My brothers and sisters in Christ,
God has been whispering in my ear for a while now. He has breathed out the fragrance of promise. That hint of a promise to me has been a harbinger of another powerful move of His Spirit in our midst. Some call it the Third Great Awakening, some the “last call” for humankind, some just describe it as the revival that eclipses all revivals, and others point to the prophecy of “the latter day rain”. In my flesh, I want to call it the Latter Rain Revival.
Whatever…I don’t care what it is or will be called. I am beginning to believe that it might not resemble anything like what I or we think it will look like. God is always impossible to predict; I mean in retrospect, collectively we say, “Oh, that’s what You meant!” when we see His promises come to fruition or prophecy fulfilled. God never ceases to be fully God and therefore supremely creative; our God is not humdrum if you will. With that said, the fact remains that the Spirit has been cooing to me for about six years now and quickening my heart for this coming outpouring. The lovely, harmonic note to this song He sings is that I’m not the only one humming the tune.
God is always promising things. God always comes through. Sometimes we doubt, but in my experience, He is amazingly beautiful in the way He speaks and answers prayers. In fact, God hears our hearts and therefore hears more clearly than we even hear ourselves. Isn’t that amazing? You might be asking for one thing, His ears hear your true plea from the heart, and He answers your heart-prayer sometimes unbeknownst to your own mind. We see one thing and He answers in the unseen. The Father is a good father. And He is always making promises.
But there seems to be a catch, a key, a formula, and sometimes it becomes an oversight on our part. Before I blame it on us, let us take a stroll through the holy writ. When God promises things, He expects a response from us. Abraham heard Jehovah’s promise, but he had to obey for the promise to be fulfilled. Obedience to the highest degree is Abraham’s decision to offer his own son on the altar; if that’s not obeying, then we all are hopeless! Moses heard the promise, Joshua heard the promise, Gideon heard the promise, and on-and-on it goes. All through the Scriptures we read of men and women who were living in the promises of God and stepping into the promises by faith. God seeks us out to breathe promises and call out to us; we don’t even have to ask! The catch, if you will, is our response.
The fact is evident: there is a cooperative effort going on here. Not convinced yet? Jesus couldn’t perform many miracles were there was unbelief. He would simply move on to the next place where His friend “belief” lived! And the cooperative effort was oftentimes described in the statement, “all were healed”. Think about that for a moment. Where there was belief, all were healed, not some or most or many but rather all were healed; but where there was unbelief, He couldn’t be Himself so to speak, He couldn’t do what He needed to do and wanted to do. This is an enigma. And if you want to dance on the cloud of the esoteric and the cloud of unknowing, meditate on the fact that even creation was brought into being through the Son of Man by the Father, and according to Hebrews, the cosmos is at this moment being upheld by Christ. And if you can bear it, even Christ Himself had to make the choice to obey in the Garden of Gethsemane.
In the first chapter of Acts, the divine dance of the promise and the prayer emerges once again. Jesus commanded the disciples to return to Jerusalem and wait on the “promise of the Father”. Here we go again with the promises! This is referred to sometimes in the gospel as the Promise of the Father with a capital P. So what did they do? They obeyed and did as their King commanded. But they went a step further; the folks gathered in the upper room were in prayer continuously. Not only were they praying continuously, but they were in “one accord”, of “one mind”, or rather unified in their prayers. What were they praying for? Were they praying for the Promise, the Paraklete? They may have prayed about a lot of things; actually, they must have prayed over every part of their life because they were, again, praying continuously! Have you ever prayed all day, let alone for days? Surely, part of their prayer was for the Promise.
So my first point can be fashioned into a question: “If God makes a promise, will it come to pass through obedience or will it just happen with or without us?” The answer ironically is “yes”.
It hurts our brains to fathom predestination and free will. But we must rest in this amazing peace of knowing that our obedience is part of His equation, that we can participate in His story instead of trying to fit Him into our little stories. The way I look at it is we can choose to live in God’s plan, instead of being the actor, director, writer, and producer of our little stage show. What an incredible choice! A friend of mine made the statement: “God can work through you or around you!” It is a choice…your choice…our choice…
Most think of God’s plan as being called to Asia to be a missionary, to stand on a street corner and preach, to become the world’s most holy person, or to be a political activist in the Tea Party! God is our Father and therefore loves us with an immeasurable love. Don’t you think that He knows what blows your hair back, what floats your boat, or what puts a pep in your step? He is a good God and a very personal God. He knows you well! Don’t we know that a good earthly father or mother loves to see their children full of joy and doing what they enjoy? Of course we do. How much more then is our Father full of love when He sees us joyful? Believe me, God would never ask you to do something that didn’t just burn in your heart. Uncomfortable, yes; awkward, yes; impossible, never; your true heart’s desire, yes. I’m sure that every foreign missionary would have to admit that they “didn’t see that one coming” and also testify to the fact that it is their deepest, most cherished desire to be that missionary. Who knew? Stepping out of our comfort zones in faith is key, and when we do, we discover our true, deepest heart’s desire.
The bottom line with obedience is that we obey because we are in love with our God, not because we fear His judgment. Seriously, think about it for a moment. Really savor that last bite. What pleases God is our being in love with Him…that’s the whole point to it all, the meaning of life, the alpha and the omega, and the promised eternal life Jesus talks about as knowing Him and the Father. To know God is truly to love God, for we are transformed glory to glory in His presence, in His love. We obey our God because He loves us and we love Him. So who really cares theologically on how the promises and prayers work together in a seemingly slippery paradox. We should just crave to be in love with God and walk in the kingdom; this means that obedience is an honor and a privilege and not some awful marching order!
There are prayers being lifted up as a type this, I am praying for His glory to be manifest, I am obeying with the Spirit’s help, and I am imploring all who hear my voice that more prayers need to be lifted up. More and more people are hearing from the Lord concerning a game-plan, or rather, knowing we need to be praying for a vision to follow. Some would say that everything we need as a plan is in the Bible. This is only partly true. Yes, how we function in the spiritual man is indeed exhaustively covered in the New Testament; yes, there are beautiful models, the least of which is not Christ Himself, of how to live in the world as a Christian; but no, there are no specific mandates on modern battlefields. Which begs the question: “What’s the plan?!” God knows we have tried and tried to no avail with our own plans. The church today is in really bad shape because of it; if that offends you, I apologize. But I know a hungry child when I see one!
We are starving, we are thirsty, and we are tired. Most of God’s children are spiritually starving to death. If you doubt that statement, ask yourself a question: “Am I hungry for more or am I content to settle with the nagging inner question of ‘Is this all there is?’?” When we read of all the promises in the New Testament of doing greater works than Jesus, of being a light in the world, of being a new creation, of walking in the spirit, and of being a holy priesthood adorned in love, does that not just fly in the face of our current reality? Again, am I the only one that is restless beyond words for an outpouring of His glory and a return to who we were called to be?
I have tasted the Lord that He is indeed good, and I pray you have the Spirit blowing and breathing in your life. But don’t you want more of what He already promised!? I look around and see others suffering and say to the Lord, “Lord, why are these people suffering? Why are our best efforts doomed to failure while trying to help them? Why do people claim to know You, but walk around powerless?” But alas, I know the answer to my own question: “They haven’t really tasted living waters yet, they haven’t been shown the bread of life, and they have yet to discover just how beautiful and loving and personal You are! Either that or even worse, they forgot their first love for You.”
I would agree that many victories are taking place in pockets, but as far as the eyes can see, there is a sea of lonely, defeated, confused, and exhausted believers. We hold up small victories as our banner and say to ourselves that we are doing the best we can. We make excuses for our failures and blame it on “the world we live in” or the pointing to the fact that “the times are evil”. God is a big God, and grace should be the seed of a great harvest…not marginal gains. And I don’t think He is quite done with us as yet. I don’t think we are destined to fizzle out like a shooting star. I think what God started, will be finished. I think that Christ’s prayer recorded in John 17 will be answered by the Father…because it hasn’t been answered yet!
I am vexed with the truth that this is NOT all there is. I’m convinced because what the Lord has given me personally, simply must be shared. I need it to go outward. I simply must let all who have ears to hear, that the Holy Spirit is real and fully God and ready to set the captive free through Christ and by His agency. I hunger and thirst for others to find their salvation, their peace and joy, their Savior. I am confident in my faith that God wants to pour Himself out on us all so we can share the outpouring with those in need, but we are simply not ready. Like I said at the beginning of this post, He has been whispering to me of a coming supernatural event in the history of our tiny planet. But I am also convinced that we are the problem, the delay, the ones not getting it right…the blame for our failings is squarely on our shoulders, and not on God’s! As I have said before, “We beg Him to move, but He is waiting patiently for us to move!”
Recently, I have been led by the Lord to minister in a certain area or our fair city; I am simply obeying the Lord. The first thing he put on the collective hearts of our team is that we can’t do diddly-squat!
Welcome to your assignment…you will fail.
Nice, thank you Lord…I think…
The message was clear as a bell, the Spirit spoke, and it was not at all what any of us expected. The message: Pray for a vision, pray for a plan of action, wait for your orders, and wait on the Lord.
So we decided to begin praying for a vision, a directive, and a mandate. As we started our first prayer meeting under a sycamore tree, we were directed to repent. The second meeting, repent. The third meeting, repent! We can’t seem to get to the request of His guidance because we are being led to repent. Guess what? I heard from a pastor friend of mine just yesterday that a prayer group he is involved with is hearing the same thing. Specifically, to pray for a vision for the church; they too, have been led to great and deep repentance. Amazing!
What I want to show you is that repentance is the atmosphere where the vision breathes, the conduit of true repentance delivers the treasure, and the answer to our prayer lies in the field of a repentant soul. Let me explain.
A quick take on repentance: I believe in repentance, I know we need it, repentance is a necessary theme throughout the entire Bible, and repentance is not what we think it is! We focus on only one part of it, mainly, that we suck and are sorry for sucking! We truly must know the incubator for sin is in the heart. If the heart isn’t right, then the whole affair is ruined. So repentance for one’s sins, one’s flesh, and one’s pet character flaws is absolutely necessary. However, there is another facet to repentance that we miss whether we recognize it or not.
The next movement of repentance from “I suck”, is to what Paul refers to as the “renewing of our minds”. This starts with the Spirit-guided, a-ha moment of realization that it isn’t what we aren’t, it is what He is! The word repentance as used in Scripture means to change your mind, to change your ways, to turn from one way and go another. This is not a wham-bam-thank you-ma’am scenario! Sanctification is in one regard, a process of the Spirit burning up the old way of thinking (this is harder for some than others…you know who you are!) and giving you the “mind of Christ”. Now that may sound really difficult and unattainable, but on the contrary, if we allow the Spirit to have His way, then He begins to refine our mind and therefore our thinking. For lack of a better way of putting it: we have to understand that the truth that sets us free is the realization that all we need to be is found in Him…not our minds, but rather the mind of Christ. It is however an ongoing process, just as God designed it to be. Repentance is not only the asking for forgiveness of sins past and present, but also an active invitation for the Lord to transform our vision, to change our paradigm, to move us forward, and to have His way by transforming us into the Image of His Son. So the answer eventually to our plea will be found within our transformed, collective minds…not by an angel breaking a seal and reading the proclamation out loud for the church! The true vision will be reinforced by miracles, signs, and wonders. Yes, I said it…put that in your eschatological pipe and smoke it…miracles, signs and wonders.
So the Lord has been begging us to repent. And we have groveled, but to no avail. Do you think maybe we are doing this wrong? Do you think maybe there is more to repentance than groveling? I do.
In essence our prayers lately have been prayers of repentance. We are repenting of being so far off track by anyone’s definition, but we are beginning to enter the second phase of repentance, that of asking Him to renew our thinking, to give us a fresh vision. This is earth shattering news my friends!
I want you to ask these questions: What if God wants the system to crumble? What if God sees His Church like many of us do: broken, apathetic, lukewarm, and desperately hungry? What if God wants to refashion His bride back to her original design? What if the idols to be torn down are our present amalgamations of our traditions and models? What if the ancient church was the early rain, and the coming church will be a result of the latter rain? What if this new vision looks a lot like the original vision?! Maybe, just maybe, He wants to break us before He pours Himself into us once again. You have to admit, God always and in every instance builds out of brokenness. I think He is breaking us.
Just as the early rain started with a promise, moved to a prayer, and eventually manifested at Pentecost, so will the latter rain come! How broken do you think Peter was in the upper room? He denied Christ three times after telling Jesus he would die for Him, when Jesus walked out of the grave, He confronted Peter by asking him three times, “Do you love Me?”, then as Christ ascended to heaven leaving Peter alone again, He told Peter to wait for the Promise. Peter was beyond broken; he was shattered. What was racing through poor Peter’s head?! Prayer must have been the only response to a heart that had been wholly destroyed. Are we broken, shattered, and our hearts destroyed? Not yet…
Truly, when enough Christians begin to repent and give God permission to be Himself in their lives, a mighty move of God is on the horizon. When men and women of God throw their hands up in disgust and are ready to quit church-as-usual, surely the rain will begin to fall. Surely, we cry out to our heavenly Father for the bread of life and the living waters, for we are starving. And surely as it states in the Bible, God is more than willing to hear the prayers of His children and grant the Holy Spirit to those that ask!
Expect great things to come. Know that at least some of us are starting to wake up. Rest assured that God doesn’t make promises He can’t keep. And know that the only thing holding the promise back is the prayer. The prayer of God making Himself known to us, the prayer of His anointing, the prayer of hearing Him speak, and the prayer of sincere willingness to be transformed. From our knees, we will arise with His battle-plan imprinted on our hearts; from the tears of a broken people will come the strength to stand by the power of the Spirit; from a dry and desolate land, will come the answer to our prayers. We will get this right soon, I promise.
Maybe this article has quickened something inside of you, maybe what I have shared with you resonates in a deep place, and maybe if we begin to ask for the right things, God will open the floodgates. If this message has spoken to you, then by all means, join us in your prayers for His promise. For we know that it takes both the promise and the obedience to be in His dazzling light!
Be bold, be blessed, and be beautiful,