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.

 

What If Jesus Showed Up?

What if Jesus were to step onto our planet today, appearing in an American city or town. Do you think most people would rush to hear his teaching, or would the majority remain incredulous, even mocking him?

Now a related question: What if revival was to break out in an American city today? Do you think most people would be excited and get involved, or would they shrink back, calling it strange and mocking people for becoming overly excited about the Lord?

Revival, or spiritual awakening, occurs when Jesus shows up in glory. Amazing things happen when God shows up. Lives are changed. Society is transformed. Still, those who do not want to give up personal comforts and traditions in favor of complete devotion to Christ are likely to raise barriers. We see these varied responses in the Bible and in church history. We can expect them again in our day.

Actually, significant revivals are occurring right now around the world. God is moving in great and mighty power in South Korea, in portions of South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia … but until now, not so much in Europe and America.

I believe that everything is about to shift. God is shaking our country to the foundations, to awaken the church. And you and I need to get ready. We need to prepare ourselves to answer the “what if” questions. What if Jesus were to show up in our area, our churches, our families through a great move of revival?

Perhaps a better question is not, “what if,” but “will we”? We must ask ourselves this question about an event that is being planned for all of Western North Carolina focused on prayer for revival to grow in our lives, in our homes, churches and communities. The question is, will we get involved? Check out the ad for Awake! Western NC in this issue of Journey Christian News or go to AwakeUSA.org. And come. Bring family and friends. Pray that we meet Jesus together and are changed!

Awake! Western NC is an event for everyone who calls on Christ as Lord and Savior, or who wishes to know this Jesus for real. Nationally-known speakers will guide main session and dynamic intercession, worship, and testimony will fill in the gaps. This event is designed to change your life. Your part is simply to come, expectant to meet God. For more information, see: AwakeUSA.org.

 

Gratitude is a Feeling; Thanksgiving is an Action

Every one of us has given gifts for which we were never thanked. And if the truth be told, we have all most likely received gifts for which we did not give thanks. In both cases everyone has probably been forgiven for the lack of social graces.

Generally, if people forget to thank you, it does not mean that they did not appreciate the gift. It generally means that they got too caught up in other things and either forgot, or were indefinitely postponed.

The story of the “Ten Lepers” from Luke is a story of faith, gratitude and thanksgiving (Luke 17:11-19). Jesus was passing through the border area between Samaria and Galilee, when he was met by a group of ten lepers. It was apparently a mixed group of Jews and Samaritans, because we learn that at least one of them was a Samaritan. These lepers had to work hard to get an audience with Jesus. By law, lepers were required to stay approximately fifty feet downwind from others. They also had to announce their presence by shouting “unclean!”

Having obviously heard of Jesus, and believing that he could heal them; these lepers put their faith into action. They worked out the logistics of getting as close to him as the law would allow and shouted from what was still a distance, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” Jesus saw them and simply told them to go show themselves to the priest. In obedience they set off, and were actually healed on the way. These were men of great faith and obedience.

One lone ex-leper, noticing that he had indeed been healed, stopped, turned around, and went back to Jesus. Falling at the feet of him, he thanked Jesus and gave praise to God. We are told that he was the Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” While ten percent would be a good return on a financial investment, it seems pitifully small in light of the magnitude of the miracle. Only one returned to give thanks.

Now there have been many sermons preached, and lessons taught regarding the ingratitude of the other nine former lepers. I would like to set the record straight. There is little doubt whatsoever that the other nine were grateful. As lepers, they had been completely cut off from associations with family members, friends and the practice of their faith. Suddenly, they were healed and restored. We know that they were all men of faith, so they knew from whence their healing had come. Make no mistake about it, they were bubbling over with gratitude.

These very grateful, former lepers had much to do. After showing themselves to the priests and being declared clean, they had to get to their families with the good news. There were loved ones to be with, jobs to reclaim and friends to see. These were not bad, evil, or even thoughtless men. They were only lacking in one department, there was no act of thanksgiving. If there is anyone in this story with whom you and I can associate, it would probably be one of these nine. Like them, we often forget that gratitude is not an action. Gratitude is a feeling, but thanksgiving is an action.

It is good that this nation and others have a day set aside for giving thanks. It gives us the opportunity to stop, turn around and go back to Jesus. We need to live our lives more thankfully, stopping daily to give thanks for the blessings of life. We need to strive to be in the ten-percentile group. “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1)

 

— Dr. David L. Winkle

4 Things Every Christian Should Know About Prayer

When George Mueller stepped into glory on March 10, 1898 in Bristol, England, he left the world with a legacy of insight about prayer. He began his ministry with but two shillings (50 cents) in his pocket. Telling no one except God about his needs, he raised four hundred thousand pounds (about 7 million dollars) through which he established orphanages with more than 10,000 children, and 117 schools that provided a Christian education to some 120,000 children.

In his later years, Mueller traveled 200,000 miles to teach others about the power of prayer. During his travels, the caption of a steam ship described the time Muller came to him saying, “Captain … I must be in Quebec Saturday afternoon.” “It is impossible,” The Captain replied. “Do you know how dense this fog is?” “No,” said Mueller, “my eye is not on the density of the fog, but on the living God, Who controls every circumstance of my life.” Muller knelt down and prayed one of the simplest prayers, and when he had finished the captain was going to pray; but Mueller put his hand on the captain’s shoulder, and told him not to pray. “First, you do not believe He will answer, and second I BELIEVE HE HAS, and there is no need whatever for you to pray about it. I have known my Lord for fifty-seven years, and there has never been a single day that I have failed to get an audience with the King. Get up, Captain, and open the door, and you will find the fog gone.” The captain got up, and the fog was indeed gone. On Saturday afternoon George Mueller was in Quebec for his engagement. Based on this and other stories and teachings from his life, I suggest four steps to strengthening our prayer lives:

1. We must dedicate ourselves first to God. Mueller lived an ungodly life as a youth and did not have a significant prayer life until he surrendered himself fully to the Lord. He said, “Our walk counts far more than our talk, always!”

2. We must bank on God’s promises, not on our emotions. Mueller wrote “The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions … If the Holy Ghost guides us at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.” Mueller warmed his heart with Scripture each morning and his prayers sometimes rose as a blaze of passion to God. Yet, it was often when his heart felt wooden and the heavens seemed closed to him that he saw his greatest answers to prayer.

3. We should give all of our concerns to God in prayer. Mueller said, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.”

4. We must persevere in prayer. Mueller said, “To learn strong faith is to endure great trials. I have learned my faith by standing firm amid severe testings.”

 

[1] See: Arthur Pierson, George Muller of Bristol (London: James Nisbet and Company Limited, 1899), and George Muller, A Life of Trust (Boston: Gold and Lincoln, 1861). Find these and other free resources at: http://www.georgemuller.org/books.html

Seven Tips for Studying the Bible

I was recently asked to give suggestions for studying Scripture. That’s easy. Following such suggestions, however, is more of a challenge. See how many of these tips are part of your daily routine. Remember that no one gets it right all of the time!

  1. Pray as you read. We are told that the Holy Spirit enlightens our reading of God’s Word and brings it home to our hearts and lives (John 16:13). If you want supernatural understanding of the Bible, pray before, during, and after you read it. Ask God to speak to you as you read Scripture, and He will!
  1. Read a little every day. Once, when I was on a mission trip in Columbia, South America, I offered a half-starved person a sandwich. He was desperately in need of nutrition. He ate half of the sandwich and had to stop. “My stomach isn’t stretched,” he said. “That’s all I can handle.” If you’ve not been in the habit of reading Scripture, take in only as much as your hunger dictates. As your spiritual stomach stretches, you’ll develop a greater appetite.
  1. Meditate. One of the primary Hebrew words for meditate can also be translated ruminate. Cows, sheep, goats, and other ruminants chew their food, swallow it, and bring it up to chew it again. Taking several hours to digest their food, they can draw nutrition from grasses not fit for human consumption. That’s how meditation works. Find a favorite verse, whether a promise, command, or teaching, and write it out. Put it in your pocket and pull it out through the day, reflecting on it. You will soon be nourished and strengthened by it.
  1. Apply. As you meditate on Scripture, pray for God to show you specific application. It’s one thing to become exuberant about John 3:16, about the fact that God sent his son to give us salvation. It’s another thing to be moved by this verse to write a note to your Aunt Mary to tell her you are praying for her as she faces terminal illness and to gently tell her about Jesus. We must apply the word (James 1:23).
  1. Read the entire Bible. Surveys suggest that only ten percent of Christians have read the entire Bible, cover to cover. I have most enjoyed such a read through the Bible in 90 Days program. It’s incredible. I highly recommend it. When you read it all in just three months, you get a sense of its flow and content, and how it all fits together. (See ScriptureAwakening.com for details.)
  1. Use tools for your dig. Archaeologists have taken aerial shots of Middle Eastern deserts to find mounds in the sand covering ancient Tels, or city ruins. They then select a specific area and dig. And that is what we need to do with Scripture. Once you get through your read of the whole Bible, dig in. Tools for your dig include commentaries, concordances, Bible dictionaries, Bible atlases, and so forth. Purchase and use a study Bible, which is like a self-contained toolbox. Free internet toolboxes are also available, such as Biblehub.com.
  1. Develop a pattern of Bible study. In my college years, I developed a pattern for studying God’s Word that changed my life. You can do the same. The inductive method of Bible study has been a foundation piece to effective Bible study through the ages. The idea is that we begin with the details and induce the larger picture. We should ask questions to help us observe, interpret, and apply the text. The BNEXT study guides at ScriptureAwakening.com are designed to be helpful to you in this effort.