GOD’S STUMBLING BLOCK

Acts 2:12,13 – “So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean? Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.”

The Lord does things differently from what anyone would expect. He chooses unusual people to be carriers of revival. At Pentecost He chose an uneducated fisherman, to reach the gentiles He chose a murderous, cursing Pharisee, in the Great Awakening in America He used a 24 year old Englishman, in Wales He used a 26 year old coal miner, and Azusa Street was led by the one-eyed son of a slave from South Louisiana. Paul said that God chooses the foolish to confound the wise. In a similar way revival doesn’t come the way one would expect. It often includes extreme laughter, unusual bodily movements, trances, falling to the floor, intoxicated behavior, and speaking in strange dialects. Revival can be quite messy. As a result, church people can easily become offended and actually oppose outpourings of God in His church. Here are some thoughts from Arthur Wallis on God’s Stumbling Block.

“There are always some who are desirous of revival until it comes, and then they bitterly oppose it because it has not come in the way they anticipated. The instrument that God used, or the channel through which the blessing flowed, was not what their convictions had led them to expect. They looked to see an Eliab or an Abinadab chosen for this great work, but the Lord, who “looketh on the heart,” chose a David. They thought that their own local church, their own fellowship which was so scriptural and right, would see the beginning of the work, but God chose to work elsewhere, and this became to them a stumbling block. To all who handle the work of revival, this should be a solemn warning of the great danger of yielding to jealousy and prejudice, which blind the eyes, harden the heart and hinder the Spirit.”
Jesus was actually called a ‘stone of stumbling’ to the spiritual leaders of His day. They never expected to see the Messiah cloaked in humility. When He began to heal the sick on the Sabbath day the leaders were totally offended. On the Day of Pentecost, the unusual response by the 120 followers of Jesus caused quite an upheaval. Many were attracted and converted, many others were offended by the strange effects of the outpouring and opposed the move of God. The question begging to be asked, are you attracted or offended by the unusual outpourings of the Lord?

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.

COULD THIS BE REVIVAL?

Acts 10:44 ¶ While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.

The first I heard of the outpouring in the 1990’s was from a pastor friend in New York who called me about things that were happening in services near him. He told me preaching was being interrupted by outbreaks of laughter in the congregation. I was shocked and not very happy about what I was hearing. I just wrote it off as another side journey of the flakes often associated with the charismatic renewal. You know what I mean; one week everyone needed deliverance, the next week everything was prophetic, and then there was the banners and Jewish symbolic rituals in the worship services. “Just great”, I thought, “now everyone is laughing”. I didn’t think much of it until I went to revival services myself in Rockwell, Texas. That’s when I saw it first hand, this was more than laughter, way more: God Himself had come down and His Glory and majesty were on full display. This was my first taste of revival for myself. Here are some thoughts from Arthur Wallis on the nature of revival.

“True revivals have ever been marked by powerful and often widespread outpourings of the Spirit. Many, many times the preaching had to cease because the hearers were prostrate or because the voice of the preacher was drowned by cries for mercy. Who will deny that these were outpourings of the Spirit? Who could find a more appropriate description of such scenes than the words of Luke: “The Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word” (Acts 10:44)? David Brainerd recorded the beginning of the wonderful movement among the American Indians in 1745 thus:
The power of God seemed to descend upon the assembly “like a mighty rushing wind,” and with an astonishing energy bore down all before it. I stood amazed at the influence, which seized the audience almost universally; and could compare it to nothing more aptly, than the irresistible force of a mighty torrent. . . . Almost all persons of all ages were bowed down with concern together, and scarcely one was able to withstand the shock of this surprising operation.”

When the Lord comes down like this it is time for man to be silent. What can you say in the manifest immediate presence of His Greatness. Lord, split the heavens one more time and come down amongst us, our generation desperately needs Your visitation.

I WILL REJOICE

Is. 61:10 ¶ I will greatly rejoice in the LORD;
my soul shall exult in my God,

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;

he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,

and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

People of the world rejoice in all sorts of things. Some rejoice because it happens to be Friday, others it may be a vacation that fills them with joy. There is winning the lottery joy, new boyfriend or girlfriend joy; there is even who dat joy when the Saints are on their game. Everybody is looking for that illusive life filled with joy that seems to always be just out of reach. The joy that we are actually looking for is found in the last place a worldly man would look, joy unspeakable is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the gospel we find forgiveness for the unthinkable, power to be a different kind of person, and access into the presence of God Himself which is a place of indescribable bliss. There is a place of joy made available to us in Christ that will satisfy totally and finally. Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry on this supernatural joy.

“Upon this account I will greatly rejoice in the Lord. Those that rejoice in God have cause to rejoice greatly, and we need not fear running into an extreme in the greatness of our joy when we make God the gladness of our joy….. There is just matter for this joy, and all the reason in the world why it should terminate in God; for salvation and righteousness are wrought out and brought in, and the church is clothed with them….Christ has clothed his church with an eternal salvation (and that is truly great) by clothing it with the righteousness both of justification and sanctification.”
So what are you happy about today? Your source of joy tells a lot about the condition of your soul. Actually, salvation will change the object of your joy and that will become your testimony. The alcoholic who longs for his drink finds joy in another kind of drink, the living water of the Holy Spirit. The soul who has been tormented by the nagging attraction of lust is suddenly satisfied in the incredible embrace of Christ. Turn your eyes upon Jesus and you too will be surprised by the joy that flows from His presence.

GO AHEAD AND LAUGH

And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.Genesis 21:6

Have you ever thought about why Abraham and Sarah gave their child such a weird name? Isaac means Laughter. Laughter! Really!? Why would someone do that? I guess laughter had become a huge part of both of their lives. Just think about it, Abraham was 99 years old when the Lord confirmed His promise to give Abraham a son. Oh yeah, that’s when he told Abraham to circumcise himself. OUCH!!! No wonder Abraham started laughing. He was laughing at the promise and also laughing about the circumcision thing. Shortly after that, three angels appearing as men, were talking to Abraham about the coming birth of his son. That’s when Sarah began to laugh; that was the weirdest thing to Sarah, she thought that was the funniest thing she had ever heard. How could a ninety year old, barren woman ever have a child. That’s why they named the baby laughter, laughter had been a huge part of their spiritual as well as physical renewal in their old age. God’s people have always been laughing. Here is how Spurgeon describes the laughing phenomenon also referring to John Bunyan on laughter.
“I would have all those that hear of my great deliverance from hell, and my most blessed visitation from on high, laugh for joy with me. I would surprise my family with my abundant peace; I would delight my friends with my ever-increasing happiness; I would edify the Church with my grateful confessions; and even impress the world with the cheerfulness of my daily conversation. Bunyan tells us that Mercy laughed in her sleep, and no wonder when she dreamed of Jesus; my joy shall not stop short of hers while my Beloved is the theme of my daily thoughts. The Lord Jesus is a deep sea of joy: my soul shall dive therein, shall be swallowed up in the delights of his society. Sarah looked on her Isaac, and laughed with excess of rapture, and all her friends laughed with her; and thou, my soul, look on thy Jesus, and bid heaven and earth unite in thy joy unspeakable.”
So go ahead and laugh! The Lord’s promises may seem really over the top but to those who have ears to hear they ring true. Just as Sarah said, “Everyone who hears of this birth will laugh with me”, your friends will be laughing too when they see what God has done in your life.

THE FATHER’S BLESSING

Acts 1:4,5 ¶ And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now”.

Not every one admits it or is even in touch with it themselves but everyone wants their father’s blessing. I have some fond memories of my dad from my childhood. My father was old school, never told you he was proud of you or loved you and but he had very high expectations that he placed on all of his children. He taught me how to hit a baseball when I could barely walk. Actually he made the mistake of tossing a golf ball to me when I was about two. I had a little bat and hit a line drive into his Adam’s apple; that was the last batting practice we had with a golf ball. I remember him making it to a baseball game I played in when I was in high school, I was so proud when my dad told me I had played a great game.

The Bible is full of stories about the Father’s blessing. Abraham blessed Isaac, Isaac blessed Jacob, and Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph; Ephraim and Manasseh. Today’s verse describes the fulfillment of the Heavenly Fathers’ blessing. Of course Jesus had lived in His Father’s blessing from eternity as the Son of God. Something was changing now. Jesus had become a man and was about to receive the Father’s blessing as a man for all mankind. The Father had made His Son an eternal promise; if He would become a man and redeem fallen man with His blood, He would secure the blessing of the Father for all who believe in Him.

What exactly is the promise of the Father? Paul tells us in Gal. 3:13,14 ¶ Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith”. Do you see it now? The blessing of the Father is the Holy Spirit; He comes to live in us, immerse us in Himself, and cause us to experience all the benefits of being His Son. He is the Father’s promise and the blessing of the Father. Today, the favor and blessing of the Father is available for all who believe in His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

IN THE DAY OF THY POWER

Psa. 110:3 Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power,

in holy garments;

from the womb of the morning,

the dew of your youth will be yours.

Seasons of revival are rare and precious. I remember a picture of John Wesley that was on the wall in the home of one of my teachers in Bible School. Just that picture invoked a fear of God and a longing for revival in my soul. Our teachers and leaders at school spoke often of those days of revival in history that changed our world. Have you ever thought about what revival is really like? What is its purpose from God’s perspective? Jonathan Edwards gives us a glimpse into the heavenly purpose in this short quote.

“God hath had it much on his heart, from all eternity, to glorify his dear and only-begotten Son; and there are some special seasons that he appoints to that end, wherein he comes forth with omnipotent power to fulfill his promise and oath to him. Now these are times of remarkable pouring out of his Spirit, to advance his kingdom; such is a day of his power.”
The whole purpose is to magnify Jesus, the one and only Son of God. David called it “a day of His power”. Jesus become the focus of life when the Lord pours out His Spirit in this way on the earth. Outpouring turns our attention off of His gifts and onto the Lord Himself. Jesus is magnified and hungry hearts are attracted to Him as the source of all life. Edwards also warned about the danger of preconceived ideas about revival that can actually cause us to reject it when it comes. It seldom happens the way we thought it would or should. Here is Edwards’ warning.

“Persons are very ready to be suspicious of what they have not felt themselves. It is to be feared many good men have been guilty of this error. . . . These persons who thus make their own experience their rule of judgment, instead of bowing to the wisdom of God, and yielding to his word as an infallible rule, are guilty of casting a great reflection upon the understanding of the Most High.”
This sounds like the way I was before I was touched by God in 1994. I had some strong opinions about the way it should be and the way it shouldn’t be. Thankfully, the Lord was persistent and broke down my barriers so that I could also enter in to His great outpouring.