Isaiah's prophecy that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. This was written more than 700 years
before Jesus's birth.
Isaiah's prophecy that the Christ will reign forever on David's throne.
Hosea's prophecy that the Messiah would be in Egypt was written more than 750 years before Jesus's birth.
Micah's prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem was written more than 700 years before Jesus's; birth.
Elva McAllister wrote a powerful and insightful Christmas poem called “On Fragrant Hay.” In it, she shines light on our attempts to sanitize that first Christmas in our art re-creations of the scene. In doing so, we distort reality and minimize the breathtaking humility and awesome grace of God as He willingly comes into our messy, fallen world.
"'Sweet infant,' trills the smiling choir. 'He sleeps on fragrant hay.' And Christmas card Madonnas smirk all thoughts of pain away. How was it really when He came? Did Mary moan and scream and grind her teeth and retch (Poor wretch) before His star could gleam its gleam above that inn yard barn? He slept on fragrant hay? Perhaps. But sheep and cows were not made then of plastic, nor of Styrofoam and paint. Half-rotten straws and stinking wet manure were surely winter odors Joseph smelled, not sweet new hay, nor clover blossoms. No dainty crèche had been prepared and kept detached from stench of urine-mingled mud where ox feet stood, where ox teeth chewed or dribbled fodder. God did not come to antiseptic scented neatness, but to a winter barnyard’s muck and filth. God always comes; to things as they are and not to wished-for rearrangements of the facts.”
Let’s welcome Jesus anew into our messy lives and let Him bring His order, His cleansing and His Life into ours! Also, during this time of year people are more open to talking about the meaning of life and about Christ. Jesus will lead us, if we are willing to follow.
Before the Conversation
Before the conversation
Before you share your faith with people, ask yourself, “Am I motivated by love?” Remember, you are going to be talking to someone made in God’s image and God loves them! Also, your sincerity in wanting to hear their thoughts is incredibly important. Nobody wants to be treated as a project. Dialogue, not monologue! As you listen to them, ask follow-up questions with a real desire to understand who they are and how they think. Finally, having a smile on your face as you ask will help immensely! My smile comes from a knowledge that the Holy Spirit is at work in ways I cannot see, both in and through me and in the person I’m sharing Christ with! Evangelism is our cooperation with God’s ongoing work in the lives of people who have yet to know the joy and wonder of salvation in Christ Jesus! It is not just the words we speak, but how the words we speak are a part of the ‘rivers of living water flowing forth from our inmost being’ (John 7:38). A goal of mine when I’m sharing Christ is to create an ongoing dialogue and friendship with the person.
Questions to get the Conversation Going . . .
* I often say something like this: “I don’t want to be pushy. It’s fascinating to me hearing what others think and talking about spiritual things.”
Have you noticed that new believers seem to have so much joy and passion for Christ? They are often eager to share their faith with friends, often though they are not equipped. What a great opportunity for us to come alongside them and equip them to share their faith. The best way is to do it together! Their existing relationships are all openings to share the Good News! One of these fervent young believers introduced me to a friend who had questions. His big questions centered on the Bible’s view of slavery. It seemed to him that the Bible was in favor of slavery and he, as a black man, could not fully embrace the Bible or Christ because of this. We talked about how the people of Israel being led out of slavery in Egypt is one of the biggest stories of the Old Testament.
I acknowledged that the Bible seems to accept slavery as the norm in many places. However, there’s this little revolutionary letter in the New Testament: Philemon. If the Church had done its Bible study well, it would not have been complicit in slavery. Paul is writing to Philemon, who has a slave named Onesimus. Philemon sent Onesimus to help with Paul’s needs while Paul was imprisoned. During that time, Onesimus became a believer in Christ. Paul refers to him as "my son." He then makes this powerful appeal for Philemon to set him free! “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a beloved brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord” (Philemon 1:15-16).
This letter, along with many of Jesus' teachings sow the seeds to end slavery. Through many conversations and a community of believers embracing him, this young man opened up to Christ and is a passionate follower today!
I recently spoke with someone who is considering the Christian faith. It became clear that he thought most of the people in the United States were Christian. I asked why he thought this was true. He said, “Well it’s just part of the culture and most people grew up in that American Christian culture.” I could see that he didn’t understand how someone becomes a Christian. I asked him and it was clear that he wasn’t quite sure. It came as a surprise to him when I said, “Many of the people who say they’re Christian may not actually be Christian.” This may sound judgmental, but then I explained that between the ages of 13 and 20 I would have told people that I was a Christian, though now I see that I clearly wasn’t.
Another time, I took a younger friend who was growing in his faith and a young lady who was a self-professing atheist to lunch. She was open to spiritual conversation and was fully engaged. After some small talk, I said to her, “I think you have more faith than I do.” She kind of laughed and replied, “No you don’t understand, I’m an atheist.” I said, “Yes, I know that; but you cannot prove there is no God, it’s just your belief. So, atheism is really a type of faith.” She was silent for about 20 seconds, thinking deeply. Then she looked at me and said, “You blew my mind!” We laughed together and then invited her to share why she doesn’t believe in God. We listened and asked other questions, getting to know and understand her. Then she was very open to hearing our stories and why we believe that God has sent His Son and how Jesus has changed us.
Continuing the conversation
If you’ve had a good conversation with someone about faith, ask if you can talk with them further about these things. You may even be so bold as to say something like, “One of the greatest things in my life is knowing and following Jesus. I would love for you to consider who he is and what he offers. I don’t want to be pushy, but it’s so good that I want to share. I’d love to continue our conversation if you’re up for it.”
BY BRANDON NICHOLS
"Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?" Psalm 85: 6
This verse may well be the heart cry of us all, even if we do not articulate it as a spoken prayer. The year and a half disruption to life caused by COVID, chaos in the world, and ongoing strife and division in the church, has left many of us feeling half-hearted and half-alive. We are in desperate need of Revival, desperate need to return to the "ancient path" laid out by the fathers and mothers who have gone before us in the faith, and desperate need to return to Christ in all things.
For us believers, Jesus is there. But has He been just a side dish in our lives recently? Is He really our main source of spiritual nourishment? Are we on the road back to Him, or are we still wandering far from home?
These are questions we all need to ask ourselves. These are questions the church needs to ask itself. The church easily gets caught up in other priorities: petty conflicts that become nuclear level dramas, attending to broken hips and program fundraisers, trying to accommodate everybody's opinion of how best to handle the pandemic in church etc. It's high time to return to Christ as the center of our focus!
We need Revival. We need Remembrance. Our spiritual amnesia becomes so strong, we need a powerful movement of the Spirit to shake us awake and remind us of the Christ who is more important than all these other priorities: the Christ whose proper place is all in all.
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