Tag Archive | cross

Revival in the Age of Instant Coffee

Coffee w TAIWWe live in an age where we want everything fast… instantly, as it were.

Like coffee.

Sure, it smells and tastes like coffee. It may even have enough caffeine to give you a good jolt. But to most discerning coffee aficionados, they can smell a cup of instant coffee coming a mile away, and they are NOT happy about it. To them, there is nothing like the taste of a fresh-brewed cup made from freshly-ground coffee beans from some exquisite place, where the air, soil, and atmosphere are perfect for the growing of those sacred beans., Yes sir, the true coffee-snob can tell you what kind of coffee it is, where it was grown, and a variety of facts about the country of origin.

So why do we think God is any less discerning?

Most of us want things fast and on our terms, and in most cases if we are honest, the spiritual life is no exception. The only problem is that anything related to a Spirit-filled life is not dictated by our wills, whims, and calendars, but by the Holy Spirit of God Himself. He has His timetable (“a day is as a thousand years…”), and is not at the mercy of our schedules.

Azusa StreetMost people who run in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles are familiar with the Azusa Street Revival that began in 1906, considered by many to be the beginning of the modern Pentecostal movement. Led by William J. Seymour, the Azusa Street Revival continued for several years, and included Holiness congregants, Baptists, Mennonites, Quakers, Presbyterians, and others. However, many in our country may not be familiar with another outbreak of the Spirit, in Europe, that preceded Azusa Street…

The Awakening in Wales.

In her book, The Awakening in Wales (and some  of the hidden springs), Jessie Penn-Lewis documents the Welsh Revival (1904-1905), a mighty move of the Holy Spirit that took the country of Wales by storm. During that period, approximately 150,000 people gave their lives to Christ, in a country with a population of approximately just over 2 million. Miracles, signs, wonders, and incredible outpourings of the Holy Spirit happened during that time.

So what prompted such radical transformation? What was it that made the Welsh Revival different from the “revival” happening at the church down the street from your house right now? What were the markings of this mighty move of God? In The Awakening in Wales, a few points repeatedly come to the surface…

They prayed and prepared.

Not just days and months.

In the YEARS leading up to 1904, Christians in Wales joined in passionate prayer, believing and asking God for an outpouring of His Holy Spirit. “Prayer-circles” were formed and people met at specific times to pray earnestly and deliberately, for hours on end. People traveled from place to place and spread the “fire” they had gotten in one place or meeting to other towns and villages. Prayer-circles began to spring up simultaneously and spontaneously, not just in Wales, but in other countries as well.

As well as prayer, many who participated did not wait until the events of 1904-1905 to seek after the Spirit of God. Many came to the meetings, having already been filled with the Holy Spirit. Much of this was due to the fervent prayer that went on ahead of time; people seeking after God with no reservations or selfish agendas. They didn’t wait for a meeting or a moment for something to happen; the further outpouring of the Spirit of God at the meetings was a by-product of the months and years of preparation that had already taken place.

There was unity.

In Wales, the people of God came together. Churches set aside denominational labels and walls for the sake of a common goal: A mighty move of the Holy Spirit. In I Corinthians 1:10, Paul appeals to the believers in Corinth…

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.

Penn_LewisBut the unity was not just between the people of Wales. Jessie Penn-Lewis stated…

“The object-lesson that stands out the clearest, and speaks the loudest, to the Church of God, is the fact that the Spirit of God moved upon the unsaved in converting power as soon as the Christians in a particular church, or specific meeting, were in harmony with God.” ~ from The Awakening in Wales

The people were in unity and harmony with God. And make no mistake about it… being in unity with the King of Kings is all about being in His will, His timing, and His purposes.

The message of the Cross of Calvary was central.

 

“As we recall the conditions preceding the first Pentecost, we cannot forget that CALVARY WAS A TERRIBLE FACT to each one of the little company in the upper room.

There is no Pentecost without a preceding Calvary.” ~ Jessie Penn-Lewis

The message of the Cross, and Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary, was the central theme of the Revival. Penn-Lewis went on to say…

“The world has seen before its eyes that the preaching of the Cross is in very truth the dynamic of the Gospel, and is the energy of God to actually and really save men from the bonds of sin. And what is of greater consequence, the Church of God has been rallied, as by a voice from Heaven, to the banner of the Cross.”

Others also explained…

“We have been critics of the Bible when we should have been devotees. We have preached Christ as an ideal of sacrifice, but have left out His atonement for sin. Now, thank God, there is a return to the Book, and to Calvary…

The Revival has brought us back to the Cross of Christ.”

It is the Cross that saves. It is the message of the Cross, and the power of the Holy Spirit that convicts men and women of their sin, and their need for a Savior. The recipe for revival is actually a fairly simple one: Prayer, unity in the Spirit, and the Message of the Cross. The fruit of that was evidenced in the more than 150,000 souls who entered the Kingdom of Heaven through the principality of Wales in 1904-1905.

Seriously.

The revival we speak of is not going to happen until we get serious about seeking God through prayer, fasting, repentance, and unity of the Spirit. God told His people in Jeremiah 29:13…

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

All of our heart means we check our schedules at the door.

All of our heart means we set aside our agendas and our plans.

All of our heart requires singular focus, with a constant eye on the prize.

So are you ready for revival? A REAL revival? A revival that changes the course of a nation, and ushers souls into the Kingdom in droves? A destiny-changing moment in time that is more than an event advertised on a marquee?

I am.

It’s time to put on the “coffee pot”…

Let it brew nice and slow…

Allow the aroma to fill the air…

And take time to prepare something worthy of the King.

The Cross and the Bystander

Chalk outline - personWe have now in America what is referred to as The Bystander Effect. This “psychological phenomenon” was brought to light on March 16, 1964 when a young woman named Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was brutally stabbed to death while walking to her apartment at Kew Gardens in Queens, New York City. A man named Winston Moseley had decided he was going to kill a woman that day, and it didn’t matter who it was. Driving around, Moseley spotted Genovese, and followed her to a parking lot. He got out of his car, and when she began to flee, he quickly caught up to her, and began stabbing her. As Genovese screamed, “Oh my God, he stabbed me! Help me!“, Moseley continued his attack. Amid her cries for help, a neighbor eventually yelled out of his window, “Let that girl alone!“, at which point Moseley fled the scene of the crime. Lying wounded and dying, not one of the estimated three dozen+ people who either heard her cries or saw the attack came to help Genovese. After ten minutes of lying there wounded, her attacker returned, and continued to stab, rape, and rob Genovese. By the time Moseley left, and help finally arrived, it was too late. Twenty-eight-year-old Kitty Genovese took her last breath en route to the hospital.

Was her life nothing to those that heard her cries
and did nothing in those early morning hours?

Wikipedia describes the Bystander Effect as…

“… a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders. In other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help.”

There once was a man who walked the dusty roads of the Middle East. He was kind, compassionate, and full of wisdom. Crowds large and small gathered to hear him speak, and his words brought life and hope to those who heard. However, regardless of the words he spoke, kindness he showed, and good deeds he did, the “Establishment” hated him. He rocked the boat of their belief system, upset the apple-cart of their status-quo, and for that — they deemed — he was worthy of death. Accusations were brought, false witnesses told lies, a friend betrayed him, he was given a mockery of a trial, and sentenced to die.

But death wasn’t good enough. The Establishment needed to make an example out of him, if for no other reason, to discourage copy-cat rabble-rousers.

They began by striking him and mocking him. They blindfolded him, hit him, and made sport of his captivity. Since this cruelty wasn’t enough to elicit a response, they ramped up the abuse. He was tied to a post and whipped 39 times with a device designed to tear the flesh from his body; nine strips of leather, embedded with broken pottery, bone, metal, and any other sharp edge that would help accomplish its goal. This “scourge” was raised by the muscled arm of a soldier who showed a knack for inflicting the most pain and damage, and 39 times it fell with the ferocity of a pack of wild dogs descending upon its victim.

When he survived that unimaginable beating, the rest of his sentence of death could be carried out. The “electric chair” of that day was called a cross — a heavy beam of lumber with a cross beam. The victim would be nailed to it, forced to hang naked before the world, dying from his wounds, exposure, and asphyxiation. To add insult to injury, the soldiers tasked with his execution forced him to carry his own instrument of death through the dusty streets, being mocked, spit upon, and humiliated along the way. At one point, when he finally collapsed for the last time under its weight, the soldiers accompanying him pulled a man from the crowd, forcing him to carry the load the rest of the way to the spot of execution.

Upon arrival at a place known by the locals as “The Place of the Skull“, his cross was dropped onto the ground, and he was forced on top of it. Spreading his arms out on the cross-beam, massive spikes were driven through each wrist, with one being driven through his overlapped feet. Once it was certain he was secure, they raised the cross and dropped it into a hole in the ground, the velocity of his body weight jerking hard against the spikes.

And for six hours, Jesus hung between Heaven and Earth… and died… for you.

Chalk outline - crossIs His sacrifice nothing to you?

If you could cure AIDS, wouldn’t you want everyone to know it? If you could stop cancer, would you keep quiet? If you had the method to put an end to Alheimer’s, would you keep silent?

If you are a believer in Christ, you have a testimony.

As one saved by Jesus’ precious blood, you have an amazing story to tell.

As a Christian, you have the incredible witness of a Gospel that
transforms lives… and it is criminal to keep it to yourself.

Are the lives of those around you who are dying — lost without Jesus — nothing to you?

In a YouTube video, illusionist, comedian, and renowned atheist Penn Jillette had this to say about Christians who share their faith…

And I’ve always said, you know, that I don’t respect people that don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a Heaven and Hell, and people could be going to Hell — or not getting eternal life, or whatever — and you think that, “Well, it’s not really worth tellin’ ’em this, because it would make it socially awkward”, and atheists who think that people shouldn’t proselytize, “Just leave me alone. Keep your religion to yourself”… How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it —that truck was bearing down on you — there’s a certain point where I tackle you, and this is more important than that.

At Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and His triumph over death, Hell, and the grave! What better time to introduce a friend to the risen Savior that can save their soul, and transform their life. Christian, it is time to get serious about our witness. It is not enough to be a bystander, watching the masses pass by — beating a path to Hell — and waiting for someone else to tell them of Jesus’ love. He has called YOU. You are the one to tell His story. You are the one they are waiting for.

Is it nothing to you?

Maybe not… but it is EVERYTHING to them.

 

Easter header

 

‘Tis The Season…

Currier and IvesOnce again, the season of thanksgiving and joy are upon us. A week from today we will celebrate Thanksgiving, then begin the final stretch leading up to Christmas. As we think toward turkey feasts, holiday lights, Christmas trees, and seasonal music, our thoughts are filled with the love, joy, and goodness the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons bring. The memories of Christmas past, Currier and Ives, and “sleigh-bells in the snow” are a vivid contrast to the images we see in the news today…

The riots in Ferguson, MO.

The brutal beheadings at the hands of ISIS soldiers.

The recent synagogue attack and massacre in Jerusalem.

The continuing news about the ebola virus.

Stories like these are difficult to hear, not matter when they happen. However, they seem to be even more heartbreaking when they happen during the season of “peace on Earth, and good will to men”. And whether it is personal loss and tragedy, or something that is playing out on the national and/or world stage, the main question is the same…

“Why did God allow this to happen?”

Maybe you have experienced loss or tragedy during this time of year, or know someone who has… I know I sure have. So, what do we do when these times come? How do we respond during difficult times? Here are a few things that may help…

Bad things happen because we live in a fallen world. Since the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, there has been a curse upon the earth (see Genesis 3-5). Bad things happen, and while sometimes there are things and people we can point our fingers at, sometimes there’s just not. It may sound trite, but sometimes the non-explanation is the only explanation.

Salvation from sin and death does not mean we “dodge the bullet” here on earth. Being a Christian does not make us immune to tough times. The Bible says that “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). As believers in Christ, our eternal home and reward are in Heaven — this world is just a stopping point along the way. “Keeping your eye on the (eternal) prize” can make a huge difference in your earthly perspective.

It’s ok to not have all of the answers. For all of the many ways that God reveals Himself to us through His word, there are things in the mind and heart of God that remain a mystery. Job said…

Can you search out the deep things of God?
Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? ~ Job 11:7

Faith is such an integral part of the life of the believer, for “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (see Hebrews 11:6). That which we can see, touch, and understand implicitly requires zero faith. One of the very things that gives Him joy is the fact that, even though we don’t have all the answers, we can have faith that He does.

You’re not alone. He knows how you feel, for He has known immeasurable, crushing loss as well. Maybe you are saying, “Where was God when…?” I’ll tell you the same thing I would tell anyone: He is in the same place He was when He watched His own Son suffer at the hands of His creation, and die a cruel and miserable death on a cross — for me, and for you. Our sins put Jesus on the cross, and if anyone deserved to be rescued from that horrific death, it was the sinless Lamb of God. Yet God loved us so much that He refused to intervene (see John 3:16). He knew that those events had to play out in order to make a way for our redemption.

thanksgiving cornucopiaSo, whether you have always experienced the picture perfect holiday season, or your Thanksgiving and Christmas experiences have been, in some way, tainted by tragedy, I pray that this season, you will find peace, joy, and FAITH that the One we give thanks to and celebrate has not taken His hands off the wheel, and has your best interests at heart.

Happy Thanksgiving to you… His favorite!

Pastor Ron

The Gospel According to Forrest Gump

ShrimpAnyone born prior to 2009 is probably at least familiar with the name Forrest Gump. As the 20th anniversary of it’s release approaches (originally released on July 6, 1994), I thought this post a timely one. Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, I’m sure you are familiar with some of the colloquialisms derived from the film, as well as some of the pop-culture that was born from it. After all, ever hear of  the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.?

(Incidentally, they DO have boiled shrimp, popcorn shrimp, fried shrimp, jumbo shrimp, shrimp creole, BBQ shrimp, etc… but I digress)

Among his most famous “Gump-isms”, one phrase that is often re-quoted in normal conversation is one quote Forrest attributed to his momma.

Stupid is as stupid does.

Well, as living proof of that, allow me to share my own “Forrest Gump moment”. Recently, I was speaking out of town, but as it was not at an unreasonable distance, we decided to drive. There are a number of people who sometimes travel with me to assist with logistics, books, etc., and on this occasion, my travel companion was a gentleman named Brad. We got to the multi-evening event, and everything went great. However, due to a wedding I was slated to participate in back in Chattanooga, we had to leave immediately once I finished speaking at the last session, and begin the long drive back home.

On the last night of the event, upon completion of the service, we packed up all of our books and materials, said goodbye to the wonderful folks who afforded us the opportunity, and headed out to the truck (I drive an SUV). As we approached the vehicle, I realized something was wrong…

It was already running.

Now, this is a problem, since Brad had stayed with me the whole time, and had never come out to the truck to start it ahead of time. In fact, neither of us had been out to the truck since before the service started, a couple of hours before. As all of the potential reasons why it may have been running, as well as the potential consequences of such, raced into my mind, all I could come up with was a simple question…

“Brad… Did you leave the car running this WHOLE TIME????”

Without missing a beat, and seemingly unfazed by the directness of my question, Brad very simply replied, “No, I just started it remotely a minute ago.”

Whaaaaaaat????

“You did WHAT?” I asked.

“What? You didn’t know you can start it remotely?” Brad asked with a touch of incredulity in his voice. He held up the remote to the truck. “Yeah, you push this button, then push this other one, and it cranks right up.”

So let me get this straight… I have had this vehicle for how-many-years, and never knew I could start it remotely? All of the scorching, southern days that I sat in the car, sweating until the AC caught up with the oven-imitating cab? All of the cold, winter mornings that I had to leave the warmth of my home to go out and crank the icy engine? You mean to tell me that, all this time, I could have simply pushed a button, and let the car warm up (or cool down), without the discomfort of my presence?

Ok… as I am so fond of saying in my sermons: “Hold up your sign” (you know, the one that says stupid on it).

Well, I guess I wouldn’t be a real preacher if I couldn’t find a spiritual application to my own misfortune (or stupidity), so here we go…

How many times have we all had something at our fingertips, and never realized it? How many times has the answer, solution, or tool we needed been within our grasp, but we are too focused on the complexity of the job to see the simple fix? How many of us are guilty of being creatures of habit to the point that, when a better way comes along, we ignore it and wallow in our time-worn inefficiency?

The Psalmist said…

  Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. ~ Psalm 103:2-5

   Ok. Closer to home. How many of us are really good at “blessing the LORD”, and really bad at “forgetting NOT all His benefits”?

Chocolate“Momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates.
You never know what you’re gonna get.'” ~ Forrest Gump


We sing praises. We worship. We bless His name. However, when the first sign of trouble comes, we retreat into the “box of chocolates“, and we take whatever is handed to us — complain, worry, and fret — and forget that…

He forgives.

He heals.

He redeems.

He crowns (rewards).

He satisfies.

He renews.

While life may be as unpredictable as a box of chocolates, it doesn’t mean you have to take it lying down. You know, it’s a wonderful thing when a Christian does not get used to being a Christian. The ability to still learn, still study, still pray, still have a sense of wonder… still trust. Sometimes, we get lost in the life of being a believer, and forget what it means to actually believe. We must never lose sight that our God never gets old, never gets tired, is always creating, is always ready with a new “gadget” or two that may surprise us, and always has your best interests at heart.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my staff members sang a song on Sunday morning that he wrote several years ago. I think it is appropriate today. As you listen to it (video link below), remember that while the world may say you are stupid for believing in Someone you cannot see, as Paul said…

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:18

So, maybe “stupid IS as stupid does“. But, if that means believing in the “foolishness” of the cross, and that putting my faith and trust squarely in Jesus is “stupid” — then stupid is something I can live with.

How about you?

Pastor Ron

An Indelible Mark

Through the Looking GlassIn May of 1981, Turkish assassin Mehmet Ali Ağca shot Pope John Paul II multiple times, nearly killing him. On December 27, 1983, in a move that stunned the world, Pope John Paul visited his would-be assassin in prison… and forgave him.

In speaking of the event and Ağca, the Pontiff asked people to “pray for my brother, whom I have sincerely forgiven.” It is said that the two men became friends, with the Pope even reaching out to members of Ağca’s family. Upon the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005, Ağca’s brother issued a statement saying that their family was in mourning, as the Pope had been a great friend to them.

Although the Pope bore the physical scars from that event in his body for the rest of his life, the indelible mark that really mattered was the one left in Mehmet Ali Ağca’s heart, as well as the hearts of those close to him… the mark of forgiveness.

Jesus bore the marks of your sin and shame when He paid your debt on the cross. However, He announced His true intention and left an indelible mark on every heart that would look to Him – from the Roman guards who oversaw His crucifixion, down through history to you and me – when He said, “Father… forgive them”.

Is there someone in your life in need of your forgiveness? Is their someone who has wronged you that needs to hear the words, “You are forgiven”?

After all, forgiveness is not about justice — forgiveness is about freedom.

Yours.

Leave that “indelible mark” on someone today.