On February 22nd, many church calendars around the world announced the beginning of the season of Lent 2023. For forty days, Christian groups around the world will focus on things like prayer, fasting, self-denial, and spiritual introspection as a means of personal preparation for Easter. Lots of things will pop up on official “church calendars” in the days ahead, but my thoughts have been captivated by a fresh awareness that sometimes the living God shows up and does things that weren’t on anybody’s calendar, church or otherwise.
No Approval Needed ~
Occasionally, God chooses to make a public display of His love and grace in places and ways no one expected. Once in a while, He reminds us again that major demonstrations of His power to save souls and transform lives don’t require approval by a “mega-church” program director or a majority vote from some revival committee. God doesn’t need a professionally produced media campaign to do miraculous things, and He seems to have proved that again at Asbury University in the little town of Wilmore, Kentucky.
As a routine chapel service was closing out a few weeks ago, a student began to share some very personal details about his internal conflicts, the sins he struggled with, and his deep need for God’s grace and forgiveness. Nothing that followed after that was routine or ordinary. Others began to openly confess their sins and plead for forgiveness. Declarations of repentance, fresh commitments, and prayers joined the praise songs that filled the atmosphere. The chapel service was officially over, but routines and programs weren’t running things anymore. God had decided to show up, and those who were there simply refused to leave.
A Movement Begins ~
What began as a spontaneous demonstration of confession and repentance erupted into what has been called the most significant episode of revival in many generations. The chapel service that refused to end grew into a movement among students, spreading to other schools. Soon, reports of the same kinds of things that were taking place at Asbury began to emerge from groups unaffiliated with colleges or denominations. Not surprisingly, religious skeptics criticized it as some kind of show, but most acknowledged that something spiritually “real” was happening, and people flooded into Wilmore from across the country and around the world to see and possibly even experience it.
The stories coming out from Asbury are inspiring and exciting to hear and read, but they leave challenging questions in their wake. Basically, how are we to react to something like the Asbury Revival? Do we who aren’t directly involved have personal responsibilities associated with it, and if so, what are they? As I pondered those questions, something totally unrelated influenced my response.
Seeing Another Movement ~
Earlier this week, my wife and I made a rare trek to the movie theater. To say that we aren’t avid movie-goers is an understatement of noteworthy proportions. For us, most movies these days seem to fall under the category of “Not Fit to See.” But occasionally, one comes along that sounds interesting and that supports our values. That happened recently, so we went out on a date and saw a movie called The Jesus Revolution. The story took place in the sixties and early seventies, a period that witnessed an unusual spiritual awakening that became a major movement. It began among students and young people in southern California and eventually spread across the nation and ultimately became known as “The Jesus Movement,” from which the movie gets its title.
Having lived through that time, I reminisced about the stories I heard about the “Jesus freaks” out west. I didn’t relate at all to the things being reported back then. I couldn’t understand why thousands of people were getting together to talk about Jesus. Though we weren’t a “church going” family, I’d had enough exposure to conclude that the things I heard they were doing didn’t sound very “churchy.” In those days, the main concerns I heard from people about The Jesus Movement were things like the length of the guys’ hair, how they were dressed, where they met, their taste in music, and a lack of formal “church” procedures. But what gripped my heart as I sat in the theater was what happened to the multiplied thousands who had come to Christ. The evidence is clear that an unplanned and unusual, but undeniable and unstoppable spiritual movement had occurred. The question troubling me is, what happened to it?
A Different World ~
We’re a little over 50 years away from that time, and our nation has degenerated into a spiritual and moral cesspool. Every twisted relational and sexual perversion that demonically-inspired minds can conceive is not just acceptable, but promoted as admirable and desirable. Babies are slaughtered in the womb by the thousands because they’re inconvenient.The traditional family unit is demeaned as outdated and irrelevant. Laws are flaunted, violence is rampant, and criminals go unpunished. Parents are stripped of their rights as their children’s bodies are mutilated in support of an evil insanity called “gender fluidity.” The haunting question is how on earth did we sink so far down in such a short period of time – and what do we do in light of it all?
I don’t know what’s going on in Kentucky at this point, but the events at Asbury have sent us a message . . . Revivals can still happen, and when they do, they need us. We have a role in supporting and maintaining them, and if we fail, sometimes they do, too. I am confident of this, when revivals do fade and disappear, no outside source can claim responsibility for their demise. When revivals expire, they die of natural causes.
Nothing “Natural” about Them ~
What I mean by that is that revivals are fundamentally supernatural events. They are times when God shows up with unusual and compelling manifestations of His love and redemptive grace. People react in ways that contradict every natural inclination we humans have. If the indications of revival fade away, it’s because things we consider “natural” have been allowed to bleed the life out of them. In light of that, we have a vital role to play. Sometimes revivals need reviving.
Revivals always begin with confession and repentance, but they are maintained and supported by prayer. But the prayers they need go beyond those generalized “God bless them” prayers. Since revivals are supernatural events, the prayers that help to sustain “life support” for them need to have supernatural implications. Revivals are characterized by things like love that overcomes fear, trust that overrides doubt, hope that suppresses despair, courage that banishes cowardice, and energy that dispatches apathy and laziness. Our prayers need to reflect those qualities. When Paul prayed for his brothers and sisters, he called on God to do incredible things, things that demanded supernatural power. He asked for things like this:
For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power… (Colossians 1:9–11 NKJV)
So, here are a few suggestions about prayer that might be helpful. Imagine what could happen if we kept coming to Jesus until…
- Our love for Him expelled those fears that haunt us the most.
- Our trust in His Word drove doubt and unbelief from our minds.
- A blazing beacon of hope banished every thought of despair and depression.
- Courage welled up inside us that wiped out any desire to run and hide.
- We felt a new kind of strength and a drive that defies weariness.
- We felt hunger and thirst that will not be satisfied until righteousness and justice are restored.
Hmmm… Come to think of it, prayers like that could support or provide life-support not only for a revival, they could be the very place where another one begins.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “Revivals can still happen, and when they do, they need us. We have a role in supporting and maintaining them, and if we fail, sometimes they do, too. When revivals fade and disappear, no outside source can claim responsibility for their demise. They die of natural causes.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Revivals are fundamentally supernatural events. God shows up with unusual and compelling manifestations of His love and redemptive grace. People react in ways that contradict every natural inclination we humans have.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “If the indications of revival fade away, it’s because things we consider “natural” have been allowed to bleed the life out of them. In light of that, we have a vital role to play. Sometimes revivals need reviving.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Revivals always begin with confession and repentance, but they are maintained and supported by prayer. Since revivals are supernatural events, the prayers that help to sustain “life support” for them need to have supernatural implications.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Revivals are characterized by things like love that overcomes fear, trust that overrides doubt, hope that suppresses despair, courage that banishes cowardice, and energy that dispatches apathy and laziness. Our prayers need to reflect those qualities.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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