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Lent 03: what’s in a revival?

Ask any serious Christian out there and he’ll tell you he’s hoping for a revival in his life, family, church and workplace.

I try to be a Christian who’s serious about pursuing Christ. After all, I need to be considering what I do for a living. (I can’t help but hear “Don’t let your uniform stick to you” from Tahan ringing in my ears…) It’s not easy though – I’ve been praying for a revival to happen in my church and youth group ever since I joined the church in 1999. I believe generations after and before have as well. I have tried every method I know how: fasting, praying, leading worship, reading the Word, preaching my heart out, organising massive events, discipling young leaders, sitting at the feet of spiritual giants…

And yet… There is no revival – not in the way that I imagine, at least.

I was semi-distracted for the revival meeting tonight, where Ps Philip Lyn spoke at. I’ve listened to his sermons, I’ve read about him and I even share the same mentor as him… Well, I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more Word-based teaching tonight, but I did catch his heart… And I thought what he shared made a lot of sense.

According to him, revival is made up of three components:

  • Repentance through the blood of Jesus
  • (Power and) authority that’s being released, and
  • The unknown factor, which is the grace of God

I will use that thought process in the remaining 37 days of my Quadregesima. I’m game for anything that may work; I’m really desperate to meet Christ. I mean, I’m so desperate I’ve even called spiritual retreat centres to ask if I could check myself in. But it’s been difficult to find God – my energy levels are significantly lower, my workload is relentless and I have basic functional responsibilities just like everyone else does. (I have though in the last three days, quickened my spirit to be mindful of what I say…)

O God, highlight all the areas in my life that I need to repent, help me to release Your authority in every domain of my life and please let me walk in the path of Your divine grace…

If the height of revival is hidden in the heart for revival, then please position my heart in a place for revival!

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the mother lode of faith: lessons from Mary and Elizabeth.

Unity is important because Christianity is not meant to be done alone, but with the your immediate family, your church family and spiritual family of other believers worldwide. I believe this meeting in Luke 1, between a teenager and geriatric, is one of the most important in the Bible and teaches us a lot about unity.

1. Unity requires being humble in spirit (Luke 1:26-38)

With the Messiah in her belly, Mary could have behaved arrogantly and acted like she knew everything, but the she demonstrated her humble spirit in the way she followed the instructions of Gabriel to a T – carefully, diligently and quickly. Her statement of faith was also astounding; she barely knew what she was in for and yet she said to Gabriel, in effect, “Use me anyway you want, even in the lowliest manner because I believe in God!”

Elizabeth, however, who was also miraculously pregnant with one of the most important characters in Jewish history no less, was just as humble in spirit. I think it takes a ton of humility for a reputable old lady like Elizabeth to acknowledge a teenager without any reputation and that the baby in her to be greater than her own.

When we humble ourselves before each other and relate without needing to prove anything, there’s a sense of identity and camaraderie. Talking to each other about what Jesus is doing in our lives builds our faith and deepens our fellowship.

2. Unity requires making things happen (Luke 1:39-41)

Since Mary had no clue what Elizabeth had experienced, she took two steps of faith that day: to believe that she was going to be pregnant without sexual intercourse and that an old woman was six months pregnant. Her steps of faith (pun unintended) to travel around 160km from Nazareth in Galilee to Hebron in Judea shows us her willingness to make things happen. I wondered what she must have pondered over as she made that journey, since she couldn’t confirm that Elizabeth was pregnant until she saw her for herself.

Elizabeth had no idea that she was going to receive a visitor that day, or that the visitor was Mary, or that Mary would be pregnant with the Saviour of the world! So for Elizabeth to greet Mary so spontaneously, she must have received a revelation and acted upon it. With her act of faith, she brought the both revelations to a full circle. She went on, in effect, to repeat what Mary said to Gabriel, “You are blessed because you believed the Lord would do what He said.”

Mary greeted Elizabeth in faith and Elizabeth responded to Mary in faith. Extraordinary revelations require extraordinary faith and obedience, and produces extraordinary results.

3. Unity requires honouring others above yourself (Luke 1:42-45)

Elizabeth congratulated Mary (“God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed”), condescended herself before Mary (“Why am I so honoured, that the mother of my Lord should visit me?”), confirmed Mary’s encounter with Gabriel (“When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy”) and commended Mary (“You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said”). All that must have levelled up Mary’s faith!

Elizabeth could say all that Mary because six months ago, she did the same thing in faith. If we do not deserve the favour that God shows us, we shouldn’t envy those the Lord has given more favour. Moreover, those who have personally experienced God’s faithfulness would naturally encourage others to put their faith in God.

4. Unity requires hanging on until it comes to pass (Luke 1:56)

Mary didn’t leave after that encounter but stayed with Elizabeth for three months before she returned home. I think she wasn’t there just to help a relative through the crucial months of pregnancy but perhaps to see through God’s promises surrounding both of them. I’m not sure if she witnessed the birth of John the Baptist but I know she definitely saw enough to know that Elizabeth was ready to go into labour.

Being a part of Elizabeth’s life in the first three months of her own pregnancy must have given her courage when she eventually returned to Nazareth to ready herself for the next six months of a gossip-filled, doubt-inducing, fear-instilling and awe-inspiring pregnancy. She was probably visibly pregnant but she was definitely convinced, comforted and convicted of the miracle that was about to take place through her. Through Mary’s care-giving with Elizabeth, God must have done some faith-strengthening with Mary.

What does unity look like and what stops us?

Unity is when all of us worshipping God with abandon; so don’t worship Him with arrogance, thinking you know better. Unity is when all of us are acting out our faith with obedience; so don’t respond with indifference, waiting for someone else to do what God has called you to do. Unity is when all of us are serving each other with selflessness; so don’t let your ego get in the way, putting your needs first.

I believe that the sole purpose of these two unbelievable pregnancies is found in Luke 1:37. To prove that nothing is impossible with God and that no man should take the credit for a miracle of God. If a virgin like Mary and a geriatric like Elizabeth can give birth, then surely God can bring revival to R-AGE, for nothing will be impossible with God.

It’s a lofty dream but I know one day, by faith, it will come to pass. I believe with all my heart that when revival comes to R-AGE, it won’t be through a large corporate fire, but through the small fires that we fan daily. I believe it with all my heart and I will hang on to it until it comes to pass or until God tells me I won’t see it in my time as a youth pastor.

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what revival is, and what it is not.

I’ll repeat it a million times – the height of revival is hidden in the heart for revival.

  • Revival is not about a revival service but a repentant season.
  • Revival is not about the attractiveness and charisma of Man but the anointing and calling by the Holy Spirit.
  • Revival is not about awesome worship and lifestyles but authentic worship and lifestyles.
  • Revival is not about becoming emotional and knowledgeable but becoming enlightened and knowing God.
  • Revival is not about being loaded with the Spirit but being led by the Spirit.
  • Revival is not about programme-driven praying but prayer-driven programmes.
  • Revival is not about a group of radical young people but an individual who reveres God.
  • Revival is not about observing and admiring the Word but obeying and applying the Word.
  • Revival is not about cheerful fellowship that is happening but confrontational fellowship that is humbling.
  • Revival is not about enduring sin and worldly values but eliminating sin and worldly values.
  • Revival is not about conversing about our spiritual condition but coming clean with our spiritual condition.
  • Revival is not about the habits of our hands but the health of our hearts.
  • Revival is not about redeeming a generation for eternity but returning to God everyday.

So whether you understand revival or not, or whether you’ve experienced it or not, you must remember that the height of revival is hidden in the heart for revival. It’s from the inside-out, not from the outside-in! Don’t miss the point!

***

Please don’t stop your work here, Lord. Give us the power to understand Your love and help us to experience the love of Christ in our hearts! More Lord, more! Give us mighty inner strength through Your Holy Spirit so that we can continue to seek a daily revival! Start in our hearts, Lord!

let the people pray; let the revival come.

Let’s intercede for the ministry and for each other as the Spirit leads. These are the same prayer pointers I shared with the GII Shepherds last night; may it serve a guide for you as you war with us in your prayer closet. I sense the Lord leading me (and all of us) into a season of prayer and supplication. We must pray before we pursue our plans.

Let us pray until R-AGE sees a revival. Let us pray until God redeems this generation for His eternity. Let us pray so that we can become more like Jesus. Let us pray until we meet Christ. The more we pray, the less we depend on ourselves to be successful.

Pray, young people, if you want to see growth in yourself and in the ministry… Pray like never before. It is in the presence of God that our lives are changed. Let the people pray, let the revival come, let Your will be done!

Legend:

  • NBMNBPBBTSOG – Not by might not by power but by the Spirit of God
  • WAITWBNOTW – We are in the world but not of the world

the fire on the altar kept burning.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Command Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the law for the burnt offering: the burnt offering itself shall remain on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning, and the fire on the altar is to be kept burning on it. The priest is to put on his linen robe, and he shall put on undergarments next to his flesh; and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire reduces the burnt offering on the altar and place them beside the altar. Then he shall take off his garments and put on other garments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it. It shall not go out, but the priest shall burn wood on it every morning; and he shall lay out the burnt offering on it, and offer up in smoke the fat portions of the peace offerings on it. Fire shall be kept burning continually on the altar; it is not to go out.

– Leviticus 6:8-13 (NASB, emphasis mine)

It doesn’t take a genius to realise the key message that Moses communicated to the Levites; this was a part of their daily duties – to keep the fire on the altar burning through the day and night. It sounds simple but I reckon that it actually takes a great amount of diligence to execute this task. Think about it as you re-read it; they had to don different sets of attire for burning the offering and clearing the ash. It was probably cumbersome to follow through the detailed instructions.

The fire.

Firstly, it’s important to note that this fire first fell from heaven (Leviticus 9:24); God put the fire there Himself. This I think, represents a fire of devotion, a symbol of uninterrupted worship and an undying presence of Christ in our lives. Hence, it has to burn with heavenly fire (since it was of a heavenly source). Let’s recognise that this fire cannot be fueled by earthly means – the only way to God is through Jesus Christ. For the fire to keep burning, the priests had to keep refueling it. Again, this was a cumbersome task and I think it represents our constant need for atonement; as believers, we have to fervently persevere in offering ourselves to God as this is a perpetual fire, not a temporal one. This fire must keep going until we meet Christ.

As with any fire, I think that the priests faced three main dangers in their mission to keep the fire burning on the altar:

  1. Ashes – that’s why they had to keep clearing it… We have to keep clearing the junk out of our lives!
  2. Negligence – when they fail or forget to fuel the fire… We have to be alert when we pursue God!
  3. Apathy – when they can’t even be bothered anymore… We have to be aware of the dangers of luke-warmth!

Are you able to identify with any of the above-mentioned as you fan your own flame? For the priests, the presence of these elements would inevitably dim the fire and cause an immediate reduction of the fire’s supposed influence, intensity and interest (or relevance). Let’s avoid these pitfalls.

On the altar.

If there was a holy of holies in our physical bodies, I reckon it to be our hearts. God looks at our hearts indeed and we must remember that it burns only by God’s grace and supplication, which we should ask boldly for so that God will get all the glory. I think our hearts should be fueled by two things – scripture and time with God. I propose three necessary elements for our altar of private prayer:

  1. Regular – set it at the same time so you develop a habit of prayer.
  2. Frequent – seriously, how effective can praying annually or quarterly be?
  3. Undisturbed – get away from all distractions that compete for your attention.

We must remember that all fires are borrowed from the fire of private prayer. Again, I’ll say it – the revival of a ministry comes by the prayer of its people and not by the pursuit of its programme(s).

Kept burning.

It must have been a “holy barbecue” for the priests on duty. I can imagine them, at the commencement of their duties, being given the offering (lamb, fats, meat etc.) to be burnt.  For sure they couldn’t burn it all at one go as if they were at a Korean grill! I’m certain they had to burn it like they were preparing Chinese double-boiled soup. They had to measure the quantity of the portions, observe how it burnt and calculate the burning time; they took turns to be on “guard duty” to tend to the fire, to ensure that it kept burning the entire night and that the offering set apart for that night would last until the morning. Don’t you think that it’s actually similar to guard duty in the army? There’s no need to do guard duty in the daytime because everyone’s at work and on guard; it’s always at night that we let our guards down. Likewise, it’s easier to keep the fire going in the daytime when everyone can see, but it’s indefinitely harder to keep the flame from being extinguished at night as we’re on our own.

I find this analogy especially relevant to ministry leaders. Question is, what exactly are we burning? I think that there are three things which we normally burn:

  1. People – without people, ministry won’t exist or make sense.
  2. Ideas – without ideas, people’s effort would be wasted and misdirected.
  3. Events – without events, there’ll be no platform to execute ideas.

We must realise that we cannot burn everything at once otherwise we’d suffer a quick burn-out! The solution here is to offer a continuous offering with a spread-out intensity instead of an initial offering that overwhelms everyone – that’s our responsibility as leaders in the ministry. To be consecrated, we must establish a “slow burn” that takes place over a long time that has to be attended by leaders and pastors (priests). It’s crucial then, that ministers of Christ have the fire of their zeal constantly burning. We must remember that giving ourselves completely to God is not a “quick work” but a “slow burn”. But be careful, for sometimes we’re on the fire for too long we don’t realise we’re actually the ones burning!

It is with this passage of scripture that I felt led to start a couple of prayer initiatives because we’re simply not praying enough. Did you really think that 30 minutes of PUSH, five minutes of pre-service prayer and two hours of P&P would do the trick of ushering in revival? Far from it! From now until the end of 2011, with the right resources and people in place, I’d like to prayerfully initiate at least a quarterly 12-hour overnight prayer session, add in an annual 24-hour “Pray like Mad” prayer concert (inspired by an event of the same namesake I attended a decade ago) and invite parents to pray with youths.

Leaders – feel my heartbeat. I want to encourage you to mimic the priests. If you observe the way they lead their people spiritually, you’ll realise that there was really nothing beneath them to do; that’s right, they served their sheep with a no-matter-what and a whatever-it-takes attitude! That was their house-keeping responsibility – to ensure that their fire (and their sheep’s fire!) never burns out, but is kept burning continuously! Leaders, that is your mandate – to keep the fire of your youths continuously burning for God. Ask God to show you how!

You know, I’ve only had “Buddha Jumps Over The Wall” once in my lifetime and when I tasted it, I could almost taste the 48 hours of preparation, the expertly cut delicacies, and the freshest and most premium ingredients. It was one of my most memorable culinary experiences and I think that our prayer lives can be as gratifying and as tasty as that! Just remember to keep the fire on a “slow burn”!

how do you spot potential?

All right, it’s time for me to make a comeback on WordPress! I’ve struggled to recover my writing momentum after a five-day hiatus and being away in Cameron Highlands over the last few days didn’t help my cause. (It was a great break though!) Nonetheless, I shall give myself an easier head-start with a shorter entry tonight to break the silence.

Since PIERCE ended, I’ve had youths indicating their interests to be emcees, cell mentors, ushers and basically to serve in R-AGE. Of course, this delights me (and my shepherds) to no end! More significantly, this morning, I’ve had the privilege of welcoming the latest member to my beloved GII leadership family – NC! She shared with me her journey with God enroute to the DoYouLoveMe cell group and I just sat there at Ya Kun, and acknowledged the good work that the Lord is doing in her life. Her addition to the GII Shepherds means that “Plug & Play” will now be a monthly feature in the R-AGE @ GII services. (And everyone says “HURRAY!”) I can’t wait for the first installment in July!

I’d also like to record my answer to her question – “How do you spot potential in a young person?” I thought about it for a short moment and this was my response to her.

First and foremost, before you even identify any potential, you must get to know who the person is and this takes time and effort. The young people in this day and age are generally less likely to initiate approaching you, hence it’s important that you take the first step to be acquainted with them. Without any prior (or basic) knowledge of their background, personality and unique talents, you’d never get an idea of who they can become and how they can contribute to God’s kingdom.

Once that is established, it’s really about observing them. Again, this takes time and effort and most people write youths off very quickly, before they get a chance to express what they’re capable of and show you a glimpse of who they can become. I always believe that if you stick around long enough and are regular enough, young people will open up to you by the sheer virtue that you are ever-present; I’d like to believe that it’s never about charisma, but about consistency. No excuses for the introverted phlegmatic.

Now, I think I have an almost “blind” belief in young people because I trust God. I know He’s in charge of the process and I believe that He is in control of the outcome. Everyone is different and every person will become a unique jigsaw in the masterpiece of God; while some may have more significant roles and are more active than others, there is no one who is more or less important than the other – that’s my conviction, at least. So I tell myself that all I can do as a leader in authority, is to sponsor opportunities for young people to reach their potential, just like how my mentors have done so for me. I’m not afraid of making mistakes – even errors in judgment – and I think this helps the youths under me to feel that the pressure is off them. I always tell my youths that the only thing I expect them to do is to make mistakes – because I did and screwing up did me a world of wonders. Of course, I’ll try to prevent it, but I do not strive to stop it from happening. Some walls are meant to be crashed into; I always believe that God uses every single experience for His glory.

Often, I ask God to give me a vision of the “developed state” of the young person or leader that I am journeying with. I take a step of faith to believe that whatever I envision, I will play a part in helping that young person to realise his or her potential. The sense of satisfaction I enjoy when I see a youths soar in their capacities and capabilities is beyond what money can buy and what the world can offer. In an almost divine manner, God has been faithful to me – for most of the youth leaders and youths that I’ve worked with, they do eventually turn out to be what I’ve envisioned them to be. I thank God for giving me a “radical audacity” to dream and to see beyond what others can see – sometimes I even have the privilege of seeing beyond what the young person I’m journeying with can see. Don’t get me wrong – I’m far from being a soothsayer – I just try to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and act upon what is prompted in my heart.

Of course, there are some youths who didn’t quite develop the way that I had hoped that they would. Did I despair? I used to. But the older I get, the more I learn to trust God, because I know His plans for that young person are far greater than mine. God’s detours are better than Man’s direction. I’m reminded time and again that God is God, and I’m just a privileged mentor. I’m a risk-taker though, and I love to see young people lead young people. To an extent, I find myself in the process of lowering the average age of leaders in R-AGE and somehow, that gives me an immense sense of gratification – more than half of my key leaders are barely 21 years old!

After I finished my breakfast appointment with NC, I had lunch with SY and I remember telling him how he carries the potential to be one of the pillars of the cell mentors corps. He shared with me his keenness to take on the role of a service emcee (which thrilled me greatly!) and I told him that I can’t wait to retire from being an emcee because it’s such a powerful sight for him (and his peers) to take ownership of the ministry.

As if it’s not obvious enough already, R-AGE @ GII is on the threshold of revival. I feel it!

day five – if you want it, you must own it.

When I got home from Retreat, I went on a sleeping marathon. And thus it explains my one-day hiatus from blogging. Pardon the delay, these were what I’ve learnt and the things on my mind on the final day of Retreat.

  • Returning to our folly – our old ways – is as disgusting as a dog returning to consume its own vomit. There’s a reason why the author wrote about this sentiment with such an extreme and graphic analogy.
  • I’ve always believed that before revival begins in the smallest things – from our private spiritual disciplines to our individual evangelistic efforts – before it progresses to the large-scale level.
  • Only by the grace of God would we be able to “make it”. Don’t for one second think that we can experience or “attain” revival by our own efforts.
  • I liked what ZA said about how pentacostal Christians seem to over-rely on being (over-)spiritual to accomplish everything.
  • One word that was impressed upon my heart throughout the Retreat was, “Ownership”. Often times we fail to take onus of our own learning, reading, praying, and the likes. I concur that the victory of our hands and habits begins with the battle in our heads and hearts.
  • Since spiritual authority comes from time spent with God, it is imperative then, that we build an altar – a place of meeting and fellowship with God – daily. We ought to begin every day by moving with God in a new way.
  • DL concluded the Retreat by sharing from Luke 9:42 – that we should count the cost of following Jesus, care for each other and be committed to God.

So this concludes the end of my first Retreat as a full-time staff. My duties weren’t as eventful as I had hoped it to be – I say this because the youth committee did a splendid job. (By the way, KY, you have a wonderful gift with the younger youths and I thank God for His anointing upon your life. Remember to invite me to your contract signing!)

I thoroughly enjoyed the last five days, although I must be honest and say that the highlight of the Retreat took place outside of the Retreat. (More on than in the coming entries.) God is awesome and I’m awestruck by how amazing He’s blessed HY and I in the last two weeks. Without a shadow of doubt, the series of events definitely strengthened my faith in our good God, who gives us what we need and to deliver it in His perfect timing. How can I not trust and praise Him now? Glory to God!

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