Newsletter for Jun 2009
Much is being said about revival these days. Personally, I believe we will see a massive harvesting of souls into God’s Kingdom before the return of Jesus. However, too often the efforts to see revival take place can focus on the external works instead of the internal. We must never forget that revival is produced out of a relationship with God that releases His power to touch and change lives. Let’s look an “Old Testament revival” from God’s word as a type-and-shadow for us today.
The book of Nehemiah is the story of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. After 70 years of Babylonian captivity, many of the Jews had returned to Jerusalem. During the time of captivity an entire generation of Israelites had grown up who had never fully participated in the Jewish feats, festivals, sacrifices, or proper teaching of the Law. There was, as Amos 8:11 states, a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.”
Part of the reason this famine existed was because previous generations of Jews had not continued their walk with God. This is what had led to the Babylonian captivity in the first place. Today seems to be no different. Over time, Christians have grown distant from God; no longer knowing the reality of His power and presence. Generally speaking, Believers are now in captivity – captivity to doubt, to materialism, to works, to a lack of knowledge of who they are in Christ, and to great compromise of the truth and purity of God’s word.
The type-and-shadow pattern for revival recorded in Nehemiah is relevant for any and every church. Take a look at how it begins…
And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate… (Nehemiah 8:1)
The first thing the people did was gather at the water gate, the place on the east side of Jerusalem where the water from the spring of Gishon flowed. If we want revival, we must go to the water gate.
He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (John 7:38)
Jesus is our water gate. If we want revival, rivers of living water must be flowing from within us. Just being born again isn’t enough; there must be a constant flow of His life to us, in us, and through us. Christians cannot rely on last year’s move of God for revival today. We must get in the presence of the Living Waters every day. We must become so saturated that we begin to overflow. When the people in a church begin to overflow, it becomes a flood. The flood releases a wellspring of life and communities are transformed from a wilderness of sin into an oasis of God’s presence. We then see a fulfillment of Psalm 107:35 and Isaiah 35:6-7…
He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings.
Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
Sadly, too many Christians are not concerned with having revival. The pastor of a church running about 120 told me how he shared with his congregation plans to begin an evangelism outreach program in their community. A man in the church said, “I don’t know why we need all this evangelism stuff. Our church is big enough the way it is!” The attitude this man displayed comes from a heart that has become cold and insensitive to the lost; a heart once changed through salvation, but which has never returned to the Water Gate of Jesus. Jeremiah gave a stern warning to such people,
O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters. (Jeremiah 17:13)
Continuing with our story of the Jews, read what happens after they have gathered at the water gate:
…they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel. (Nehemiah 8:1)
Ezra was a scribe; an expert in the Law and God’s word. The people went to the water gate and spoke to Ezra, which means he was already there when they arrived. If we’re going to have revival, we must demand that our pastors and church leadership spend time in the presence of God. You see, it is impossible for a minister to continually seek the face of God and not have results. God calls people to ministry for one purpose: to reveal Himself through their ministry. In Ezekiel 34:2-10, the Lord give a strong warning of judgment to pastors who refuse to feed God’s flock the truth of His word.
Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.
Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.
When the Jews asked Ezra to get the book of the Law, here is what took place
And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: (Nehemiah 8:2, 3, 5)
When Ezra began to read, the people stood and remained standing for hours while he read to them. They had a deep reverence and respect for the word of God. Hearing the word was so important to them that heat, hunger, or aching legs and feet were a minor inconvenience. These people were serious about the word!
For Christians today, Ezra would represent the pastor. Gathering together with our “Ezra” means being faithful to attend church. Standing while the word was read symbolizes making the word a priority in our lives. If Christians do not prioritize God’s word in their lives, there will be no revival. Likewise, it is impossible for a church to experience revival if Believers are not committed to the common goal God has established for His church.
“Oh, but Brother Martin, I would read my Bible more and attend church more, but you just don’t know my schedule. I work hard during the week. The kids have soccer, basketball and cheerleading. Besides, there are things in life other than church.”
How many times I have heard such things! Far too many parents wake up on Sundays and just don’t feel like going to church; so they lay out and call it “quality family time” to justify their lack of spiritual character. If parents don’t teach their children to place a priority on God’s word and church attendance, who will? We are supposed train up our children in the way they should go. Do we not want them to experience a full-blown, Holy Ghost-inspired revival? Are we leading them toward God and revival or toward “Babylonian captivity”?
When Ezra had finished reading God’s word to the people, look what happened next:/p>
And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. (Nehemiah 8:6)
The people were so moved by God’s word that they all began to praise and worship Him. Believers who truly want revival will choose to praise and worship God. This means a genuine decision to praise Him, not some feigned display of Charismatic calisthenics. Anybody can shout, clap their hands, run the aisles or jump the pews. In fact, some Christians are so programmed by their church traditions that they don’t think anybody has really worshipped God unless most of the people are jerking or rolling on the floor.
Don’t misunderstand; I am fully aware that people can react this way when the power of God and His anointing begin to flow. But when the quality of praise and worship is judged by the quantity of emotional display, it is not true praise and worship. Genuine praise and worship comes from a heart-decision to worship God no matter what your emotions tell you.
More than anyone else, the Holy Spirit inspired David to teach us about praise and worship. Throughout the Psalms we read that we should praise God because He is our Redeemer, our Savior, our Healer, our Provider, our Protector, our Everything and because He is worthy of our praise. Mark it down: people who refuse to praise God or praise Him only when they feel like it will not experience revival. If we want revival, we should worship with all our hearts now, before revival breaks loose.
In our story from Nehemiah, something very interesting happens after the worship celebration has ended…
Then he [Ezra]said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength. And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them. (Nehemiah 8:10, 12)
The people left where they were and began giving to supply the needs of others. One of the earmarks of revival is a willingness of people to give. What happened in Nehemiah is exactly what took place in the Book of Acts after revival had broken out in Jerusalem.
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. (Acts 4:32, 34-35)
When Christians have a “revival heart” they begin to lose their grip on things and understand the need to give. Yes, I agree that there has been horrible abuse in the areas of giving and the prosperity message. But “revival giving” is about meeting the needs of others, not about continual gain and increase; and the greatest need people have is to hear what Jesus can do for them. If we want revival, we must learn to turn loose of our possessions and money as the Lord instructs and give for His Kingdom’s purposes. Read what Jesus said,
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:37-40)
Revival is not an accident. Revival happens when God’s people decide that they are going to seek first His kingdom and hunger and thirst after His righteousness. As we draw near to Him and conform to His image, we become vessels of glory through which His revival power flows!
May you know the “revival presence” of God in your life and in your church!
May you know God's victory in your life!