How Revival Comes

I wrote this 9 months ago, but felt, with some editing, it deserved a second look.  I hope you think so too:

In the little, 2 chapter, Book of Haggai, the Lord says to His people, “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins?” (Hag 1:4) 17 years earlier, about a year after their return from Babylon, by order of the pagan King Cyrus of the Persians, the Jewish people had laid the foundation of the Temple and the first layer of the wall.

Cyrus was the most powerful king on the planet at the time. Isaiah had prophesied about Cyrus, by name, some 150 years before his birth. God had chosen Cyrus and set him in power to give the Jews financial and political support to rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem.

The Jews had gone to Jerusalem with earnest intentions of rebuilding.  After their strong start, however, they were threatened and ridiculed by enemy nations.  They needed to survive in the harsh conditions .  They allowed these distractions to keep them from completing their tasks.

Even after they had established their homes and resources, it just never seemed like the right time to continue with their assignment. It was easy to keep adding to their own homes and their own lifestyles. They were living in luxury, but at the same time, they lived in fear of the enemy, and were subject to intimidation.

The same can be said of the Church in the West today. We live in the greatest level of wealth the world has ever seen, yet only about 10% of professing believers think it is important to put your money where your mouth is when it comes to God.  We live in fear of the opinions of our neighbors, our co-workers, the general public.

Though we have plenty of everything, we constantly seek more. Just like the Jews in Haggai’s time, we are unsatisfied and always searching for more food, more drink, more stimulation, more things to satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst. We seek comfort in newer and ever greater cars, houses, TVs, electronics… stuff, but we don’t put God first or turn to God for our fulfillment. (Haggai 1:3-7) As a result we are fat, depressed, over-stimulated, in debt and starving for true nourishment. Just saying…

When the remnant of the Jewish people, now living under King Darius, heard the rebuke from the Lord through Haggai, they repented by agreeing together and getting to work. Immediately our good savior sent this message of encouragement, “I am with you, says the Lord!” (Haggai 1:13) So the people got to work rebuilding the Lord’s house. I love the Lord. He asks so little of us before He can’t resist encouraging us!

When they got to work, he sent His Spirit and gave the whole group enthusiasm for the work ahead of them. (Hag 1:14) We would say that REVIVAL had come to them.

Notice the order of events: They got to work in obedience, THEN revival came to them.

In the West, we never seem to find the right time to obey Jesus’ simple command to us to, “heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those who have leprosy and cast out demons.”(Matt 10:8 NLT)  We worry, “What if I pray for someone and they don’t get healed?” “Will people think I’m a religious nut?” “Will I make God look bad?”  We want to see the evidence that “it works” before we step out “in faith.” But the Lord sent His encouragement after the people got to work.

Back to Haggai, a few months later the Lord sent another message through the prophet, “Does anyone remember this house-the Temple-in its former splendor? How in comparison does it look to you now? It must seem like nothing at all!”

“But the Lord said, ‘Be Strong…and now get to work, for I am with you, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. My Spirit remains among you just as I promised when you came out of Egypt, so do not be afraid’.” (Haggai 2:3-5) Remember, this was under the old covenant when the Holy Spirit came on people and also could go away. How much more can we be certain of the Lord’s support in the work He has assigned us when His Spirit lives inside  us and will NEVER leave us? “Be strong, my Spirit remains among you so don’t be afraid.”

This talk about the former glory of the Temple speaks to me of the state of the Church in the West today. Does anyone find inspiration from the Book of Acts? That, in my opinion, is the former glory of the church. When the church walked in humility and in power and changed the World.

What would the Church look like today, if we had kept our first love and continued fulfilling Jesus’ commandments? We should be walking in greater glory now than the first century church. Instead we look to that time of former glory as the good old days.

But we don’t need to look in our rear view mirror, because Jesus said, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed…Nothing will be impossible for you.”(Matt 17:20 NIV) Indeed, today the Church in developing countries is moving in the love and the power of the Holy Spirit.

In many places around the world, believers regularly see blind eyes opened, missing limbs restored, people raised from the dead and former strangers to Jesus whose lives are transformed by knowing Him. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 NIV)

The comparatively few believers in the first century church, with their great faith, were said to have “turned the world upside-down” with simple acts of love as demonstrated by Jesus. Now we number in the millions, but in the West the church is seen as a powerless anachronism or worse, a political persuasion. To the outside world, it does indeed seem like “nothing at all.” (Hag 2:3)

But we have good news! Like the people of Haggai and Nehemiah’s time, we can choose to change! We can repent and turn from the patterns of this world and be transformed by the renewing of our minds and by obedience to the things we have been called to do. The power of the gospel has not diminished, nor has the Holy Spirit within us lost His power.

Today, thanks to a new King Cyrus in the USA, President Trump, who is extremely supportive of the church, we too have a window of opportunity to repent and get to work. I pray we have eyes to see and understand the times we are living in. Imagine the potential impact we can have if the Church comes together now in answer to Jesus’ prayer for unity.  NOT for political reasons, but as the family of God.

The Work We Are Called to Do:  Jesus left us a few commands that in the West, we have largely ignored. Here are the most visible ones:

  • Love:  ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  (Matt 22:36-40, AMP)
  • Move Quickly When Others Need Help:  “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt 7:12 NIV)
  • Overlook Theological Differences in Favor of Unity:  “Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us,” (Mark 9:38-40 NIV)
  • Walk in Your Authority:  “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt 10:8 NIV).
  • Be Ready:  “You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.” (Luke 12:40)

I will fill this place with glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. And in this place I will bring peace. I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!” (Haggai 2:7-9)

This promise fills me with hope.  I am anticipating that our Temple, the Church ,will soon have wisdom, discipline and obedience to steward the gold and silver that comes in from the nations for Kingdom purposes.

But I think, as in history, it will come when we begin to walk in obedience to the Lord. Some things are trusted to the servants who steward well the little.

He said that He will bring peace to this place (the Temple/Church), but first He will fill it with glory! How will that be? I believe it will be after we begin walking in obedience.

Our obedience as earthen vessels makes way for the power and the glory of God to be revealed to the world. When we are obedient, He can do things through us that are so clearly beyond our own ability, that He is glorified.

Currently, in our Western lifestyles, daily spiritual opposition may not be an obvious threat of death, as it so often is in many places around the world. But opposition may come in the form of our fear of other people’s opinions.  It may come in worldly or even churchy distractions from our real assignment. Many times, warfare is as simple as believing the word of God and choosing to be obedient in the moment.

I don’t know about you, but when I see our Father face to face, I don’t want to regret the people I didn’t reach because I was embarrassed about what others would think of me.

I don’t want to remember the lame excuses and distractions I let come between me and obedience.

For believers, there is no punishment at the judgement, but I will not receive crowns of glory either.  Remember the crowns I receive are what I get to throw back at His feet to glorify Him.

That word “obedience” can sound boring or restrictive, but in truth it is our greatest freedom. Consider the freedom of letting the Father decide what I’m doing today, how, and when, and then doing as I’m told without responsibility or credit for the result. It is fulfilling and energizing.

That is what Jesus meant when he told His disciples, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:32 NIV) Like good food, obedience is nourishing and energizing. He did what He saw his Father doing, and said what He heard His Father saying. Then he got to watch the Kingdom come to Earth. Fulfilled! Nourished! Victorious!

I pray this little Book of Haggai will serve as a rally cry to our family, the Church. God promises us in Haggai that if we get to work on the things He has assigned us, then He Himself will be our peace.

We have been sleeping in our luxurious houses for too long! It is time to rebuild the Lord’s house. It is time for the nations to see the people of the Lord demonstrating His love, His might, His power to the world around us and overcoming the work of the enemy.

In the New Year, may the Lord bless you with His peace. May you see the world being turned upside-down in the wake of His love everywhere you go. May you be nourished, and victorious, and fulfilled by the heavenly food of obedience. The coming glory of the Church will be greater than the former glory!  Revival begins with you.

 

2 Comments on “How Revival Comes

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