CHURCH LIFE

Acts 2:42-46 – Every believer was faithfully devoted to following the teachings of the apostles. Their hearts were mutually linked to one another, sharing communion and coming together regularly for prayer. A deep sense of holy awe swept over everyone, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. All the believers were in fellowship as one body, and they shared with one another whatever they had. Out of generosity they even sold their assets to distribute the proceeds to those who were in need among them. Daily they met together in the temple courts and in one another’s homes to celebrate communion. They shared meals together with joyful hearts and tender humility.

There was something special going on in the early days of the new church born in Jerusalem after the Day of Pentecost. The people had changed, the atmosphere of the city had changed, a sense of new life and new beginnings was in the air. It seemed as if it was a shared or a communal life that was permeating this new community of believers. Everything from prayer, worship, and teaching had taken on a new life. It seems that the large gatherings were just a part of this new life, the private homes were ablaze with new life as well. Here is a quote from the Passion Notes about these home gatherings.

“This was more than sharing meals, but participating together in observing the Lord’s Table. The Aramaic, which can be translated “the Eucharist” or “holy communion,” makes it even more explicit.”

These were more than church pot lucks, apparently they were celebrating communion just like Jesus had taught them just a few days earlier. The homes were filled with life as they celebrated the death and resurrection of the Son of God. Here is another quote about this fledgling church trying to find its way.

“As translated from the Aramaic. The Aramaic word for “church” is the joining of “meet” and “come.” This word is an invitation to enter into fellowship with Christ and his people. The Greek word for “church” is ekklesia, which is “called-out ones.”

These called out ones were the beginning of a new movement that is still alive and well today. The center of it is seen in today’s passage; the apostle’s teaching, fellowship, prayer, and the communion meal. It was simple yet permeated with the power of God.

SUDDENLY

Acts 2:2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

Revival happens suddenly. A church, nation, or an individual could be waiting for the move of the Spirit for years and in a moment of time everything changes. That is a common thread in revivals throughout history, the Lord began His visitation suddenly and circumstances were immediately changed.

Our church had morning prayer meetings at 6 a.m. from 1979 all the way until 1994. We prayed for everything imaginable in those prayer meetings but one thing that remained constant was our crying out for revival. I can remember praying “one more time Lord” hundreds of times over the years. Suddenly, our world was changed in August of 1994 as we experienced a visitation beyond anything I could have expected. Our church changed and I changed. Not everyone liked it but it was undeniable and unignorable. God was in the house, revival had visited our church. Here is a description of the spontaneity of revival from Arthur Wallis.

“With the brevity and simplicity characteristic of Scripture, we are shown in four words the source of the outpouring: “There came from heaven . . .”. Revival is spontaneous, because it is “not forced or suggested or caused by outside agency.” It is the result of a divine and not a human impulse. In language plain to all, it cannot be “worked up”. It is true that spiritual conditions must be met before revival can be expected, but fulfilled conditions do not provide the motive force of revival. At Pentecost it was “the windows of heaven”, not the windows of the Upper Room, that were opened. The source of the blessing was the heart of God, not the heart of man. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that such “seasons of refreshing” have always come “from the presence of the Lord”. We may believe that during those ten days of waiting, there were revived hearts in that Upper Room, but there was no revival; there were empty vessels but no outpouring. When it came, it came direct from heaven and found in that waiting band a channel through which to flow.”

What do you do when God Himself walks into the room? Your own plans and agendas seem quite insignificant, Greatness had made His way into our world. Sometimes you have to stop, be still, and know He alone is God.

THE CHARISMATIC RENEWAL

Acts 15:16-18 – And the prophet’s words are fulfilled:

‘After these things I will return to you

and raise up the tabernacle of David

that has fallen into ruin.

I will restore and rebuild what David experienced

so that all of humanity will be able to encounter the Lord

including the gentiles whom I have called

to be my very own,’ says the Lord.

‘For I have made known my works from eternity!’

I was born again and filled with the Holy Spirit in August of 1973. Thousands of others across the world at that time were having a similar experience. The Charismatic Renewal and an off shoot of that movement known as the Jesus Movement was in full swing. I ended up in a Bible College/Jesus Community in California called God’s Army. Those were some of the sweetest and special days of my life. We worshipped together, studied together, worked together, and lived together in extended households. Worship was a huge part of our lives. Jesus music (spiritual rock) was just in its infancy. Worship was the air that we breathed. A huge part of our corporate worship experience was singing spontaneously together songs in our heavenly language. Heaven would come down in those meetings and carry us into the heavenly realm. My life was changed in those precious moments. The restoration of Spirit empowered worship was a huge part of the Charismatic movement. Singing the Psalms of David put to music was the bulk of our singing. Here is a quote from Theopedia describing the Charismatic movement.

“Virtually all Charismatic Christians believe that the presence of God can be experienced in a supernatural way by believers, usually during times of intense spiritual reflection (such as during a worship service, a small group meeting or personal prayer). The singing of praise songs is an important element in this belief.

Nevertheless, there are two primary beliefs which define the charismatic movement. The first is the belief that the “charismatic gifts” of the Holy Spirit, such as tongues, prophecy, and miraculous healing, are still in effect today. Charismatics also hold that sometimes Bible passages are misinterpreted in order to declare that charismatic gift are not valid for today’s believers.”

Those early years of worship left a lasting impact on everyone who was involved in that movement. Our church worship today reflects the influence of the Charismatic Renewal. Today’s verse speaks of the restoration of the Tabernacle of David in the last days. I believe the exuberant and spontaneous worship we experience in our services is exactly that.

THE WELSH REVIVAL

Ps.40:3 – He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD

I love reading about the glorious visitations of God from the past. I know that we can never reproduce what happened in another time and other cultures but the similarities in the outpouring of the Spirit throughout history produces an expectancy in my heart for God’s “new thing” for this generation. There is something very special and unique about the Welsh Revival that began in 1904. As a student in Bible School I heard about Wales and the young revival leader, Evan Roberts, and I longed to be part of a great move of God in our generation. As of this writing I am grateful to have participated in two such outpourings of the Spirit. I was born again and filled with the Spirit in the Charismatic Renewal and was also swept up in the outpouring I call “The River” in 1994. I am in full expectancy mode for another outpouring to effect our world. Check this testimony from the book “THE WELSH REVIVAL” for a glimpse into that great outpouring.

“It was a meeting characterized by a perpetual series of interruptions and disorderliness. It was a meeting characterized by a great continuity and an absolute order. You say, “How do you reconcile these things?” I do not reconcile them. They are both there. If you put a man into the midst of one of these meetings who knows nothing of the language of the Spirit, and nothing of the life of the Spirit, one of two things will happen to him. He will either pass out saying, “These men are drunk,” or he himself will be swept up by the fire into the kingdom of God. If you put a man down who knows the language of the Spirit, he will be struck by this most peculiar thing. I have never seen anything like it in my life; while a man praying is disturbed by the breaking out of song, there is no sense of disorder, and the prayer merges into song, and back into testimony, and back again into song for hour after hour, without guidance. These are the three occupations—singing, prayer, testimony.”

I love this description of God’s outpouring. To the casual observer the meetings seemed disorderly. To those awakened by the Spirit, a supernatural heavenly order was on full display. Once you taste this “heavenly order” church as usual will just never do.

THE HARMONY OF DRINKING TOGETHER

1 Cor.12:13 – For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

I haven’t drunk alcohol for many years so you will have to forgive me if I get this wrong. There is often some kind of strange ‘drinking buddy’ harmony that sets in on those who drink together. It seems like drunks often love everybody. Then on the other hand things can quickly head south. The drunken love fest can quickly turn into a brawl. Not so with the Holy Spirit kind of intoxication. Drinking with our spiritual drinking buddies can lead to magnificent displays of God’s glory flowing from a harmony that can only be displayed as supernatural. The Azusa Street Revival in 1906 often had an intoxicating influence on its participants. There would be unusual displays of harmony often characterized by singing for extended periods of time in what could only be described as a supernatural song. Here is a description from Vincent Synan – in his book on William Seymour.

“One of the most remarkable features of the meetings was the “heavenly choir.” As few as one or two or as many as twenty men and women would spontaneously join in an anthem, all in harmony and in different pitches, each singing in a language that was unknown to them. An observer described the manifestation by saying, “This singing service was literally inspired by the Holy Ghost. It was mostly in known tunes, but the words were chosen by the Holy Ghost.” “It was not something that could be repeated at will, but supernaturally given for each special occasion and was one of the most indisputable evidences of the presence of the power of God.” Bartleman said it was “beyond description…the very foretaste of the rapture.” Williams reported, “It would sweep over the congregation, no words, just worshiping, intoning in the Spirit.” Many skeptics were convinced of the authenticity of Pentecost when they saw and heard this demonstration.”

This harmony birthed in supernatural corporate encounters with the Lord can actually become the life of a local church. This common experience can continue in the general life of the body. It can bring a cohesion or harmony that permeates every part of the church. This is the life that can shine like a light in the world. Maybe this is what Jesus meant when He said they will know that they are my disciples by the way they love one another.

NOT LIKE WE THOUGHT

1 Thes.5:19 – Do not quench the Holy Spirit.

I still remember the rumors of revival I heard all throughout the first part of 1994. People were talking about unusual manifestations at various meetings in the United States, Argentina, and in Canada. There were even rumors of revival happening in the Church of England in London. There were stories bout trances, drunken behavior, unusual noises, and laughing. I think the laughing bothered me the most. I had been praying for revival for years but laughter, drunkenness, and trances were not on my radar. I was skeptical at best and possibly a little offended. Like most other Christians, I had a certain way I thought revival should look and this certainly wasn’t it. It wasn’t until I went to the meetings myself and felt the presence of the Lord and tasted the depths of His love that my defenses began to come down. Before you knew it, I too was laughing, shouting, and displaying intoxicated behavior under the influence of the Spirit. Preconceived ideas of what a move of God should look like have blocked many from experiencing His mighty power. Here is how Arthur Wallis describes this roadblock.

“Let us not put our views of decorum and of order above the mighty operations of the Spirit. When He comes forth in His glory, it is as it were a judgment day; there is an overwhelming revelation of sin and of danger; and we can no more expect men to act under such circumstances in accordance with ordinary rules of decorum, than we could expect men aroused from their beds by an earthquake to avoid every demonstration of a noisy or alarming character. Perhaps it behooves us all to surrender our very imperfect views of the power and majesty of the Holy Spirit, and prepare for something grander, more awful and more revolutionary than we have yet witnessed.”

The Lord often starts things in unexpected places and unexpected ways. Who would have thought of Nazareth, a supposed carpenter’s son, and animal stall in Bethlehem? Or what about the one eyed son of a slave in a former horse stable on Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California? Then there was the coal mine worker in Wales, the angry Pharisee in Damascus, and the shepherd with a slingshot. The icing on the cake; speaking in unknown languages. Thousands of people speaking in languages they had never learned and as Paul said some of the languages were angel languages. The Lord does some strange things, hopefully I won’t be too dry and rigid to move with the cloud in these last days.

THE REVIVAL IN LEWIS ISLAND

Before you get turned sideways this article has nothing to do with politics. By some divine, strange occurrence, it seems President Trump’s mom had two elderly nieces that were connected to a revival on Lewis Island which spread to the New Hebrides. They had been praying for God to come down and apparently their prayers were answered. Lewis Island and the New Hebrides were swept into a move of the Spirit that lasted for several years. President Trump bought the house where these prayer meetings were held. Here is an account of the beginning of that move of God from an article written by Colin Melbourne.

“Duncan Campbell was preaching his heart out, and getting nowhere. The congregation were quite content in their stiff, cold, and dead, religious routines.

What could he do?

He noticed a young lad near the front, weeping quietly, only recently saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit, a pool of tears around his farmer’s boots. Campbell, in humility, recognized that the youth was closer to God than he was, so stopped preaching, and asked him to stand and pray.

Just three sentences of prayer from the new believer prompted the power of God to fall upon the whole assembly. Those formal Scottish Presbyterian churchgoers began crying out for mercy to God. Half of them stood arms outstretched to Heaven, transfixed in the Glory for two hours, the other half slumped to the floor calling on the Lord in heartfelt repentance. At the same time, the Spirit of God swept through a village seven miles away, and practically every household in the village had someone saved that night. That’s revival!”

From this you can see that the Lord is not impressed with titles or reputations. When He wants to move He can use two old ladies and a child. Actually He said if the child won’t speak He might decide to use rocks. Again, the Lord proves that His ways are not our ways. I wonder if He is planning another outbreak in these last days? Throughout history there have been regional moves of the Spirit such as the Welch Revival, the Great Awakening, and this one in the New Hebrides. The Azusa Street Revival, which birthed the Pentecostal movement, is the closest to a world wide awakening. The good news is that the Lord has saved the best for last. So if you think you are too old or too young maybe you are exactly what the Lord is looking for. Maybe, just maybe, the wind is starting to blow again.

MY TRIALS AND THE GLORY OF THE LORD

Deut.5:24- The Lord our God has shown us his glory.

One of the things that changed radically for me in revival may seem small to the casual observer but proved to be cataclysmic in my life. I guess you would say my preaching in the early years of my ministry was man centered. What do I mean by that? That God was all about me and everything that He created was focused on me. The results of that emphasis can be quite predictable. If I do certain things then God will do certain things for me. It’s not that the Lord doesn’t want to do things that will be a blessing to me, its just that I had the motivation wrong. Everything God does is for His glory. Everything from creating solar systems to sunsets are to display His glory. Jesus healed the sick first of all to display His glory. He said that the man who was born blind was born that way for an opportunity to display the glory of God in healing. When we see that and focus on His glory we are filled with satisfaction and a joy beyond compare. Here is how Spurgeon describes it.

“God’s great design in all his works is the manifestation of his own glory. Any aim less than this were unworthy of himself. But how shall the glory of God be manifested to such fallen creatures as we are? Man’s eye is not single, he has ever a side glance towards his own honor, has too high an estimate of his own powers, and so is not qualified to behold the glory of the Lord. It is clear, then, that self must stand out of the way, that there may be room for God to be exalted; and this is the reason why he brings his people ofttimes into straits and difficulties, that, being made conscious of their own folly and weakness, they may be fitted to behold the majesty of God when he comes forth to work their deliverance. He whose life is one even and smooth path, will see but little of the glory of the Lord, for he has few occasions of self-emptying, and hence, but little fitness for being filled with the revelation of God.”

So what kind of trial and challenges are you facing today? Could it be that all this really is is an opportunity for the Lord to be glorified? When you finally see that our whole reason to exist is to display His glory in redemption the pressure comes off of us and we can finally stand still and watch Him in action.

OFFENDED BY GOD

Matt.18:7 – Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!

Every move of the Spirit of God throughout history has been opposed. One example was the extreme resistance to the Azusa Street revival and its practice of speaking in tongues. It was called by one renowned evangelical leader “the last vomit of Satan”. The laughing, crying, shouting, and trances were also hot button topics. People falling in the Spirit and rolling on the floor at Azusa gave birth to the name “holy rollers”. Jesus was criticized for hanging around with people of ill repute, John the Baptist scorned for his “tee-totaling” ways. The Wesleys and Whitefield were criticized for their outdoor meetings. I guess many people would rather have a dead service so that can catch up on their sleep.

When Revival fell on us in 1994 we had our fair share of critics. One of my fans said that we were having daily meetings because I didn’t have a life and didn’t want to be with my family. Another special person criticized me for calling out in service “It’s raining”. They actually accused me of public urination (in a spiritual way), I still laugh every time I remember it. Jonathan Edwards spoke about one of the dangers of criticizing the messy move of God, you keep waiting and totally miss out. Here is how Edwards put it.

“Tis probable that many of those that are thus waiting, know not what they are waiting for: if they wait to see a work of God without difficulties and stumbling blocks, that will be like the fool’s waiting at the riverside to have the water all run by. A work of God without stumbling blocks is never to be expected: “It must needs be that offenses come”. There never yet was any great manifestation that God made of himself to the world, without many difficulties attending it. It is with the works of God as ’tis with the Word of God; they are full of those things that seem strange and inconsistent and difficult to the carnal things that seem strange and inconsistent and difficult to the carnal unbelieving hearts of men. Christ and his work always was, and always will be a stone of stumbling, and rock of offense; a gin and a snare to many.”

So don’t be like the fool Edwards cited, waiting by the river for all the water to pass. When a move of God breaks out go ahead and jump in. You might be pleasantly surprised.

WHEN YOU WALK INTO THE ROOM

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS

“When the LORD brought back the captive ones of Zion, We were like those who dream”

Ps. 126:1

August is so historical for Frank and I, it sweeps us up every year because that is the month when everything changed for us. Now some forty five years ago at the sweet age of 16, Christ found me at the bottom of the heap and put a new song into my mouth. That old song had done run its course! Thank God! Frank and I were married soon and swept up into a course of redemption that has never let us go. We have lived a somewhat unbelievable life. If there were ever two losers never to go anywhere in life, we would have been the poster children. When Christ walks into the room everything changes.

Bryon and Katie Torwalt sing it this way-

“When you walk into the room

Everything changes

Darkness starts to tremble

At the light that You bring

And when You walk into the room

Every heart starts burning

And nothing matters more

Than just to sit here at Your feet”

Then 1994 God just outdid himself by bringing us a fresh touch from heaven. He got tired of our dry, sorrowful services and came down with holy ghost power! Jonathan Edwards writes about the Surprising work of God that happen to his city in North Hampton. He puts it this way.

“The daily conversation of virtually everyone was the revival – “Other discourse than of the things of religion would scarcely be tolerated in any company. The minds of people were wonderfully taken off from the world, it was treated amongst us as a thing of very little consequence. They seemed to follow their worldly business, more as a part of their duty, than from any disposition they had to it; the temptation now seemed to lie on that hand, to neglect worldly affairs too much, and to spend too much time in the immediate exercise of religion. The only thing in their view was to get the kingdom of heaven, and every one appeared pressing into it. The engagedness of their hearts in this great concern could not be hid, it appeared in their very countenances. There was scarcely a single person in the town, old or young, left unconcerned about the great things of the eternal world.”

Will you allow Christ to invade your lives like never before? Your worship will change, your outlook will be transformed, even your dog will love you! Your focus will shift from the natural world to Christ world-his eternal world, the world of love.