BY GREG WEST
When we hear the word revival, we usually think of an event on the church calendar. That is correct, though I would say, incomplete. I want to share about when God puts revival on the calendar! It seems to me that in following Christ we are so often rowing and rowing but have forgotten to raise our sails so that the wind of the Spirit can move us in ways we never imagined.
God spoke through an angel to the prophet Zechariah centuries ago, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6 NRSV). Jonathan Goforth, a missionary revivalist to China in the early 1900s, commented on this verse: “If revival is being withheld from us it is because some idol remains still enthroned; because we still insist in placing our reliance in human schemes; because we still refuse to face the unchangeable truth that, ‘It is not by might, but by My Spirit.’” As I share about the 1970 Asbury Revival, John Wesley experiencing an outpouring of God's spirit, a powerful revival in Virginia and the Great Welsh Revival, I’m praying that your interest will be sparked, and it will grow into a deep longing expressed in continuing prayer for revival. When God’s people respond to His Spirit by drawing near and calling on Him for more, God shows up in new and transforming ways! Revival can happen!
I’m preaching a revival at Joliff UMC, pastored by Rev. Brandon Nichols, Aug 29 – Sept 1. I’m asking that God would put this on His calendar in a powerful way!
Let our prayer be like the prophet Habakkuk’s: “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2 NRSV).
There have been moments throughout church history when God pours out His Holy Spirit and people are transformed. Of course, all these moments connect back to the outpouring of God’s Spirit at Pentecost, the birth of the Church.
1970 Asbury Revival
Rev. Dennis Kinlaw was the President of Asbury College at the time of the revival. He was traveling in Canada when he received a call from Kentucky concerning the morning chapel service. His thought was to ask how it went, but the report was that it hasn’t ended yet. It was 7pm Kentucky time! The students and people described the powerful presence of the Lord in the Chapel. People were drawn there and felt led to repent of and confess their sins, which led them to experience peace with God. Some were renewing their love for and commitment to Christ and others were coming to know His saving grace for the first time. That chapel service went on through the night and into the next day. Classes were cancelled for the next week as the Revival went on 8 days and 8 nights!
Many students felt compelled to travel to other colleges and to their home churches to share what God was doing at Asbury College. The Revival spread to those places and produced the same results: salvation and reconciliation with God, a deep sense of God’s presence, a renewed commitment to follow Jesus at all costs and a desire to make Him known! Leading up to this, there was a group of students that committed to gathering daily and praying for revival. God is calling us to pray. I encourage you to take a look at a short video with scenes from the revival and testimony from those who were there:
When God Comes (The 1970 Asbury Revival
The Early Methodists Experience Revival
The Methodist movement was launched in revival! Here is an entry from Rev. John Wesley’s journal after a "Watch-Night Service," on January 1, 1739,
“Mr. Hall, Kinchin, Ingham, Whitefield, Hutchins, and my brother Charles, were present at our love-feast in Fetter-Lane, with about sixty of our brethren. About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of his Majesty, we broke out with one voice, “We praise thee, O God; we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.”
Revival in Virginia on the Brunswick Circuit
“Virginia was the scene of a great revival of religion, chiefly under the labors of that warm-hearted English evangelist, George Shadford, in 1775 and 1776.”
The revival took place along the Brunswick Circuit, the oldest Methodist circuit in America, established in 1773. The Methodist preachers then were known as “circuit riders.” They were responsible for a large area in which preaching houses were established and new preaching points began with the aim of making Christ known, loved and obeyed. In that time, the Brunswick Circuit was comprised of 14 counties in southeastern Virginia and extended into Bute and Halifax counties in North Carolina.
Mr. Thomas Rankin, sent by John Wesley to America, visited Shadford on the Brunswick circuit during the height of the revival. He gives the following account of a Sunday he spent with Shadford:
“We went to the chapel at ten, where I had liberty of mind and strength and body beyond my expectation. After preaching I met the society, and was more relieved both in body and mind. At four in the afternoon, I preached again, from ‘I set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.’ I had gone through about two-thirds of my discourse and was bringing the words home to the present now, when such power descended that hundreds fell to the ground, and the house seemed to shake with the presence of God. The chapel was full of white and black, and many were without that could not get in. Look where ever we would we saw nothing but streaming eyes and faces bathed in tears; and heard nothing but groans and strong cries after God and the Lord Jesus Christ. My voice was drowned amid the groans and prayers of the congregation. I then sat down in the pulpit, and both Mr. Shadford and I were so filled with the divine presence that we could only say, ‘this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!’ Husbands were inviting their wives to go to heaven, wives, their husbands: parents their children and children and their parents: brothers their sisters and sisters their brothers. In short, those who were happy in God themselves were for bringing all their friends to him in their arms. This mighty effusion of the Spirit continued for above an hour: in which time many were awakened, some found peace with God, and others his pure love. We attempted to speak or sing again and again; but no sooner had we begun than our voices were drowned. It was with much difficulty that we at last persuaded the people, as night drew on, to retire to their own homes.”
*Quotes taken from The Illustrated History of Methodism in Great Britain and America, from the Days of the Wesleys to the Present Time By Rev. W. H. Daniels, A.M. Copyright 1879, by Phillips & Hunt, New York.
*For those who love history, there is an “Old Brunswick Circuit Foundation.” You can learn more about them here:
and on Facebook here:
The Great Welsh Revival
The Great Welsh Revival (1904-1906), was marked with spontaneous outbreaks of singing, prayer, open repentance, and confession. Again, you can trace the revival to praying people. One of them was a preacher named Evan Roberts. Roberts attended many revival services and committed himself to prayer that he might be “bent by God” and be bent according to God’s will. His was a life surrendered to Christ. Often he would be “awoken by the Lord at 1 am and be in prayer for 4 hours till the break of dawn, as he sought the Lord’s face for revival to break out in Wales.”
He had four points to his message. “Number one: You must confess your known sins and you must make all of your wrongs right. Second, you must put away any doubtful habits. Third, you must obey the Spirit promptly. And fourth, you must confess your faith publically.”
The results of the Welsh revival over a two year period were stunning! There have been estimates that 100,000 people came to faith in Christ during this revival. Courtrooms were empty as so few crimes were committed; many of the police officers formed singing groups traveling to different churches as they had “free time” and were moved by the Spirit! “A story was told of how the horses in the mines were confused because once they were driven by men with use of obscenity and kicks, but now there weren’t any.”
I encourage you to take 7 minutes to hear this testimony about how the Welsh Revival spread.
*For those interested in reading more about the history of the revival. This is a good place to start: www.bcwales.org/1904-welsh-revival
“Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2 NRSV).
Is following Jesus an Upgrade?
BY SYDNEY NELSON
Sydney is a Masters of Divinity student at Asbury Theological Seminary. She currently serves on staff at Glen Lake Camp & Retreat Center as she pursues her passion for camp ministry.
The Christian life is a supernatural life! The risen Christ declared to His disciples, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Jesus knew their need. Without the filling of the Holy Spirit, how is a holy life of faithfulness to Christ possible?
During my 10 years serving as the Chaplain at Virginia Wesleyan University I met dozens of students who loved God, but privately told me they were struggling to follow Christ. Some said they thought they were doing it wrong or that something was missing. I listened, and asked a lot of questions that all led to this final question, “Have you ever asked God to fill you with His Spirit?” At first, I was surprised that they would say, “No.”
After numerous encounters, I realized that so many young Christians haven’t been taught well about the Holy Spirit. I would then show them this passage, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:11-13)!
I would then ask if they wanted to ask God for the Holy Spirit, as Jesus invites us to do. It was a joy to pray with them and over them for the Holy Spirit to fill them.
I’ve been studying Philip’s story in scripture as he is the only named evangelist in the
New Testament (Acts 21:8). Somehow, I missed something very important in the book of Acts. Philip is preaching and people are being healed and delivered from unclean spirits in Samaria, “But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12).
Then, this fascinating passage follows, “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit had not
yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:14-17). It seems a little confusing, but they clearly are “new believers” in Christ. Paul writes, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). We also see in Acts 8:17 quoted above that, there needed to be a follow up with the laying on of hands. It was after this that “they received the Holy Spirit.”
I believe one of the biggest frustrations and greatest hindrances to the advancement of the
Gospel is people trying to live the Christian life in their own efforts. As we evaluate our walk with God, and the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, I believe these two principles can be of great help.
1. Sometimes the question should be, "How much of you does the Holy Spirit have?" rather than, “How much of the Holy Spirit do you have?"
2. Just as you are asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit, be sincere about asking to be emptied of sin and idols.
I encourage you to find some time alone with God and open yourself to Christ, to the Word of God and to the Spirit of God. This is a favorite prayer I’ve found to use when asking to be filled.
A Prayer for Quiet Time - Bishop of Bloemfontein, South Africa
This prayer should be said slowly or brooded over: or thought and felt.
O Holy Spirit of God –
Come into my heart and fill me:
I open the windows of my soul to let Thee in.
I surrender my whole life to Thee:
Come and possess me, fill me with light and truth.
I offer to Thee the one thing I really possess,
My capacity for being filled by Thee,
Of myself I am an empty vessel.
Fill me so that I may live the life of the Spirit, the life of Truth and Goodness,
The life of Beauty and Love.
The life of Wisdom and Strength.
And guide me today in all things;
Guide me to the people I should meet or help: to the circumstances in which I can best
serve Thee: Whether by my actions or my sufferings.
But, above all, make Christ to be formed in me, that I may dethrone self in my heart and
make Him King: So that He is in me, and I in Him today and forever. Amen
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:21-22.
As followers of Christ, we are a sent people! We are a significant part of God’s plan to reach the planet with His Good News. Friends, it is so challenging to have Christ front and center in our lives! Busyness, selfishness and laziness are just some of the things that get in our way. However, when we have those times of seeing clearly that our lives have been purchased by Christ’s death and resurrection, when we are tuned in to His teachings and understand the call and the privilege He has given us, when we sense His presence in our spirits as He leads, it is the most wonderful experience in life!
In the Bible passage above, Jesus is risen from the dead as He appears among His disciples! I am quite sure they were in shock. Jesus speaks peace to them and then declares these amazing words, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 3 years of training, 3 years growing to comprehend the Kingdom of God and 3 years of seeing his power to heal, to deliver and to multiply all build to this moment! Jesus had empowered them to preach and teach, to heal and drive out evil spirits. However, what the disciples experienced after His death was new. Crucifixion and resurrection had happened! It is no small question to ask, “How did the Father send Jesus?”
The book I am using for my online evangelism training does a good job answering this question. The book, The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman, is an in-depth study of Jesus’s life. The more we understand Jesus, His message and His mission, His identity, His love, His saving power and His authority, the more we’ll understand ourselves.
Jesus breathes on them and speaks, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Here is a simple, yet unfathomable reality. Jesus empowers his disciples with the indwelling Spirit of the Living God! Here again in the rush and traditions of church life, we can miss what God is offering. The Apostle Paul writing to the church in Corinth, tries to awaken them to this phenomenal new happening that the prophets had foretold;
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” 1 Cor. 6:19-20
Friends, I encourage you with all that I am, pursue the teachings and commands of Christ and open yourselves to the filling of the Holy Spirit. The life we are called to live is a supernatural one. In our own strength, we are not able to live out the teachings of Christ. We need to be “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Jesus told us clearly to ask for the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:11-13); and we see the disciples in the book of Acts filled with the Holy Spirit multiple times.
With the warmer weather coming and more and more vaccines being administered, I am confident that you and I be connecting with our churches, family and friends more and that more opportunities for outreach will surely open up. Jesus sends us out to make him known by the way we live, love and serve!
I walked into a Chinese restaurant and was surprised that a young Latino came to take my order. I spoke to him in Spanish, wanting to connect with him and wanting practice! After I ordered, I noticed statues on shelves against the wall. There were quite a few of them, lined up so that it looked like a shrine. I asked him, “What are those?” He answered, “dioses (gods)." I smiled and said, “no, idols.” He responded, “It depends on what you believe.” I countered, “No, it depends on what is truth.”
Our belief does not create reality. Yet, we live in a time where much of the world is content to embrace relativism concerning all spiritual things. You’ll hear people say things like, “All religions basically teach the same thing,” and “It doesn’t really matter what you believe, just be a good person.” It seems to me people are often led by feelings rather than reason. A Christian author shared that the time we’re in, "post-modernity", is essentially a mood. A mood can be a dangerous state of mind because it crushes reason under the weight of feeling.
Dialogue with people who have this belief in relativism is fun for me. If you engage with a smile on your face and the love of Christ within you, it really can be a joy. A topic that always comes up is the exclusive claims of faith. What people don’t realize is the statement, “All religions basically teach the same thing” is an exclusive claim as well! Remember, we follow the One who said he is the truth (John 14:6)! Training is helpful when the conversation involves different beliefs, religions and world-views. We live in a time where training is at our fingertip and amazing resources are available. If you need some recommendations, please reach out to me.
Some people like to argue about all the differing truth claims and honest dialogue can fall apart. When the arguments begin, I usually switch to testimony. People can argue about God, religion and whether or not something is ultimately true. However, it’s a lot harder to argue with someone’s story. During the 40 days Jesus was with the disciples after rising from the dead, he said, “. . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8)."
How wonderful is this! God, by His Spirit will dwell within us, giving us power and boldness to tell our stories about what Christ has done for us! Jesus uses the word "witnesses" – not theologians, not lawyers, but "witnesses." You’re the expert on you! If Christ has forgiven you, saved you, healed you and given you new life, you can put it into your own words and share!
Jesus had an encounter with a Samaritan woman in John 4. As Jesus reveals his identity to her it is an amazing story. Her response doesn’t get enough attention! She went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ (John 4:29)?" They were moved by her words, “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony (John 4:39a)." After they spent two days with Jesus, they said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world (John 4:42)!" What!? The whole town proclaiming Jesus as the Savior of the world! God used her testimony to bring a town to true faith! The disciples hadn’t done anything near that level yet!
If you’ve read this far, I urge you, walk closely with Jesus and tell others what he has done for you! You never know how God will use your witness for his glory! My friend Kurt has been helping me out with some video projects and I’m thrilled that my testimony is now recorded. Some don’t know about how Jesus pulled me out of darkness and danger. In the video, you will hear how God used the testimonies of my mom, Pastor Al Honaker, a friend named Spencer and many testimonies on the Emmaus spiritual retreat to open my eyes to the truth of Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all! I encourage you to watch it and share it with a friend if you think it could be of help.
We belong to Jesus as He has bought us with His very life! He longs to rescue others using our testimony, acts of love and service to help people know him. Hallelujah!
I’m not sure about you, but this is how I’m entering 2021: with lament and hope, a living hope! A number of years ago I came across a teaching video by one of my favorite singers/songwriters: Michael Card. The title intrigued me: Lamenting is Worship ! It’s a deep concept and for a full understanding, you probably need to be grieving. The difference between an idea and an experience is vast. Experiential knowledge is often a knowing that is beyond words.
In my own journey, lament is somewhat new and helpful. In the past, I would spend my energies praying for the negative circumstances to change, or I would worry about them getting worse. In lament we are not trying to change anything. Rather, it is when we acknowledge the darkness and tragedy while taking all of it to God. In some Christian circles, people feel the need to be "up" all the time, “Too blessed to be depressed!” It’s as if admitting things are really bad means we’ve failed somehow. Lament can help. Lament is about being honest about where you are and letting God and friends, family meet you there.
In Rosaria Butterfield’s Book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith, she shares about a non-Christian friend who was dying of cancer. The friend was reacting to the suffering in Rosaria’s life when they said,: “I didn’t give a damn about who God was to you in your happiness. But now that you are suffering, I want to know: who is your God? Where is he in your suffering?”
It can be a powerful witness to those who don’t know Christ when we grieve honestly, yet persevere through painful times. The Apostle Paul urges us to: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). The "tear bottles" pictured above are made by a skilled potter, who happens to be my Mom! What a revelation from God’s Word, "You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your record" (Psalm 56:8)? Not a tear is shed without God knowing, God is with us in our suffering. My Mom made the "tear bottles" for some victims of gun violence in Virginia Beach.
We have a book of the Bible titled Lamentations. It is the response of God’s people to the city of Jerusalem being conquered and destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. While it’s attributed to Jeremiah the prophet, the book is written in poetic form and may be a compilation of the laments of the people. In the passage of lament below, the word "hope" appears 3 times. The only other time the word hope is mentioned in the whole book is in 3:29.
"I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, 'My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.' I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.' The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord."
- Lamentations 3:17- 26
So, even in the midst of great ruin and destruction, we have reason to hope. Corrie ten Boom, who survived Ravensbrück, but lost her family in that Nazi concentration camp said, “No pit is so deep that He is not deeper still; with Jesus even in our darkest moments, the best remains and the very best is yet to be.” Amen!
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed” – the Hebrew word for ‘great love’ in this passage is chesed. It is the Old Testament word for grace! Here, we see the focus shift from the terrible circumstances to the character of God! This is a great lesson for us. Knowing who God is gives us hope! A faith that is dependent on things going well is not a faith in God. In spite of the disaster and suffering it is still true, "his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
Our nation and world have experienced a painful year of loss and death. Suffering comes to us all, but it doesn’t have the last word and it cannot steal a hope anchored in God’s love through Christ. Michael Card says, “After all, God used suffering to save the world.”
I pray you are entering 2021 with a living hope that lifts you through the suffering and losses you have experienced. Our hope is in the crucified One, the risen One, who is Christ the Lord. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). In that overflow, may others come to hope in Christ as well!
“My dear friend, when grief presses you to the dust, worship there.” - Charles Spurgeon
Even in the middle of the pandemic, God will provide ways for faith to be awakened, revived and built up.
I’ve been working with Rev. Joe Varner at Thalia UMC in Virginia Beach. We were focused on small groups
and a recovery of the Wesleyan Class Meetings. Then, the conversation turned to the need for revival. Here’s what we did in addition to small group training:
We sent out a full outline of the ‘Revival Night’ with questions, Scripture and thoughts for each person to think upon and pray about before the revival.
“Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, LORD, and grant us your salvation.” - Psalm 85:6-7.
Some of the questions we asked included: “Do you personally believe you need revival? Do you personally believe you need more of the life of Christ within you? Do you long for it?”
John Wesley illustrated the Gospel by preaching on “the porch of repentance, the door of faith and the house of holiness.” I encouraged participants to think of the houses in nearby Smithfield, VA, like the picture above, for a good visual!
So, during the revival I used the porch, door, house illustration, preaching a short message on each of the three topics. Following each topic, we moved into small groups for discussion. There were three small
group times during which specific questions were asked to engage each person. In this way we modeled the Wesleyan Class Meetings. During these times each person shared an account of their own spiritual condition within an atmosphere of grace and truth. So the question: ‘How is it with your soul?” was asked in terms of where do I need repentance, greater faith and holiness in my life. We closed each small group time with each person praying for another in the group. If someone wasn’t comfortable praying out loud, we asked them to pray silently, then say "amen" when they were done. Again, we intentionally empowered each person to take an active role in the group by both sharing and praying.
Below is an outline. I used more Scripture in the preaching/teaching times. I am available to help churches or groups if you believe this could assist you in building up the body of Christ.
good news!'” - Mark 1:15
come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." - John 10:7-10
brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.'" - 1 Peter 1:13-16