…when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. Luke 15:20
Lord, You are my Father (and a consuming fire).
To draw near to You is to encounter the warmth of Your love, and the intense heat of Your wrath towards sin. I cannot draw near to You without retreating from sin in my heart. This is the delightful and deadly journey into Your presence, and any personal purity I experience is only a consequence of that journey… a continual casting away of the worthless and temporal in exchange for that timeless place before You.
It is an illusion and a lie to believe that intimacy with You is costly, when nothing compares to the unspeakable joy of being lost and found by my Father the King (who is also a consuming fire).
Thank you for rejoicing and running… towards me.
– a grateful son
For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” ~Isaiah 57:15
The Welsh Revival of 1904-1906 was part of a global movement of God making Himself known to His people early in the 20th century. Evan Roberts had been praying since he was 13 that revival would come to his native Wales, and by early 1904, Roberts was spending most nights in prayer alone with the Father. On October 31 in Loughor, he spoke to his hometown church to a crowd of 17 people… within weeks he was speaking to thousands, and within the next 10 months, over 100,000 new Christians were swept into the churches of Wales.
Was God manifesting His Presence to His people? In Isaiah 57:15, God reveals that He inhabits eternity, where time ceases to exist. In the article excerpt below, a secular newspaper reporter with the London Times describes the environment of one those first meetings in November 1904.
While he is still speaking the people give vent to their feelings in a hymn of thanksgiving repeated as before again and again. Thus the hours creep on. It is long past midnight. Now here, now there someone rises to make his confession and lay bare his record before the people or falls upon his knees where he is and in loud and fervent tones prays for forgiveness. Still unwearied, the people sing. Hymns seem the only adequate channel for expressing their joy and thankfulness. It sounds incredible, but this succession of prayer, of address, of confession, of singing, went on from 7 o’clock at night until 3 o’clock in the morning. “Succession” was not always an adequate description, because several times during the night, when the excitement was at its highest, the outbursts were not successive, but literally simultaneous. These cross-currents were confusing, and once or twice one felt as if the whole scene were a dream or a nightmare. Most amazing of all was the endurance of the men and women. There they were, through all those long hours, eager and earnest to the last, as if wrestling for life with an unseen power. At 3 o’clock the “hooter” sounded from distant colliery. Whether this or mere physical exhaustion brought them back from the world of timelessness, I could not tell. Soberly and reverently they went out into the morning air, eager as themselves. Many of the colliers [coal miners], I know, had “only time for a wash and breakfast” and were at the colliery to join the morning “shift.”
Source: “The Welsh Revival (by a Welsh Correspondent).” The London Times (London), January 3, 1905.
Revival is not a calendared event in a church. It is not an evangelistic crusade, although evangelism is an expected result of revival. It is not confined to a place or a time outside of the human heart.
Revival is best defined as what happens to God’s people when He is present. It is truly the birthright of every child of God…
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ
What happens when God manifests His presence in an experiential way among His people? In the first decade of the twentieth century, believers around the world encountered the presence of God in a well-documented, global event. Here is one description, drawn from the revival in the Khassia hills region of India in March 1905:
Shillong is a fashionable Hill station, and the seat of Government; a difficult place in which to lead a truly spiritual life. Here a large proportion of the Christian community consisted of young people born of Christian parents, instructed in Scripture truth, yet who had never come into living touch with a personal Saviour…
Many felt that the Glory of the Infinite God was actually visible in the building. Special prayer had been offered up here as elsewhere. Attendance became larger and expectancy grew. Then one night while a not very prominent member of the church was leading in prayer, he prayed for the Spirit and pleaded so earnestly, as if his soul was parched with thirst, and faint with hunger. Then others began, while he still prayed, to pray in whispers, which went on to loud cries, and the greater part of the congregation burst out in piercing cries for mercy; while others shouted with ecstasy at the sight of a Saviour “able to save.” . . .
Another young man, a Christian, but irreverent, felt great terror. The trifling, jocular way he had so often used in handling the holy things and words of God, appeared now in its true light. Fear and trembling seized him. He felt as if some unseen hand was twisting him, and for days was unable to leave his bed He arose a thoughtful, earnest, God-fearing man. . . .
Many present in the chapel that night–witnesses whose word can be relied on–state that they saw clouds hanging over the brother who stood praying at the commencement. To some the clouds appeared so dense that the light of the lamp was not visible. Others saw them as fiery clouds. After that came reviving and precious times; wayward and prodigal children coming home crying for mercy…
The presence of God… He is the author, source, and sustainer of life as He intends it to be.Source: Helen S. Dyer, Revival in India: Years of the Right Hand of the Most High (New York: Gospel Publishers, 1907), 35-36.
“Lord… am I getting this right? I am about to speak to a group of people and you are changing the message?”
On May 22, 2011, I was driving to Monticello, Arkansas to speak in the morning services at First Baptist Church, where I had been serving as interim pastor for over a year. Each week, I prepared sermon notes, a fill-in-the-blank listening guide for the bulletin, and an accompanying slide presentation. I usually emailed the handout to the church office by Thursday. Enjoying the creative exercise, I prepared the slides on Saturday morning. All week long, I reflected on what I could use as a creative element to help “burn in” the truth of God’s Word – something to make it memorable. Hours are involved.
Where is God in the process? I normally pray about what I am going to preach. I listen for His direction and usually feel a sense of “oughtness” as I set a course for the preaching schedule. It is common for me to drive around the church property on Sunday mornings. Call it “prayer driving,” but I am typically asking the Lord to come, to drive away every wrong spirit and distraction, and to draw everyone to the church that needs to be there on that day.
Consequently, during that particular morning drive last May, I felt good about my readiness for the day. Until the thoughts came about 80 miles from Monticello. The thoughts I knew I didn’t initiate. Thoughts I recognized as coming from Him. Thoughts about a different message to be shared that morning.
I love creativity, but divine spontaneity is a little scary. The message came quickly and clearly. I grabbed a notepad and set it on the armrest. Scribbling while keeping my eyes on the road, I jotted down an outline about the final judgment of God described in Revelation 20:11-15. I gave it the title Six Reasons to Keep the End in Mind. God used it… He spoke to His people that day.
Sometimes His guidance comes that way—as thoughts that He brings to mind. Walking with God requires me to be prepared to listen to Him when He speaks and in the different ways He speaks.
One of the defining characteristics of the earliest Christ-followers in the book of Acts was their readiness to change course when the Holy Spirit spoke.
- Acts 8:29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.”
- Acts 10:19 While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you.”
- Acts 13:2 While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
- Acts 16:6-7 They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them.
The Lord gives clear and specific guidance to His people. My need for that kind of direction continues today. More than dutiful obedience, this way of walking with God captures the essence of my relationship to Him: I am dependent on Him for everything.
In the absence of such “unexpected direction,” I have a mind and I have the God-breathed direction of the Bible. Those precious resources are a primary and sufficient mechanism for receiving direction from God. There are other times, however, when He is clearly speaking to me in a way that supersedes my logic and reason, without contradicting the written Word of God.
I believe we must learn to recognize and become sensitive to His voice whenever and wherever He speaks.
[Author’s Note: This post was originally published March 11, 2012 at DonPucik.com and migrated to EquippingSaints.com]
Things happen. People change. God’s presence accomplishes something in our lives. For example:
- You will have a sense of awe (Revelation 1:17). John fell on his face in the presence of God.
- You will have a sense of His love (Ephesians 3:17-19). His love is not only a fact; it is also experiential and defies verbal description.
- You will have a crushing awareness of your own sinfulness (Isaiah 6:1-5). Like raising the lights in a darkened room, God’s holiness will highlight all the impurities in our lives.
- You will have a deep desire to confess your sin and make things right with others (Luke 3:8-14). Under John the Baptist’s anointed message of repentance, the people, tax collectors and the soldiers all asked, “What shall we do then?”
- You will begin to share His heart for a broken and lost world (Luke 9:36-38). If His heart is moved with compassion, how can ours beat in any other way?