). They turned back to the Lord and removed their idols. God delivered them from servitude for the remainder of Samuel’s term of service. He continued to pray over the people and to guide them into his old age (1 Samuel 12:23).

Samuel’s life reminds us of the importance of praying for our children and training them in the ways of the Lord. If we hope to see them arise in our day as instruments of revival, we MUST pray! This is not to say that children who are raised in God’s ways will never stray. Samuel’s own sons did not follow the Lord (1 Samuel 8:3). Nor should those who have not been raised in godly homes to think they cannot be used mightily of God. We can all, as adults, choose to draw close to God in prayer in order to draw strength from Scripture and Him.

Pray

Lord, raise up leaders of revival for our day who, like Samuel, can lead your people back to you. You have done it before; do it again. And use each of us. Guide us to be a people of the Word. Empower us to be a people of prayer. Help us to train our children to follow you.

Ponder

Questions for Personal Reflection or Group Discussion

  1. Notice how Hannah travailed in prayer, pleading with God for a child (1 Samuel 1:10-17). Do you sometimes find yourself praying with such urgency and passion? What motivates such prayer for you? Do you ever pray with such passion for leaders of revival to be raised up?
  1. In 1 Samuel 3, young Samuel learns to hear the voice of God in a day when “the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions” (v. 1). How can we train our children to know the Word and to hear the voice of God? Be specific.
  1. Samuel, who had been blessed with a godly mother, nurtured others in God’s ways throughout his life (1 Samuel 12:23). His own children, however, did not follow in his steps (1 Samuel 8:3). What insights can we draw from this sad disconnect between Samuel’s life and that of his sons?

 

Welcome to Renewal Journey

RenewalJourney

Do you know of the great revivals of the past? There is reason to hope that God may bring another great awakening to the Church in our generation. But we must prepare ourselves. We must become instruments of God’s purpose.

Welcome to Renewal Journey, a devotional tour of some of the greatest revivals in Scripture and in history. On this tour, will not merely peer through the window of time as we observe what God has done, but we will stop the bus to participate. As you set aside anywhere between 15 and 50 minutes each day, depending on how you choose to use this guide, you will find personal understanding and application carrying you in 30 days through the progression of nine areas of focus for your spiritual walk:

  1. nurture
  2. scripture
  3. repentance
  4. hope
  5. prayer
  6. guidance
  7. surrender
  8. empowerment
  9. faithfulness

Each topic will be explored consecutively from an Old Testament example of revival, from an account of revival in church history, and from insights given to us in the New Testament.

You are encouraged to enjoy this journey personally, and if it benefits you, to do it again with family or friends in a group context. Or you may be led by God to start out using this series in a group context. Renewal journey is a good tool for family devotions as well as a useful vehicle for church leadership development. Questions are provided at the end of each lesson to help you engage in personal reflection and small group discussion.

Please note that you need to come to this page our website to find each new daily entry (on weekdays only; suggestion: bookmark this page’s URL). We will send you a weekly reminder and encouragement to keep on the tour. It doesn’t matter when you start this journey, but aim to keep with it as best you can on a daily basis. Alternately, you can subscribe to our blog and you will automatically receive the posts as they are put up, one a day.

Okay. Let’s get started …

 

Renewal Journey

A 30-Day Excursion for Personal and Corporate Revival

Day 1: Why Pray for Revival?

 

Read

But you, O LORD, reign forever;
your throne endures to all generations.
Why do you forget us forever,
why do you forsake us for so many days?
Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored!
Renew our days as of old—
unless you have utterly rejected us,
and you remain exceedingly angry with us.

— Lamentations 5:19-22 ESV

Optional fuller reading: Lamentations 1-5

Reflect

Revival begins with desperate prayer. The book of Lamentations, written in carefully crafted Hebrew poetry, evidences an author (likely Jeremiah) and a people who had been crying out to God from the depth of their beings. They longed to be restored to God.

Jerusalem had been destroyed in 586 B.C. because God’s people had not heeded several generations of escalated warnings from the prophets that their sins would soon catch up with them. So horrific was the judgment of God that prophets, priests, the people, and even the king would find solace in Lamentations, a book written with the tone of an ancient a funeral dirge. The book laments that traditional systems for worship that had been devastated (1:4, 10), that the economy was in ruins (2:20-22), and that the Babylonians had become God’s chosen instrument of chastisement, dragging the many of the people into exile (2:1-8).

Eventually, the prayers for God’s restoration offered by Jeremiah and his contemporaries were fulfilled. The people were released from exile. They rebuilt Jerusalem. However, the rebuilt city did not carry the glory and grandeur of the former Jerusalem. They were to wait for something more. In the same way, our longings for revival will not be completely fulfilled until the Lord returns to unite us with Jeremiah and his people, and to make all things new.

In our day, God may allow difficulties and decline until the cry, “Renew our days as of old” is heard echoing through our cities once again. Such a longing for God and God’s kingdom will position us for a great and mighty work of God. We cannot predict exactly how God will respond to such humble and contrite prayers, but we can be sure that God will respond. Not only will we find the assurance in our hearts that we are right with God and with each other, but our prayers will usher in the day when, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15).

“However,” Jesus pined, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Let us be faithful, praying as Jesus taught us to pray: “Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” This is a prayer for restoration, for revival.

Does such a yearning mark your life? If so, you are positioned to be led by God and to be used by God, supernaturally. And when the Lord returns, you will be rewarded for your godly passions. The prayers of your heart will be fulfilled as the kingdom of God reaches its culmination and as eternal celebrate fills the air.

Pray

As Jerusalem was restored following their years of captivity, help us to be faithful in prayer until you renew us again. Let your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Change me, my family, my church, my friends, my community. Impact even our nation. Help us to heed your chastisements and to rise as one body, as a mighty army to advance your kingdom cause! Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old.”

Ponder

  1. Does the book of Lamentations cause you to feel depressed? Or, does it give you hope? Explain.
  1. Read Jeremiah 1. What do you know about Jeremiah, who has been labeled, “The weeping prophet”? How does his life challenge or inspire yours?
  1. Do you believe that our nation is under God’s judgment in some shape or form? If not, do you think it could come under such judgment? Under what circumstances?
  1. Anticipating what is ahead, do you know of any historic or biblical revivals? If possible, reference one that particularly inspires you and gives you hope.