Bamboo Bicycles or Real Revival?

Remember watcimageshing Gilligan’s Island on tv, the episodes where Professor would rig up an invention to make their Crusoe-esque lives a little easier?  My favorite is “Gilligan-powered” ingenuity.  Gilligan is seated on a bamboo bicycle, those skinny legs pedaling furiously to generate electricity for a radio transmitter, or to agitate a paddle wheel in a washtub full of dirty laundry, etc.

In the Body of Christ, are we pedaling bamboo bicycles to generate power?  Are we mobilizing programs solely on our own strength and ambition–or even worse, based on someone else’s perceived success in harnessing revival?

We are so trend-driven when it comes to our faith, and it ought not be. It’s one thing to come away inspired by someone else’s encounter with God; but we are more than a little foolish if we think there’s some magic formula for revival, soul-winning, and restoring miracles in the Church. We saw in the 60’s and 70’s a variation of this. If Apostle so-and-so wore porkchop sideburns and he had a following, suddenly all the up-and-coming young ministers grew big goofy sideburns. They held the mic the same way he did.  Pulled their lapels wayyyy out. They parted their hair on the same side, mimicked his vocal inflections, got the walk down just-so. If the evangelist had people fall out when he laid hands on them, now all the young hopefuls wanted everyone at the altar to fall out for them too! Yep, I’ve had a couple of them try to tip me over when I didn’t fall out on my own.

I’m not trying to mock our Pentecostal heritage, not at all. I celebrate it and walk in the gifts and baptismal measure of the Holy Spirit.  Looking throughout the Bible, and throughout church history, however, it looks like every generation has had its bamboo bicycles on deserted islands where the power connection didn’t quite reach.  Perhaps it’s not so much laziness on our part, but not actually knowing that we can have our own encounter without having to do it like so-and-so’s church, like Reverend Powerhouse, or like our godly role models. We do want the fire to fall; but we are looking in the wrong direction, hoping someone else to our left or right has perfected the template–hoping some else’s proven method will save us from having to seek God’s revelation for our own prayer and fasting model.  We are trying to house the Holy Spirit in recycled plastic milk jugs instead of paying the price to become stretchable wineskins ourselves.  We will try on someone else’s armor only to find out it’s too big and bulky for our own frames.

Consider this: although God changes not, He will never make Himself known to us through a boilerplate format for the encounter. When we copy someone else’s method, even if it works for that movement and season, for us it becomes dead works. And if we don’t move with the cloud by day and the fire by night, what DID once work for us will suddenly become dead works, too. How many times has the Body of Christ failed the test when the Lord called us to follow him out of a particular season on to another level?  God is never going to share His glory with man.  Yes, once He has moved on, we are perfectly free to stay where we are; program it up, to try to keep it all going just as before.  He’ll let us.  He just won’t be the source generating the energy.  He will never prosper our attempts to bottle and patent and copyright His glory!

Not every church is going to be a Brownsville. Brownsville can’t even afford to be labeled a ‘Brownsville-style movement;’ for such a label has the potential to become a judgment against us. If we are blessed to have God’s visitation in a phenomenal, supernatural season, and He chooses to move us out of our oasis and back on the travel path again, there’s great danger in choosing to try to remain in the move that He’s finished anointing.  I believe, and I say this with fear and great respect, that even the leaders of these great awakenings which have birthed in these last few years would tell you to keep your eyes on Jesus alone, listening to His directive–and stop trying to market a particular style of worship as being the “next new thing.”  If we are blessed to be under the deluge of His outpouring, and His power should suddenly moves in a different direction; or, if we are trying furiously to bring someone else’s revival recipe to our own little corners on the globe, then we’ll just be pedaling our little bicycles like madmen, doomed to fail in our human frailty!  God’s will is that all of us have a supernatural encounter with Him; but we don’t get to define the parameters for that encounter.  He may manifest as wind in one setting, as rain in another, as fire in yet another, or He may manifest as that still small voice.  If it’s from HIM, all of it is good!  It’s HIS prerogative to define the visitation; it’s our mandate to be merely, get this, obedient.

I’ve heard some irreverent commentary even in the Body, where this or that particular movement would be rumored to be taken in error in spite of at least a timed visitation from God. Frankly, it hurts my feelings, for I believe these visitations have been very real at least as long as we have remained under God’s directive.  I don’t know each individual situation, nor do I want to; but after the rumors of mighty revival movements collapsing or “fizzling out,” suddenly a teaching emerged which warned of the dangers of strange fire.  Then the Body of Christ became scared of any manifestation of the Holy Ghost being labeled strange fire, and so we went back to having no fire.  Neither of those polar positions is God’s intent for us individually or corporately.  I’m not even sure I fully understand what constitutes “strange fire,” but I do know that if something ventures beyond Christ alone, its fruit will not and cannot remain.

I would challenge us all today to radical obedience.  Obedience, not as weighed against the methods of others; but  drowning out the popular theories of church growth, and getting somewhere alone with the Lord to hear what HE would have us do in order to release that anointing in our lives, in our churches, over our geographical areas.  Obedience to GOD, not a new 7-step bullet point program for stirring up an awakening.

Jesus scolded Peter for worrying about John getting an easier ticket to heaven than he was getting.  Jesus as much as said, “John’s encounter with me is not your business, Peter.  Follow ME.”  Peter didn’t want that place of being led where he didn’t want to go, to that untimely demise, that suffering, persecution, that upside-down cross.  If John’s encounter involves an easier burden–if it were to be perceived that John has more favor or is looked upon by the other 12 as holier–Peter is jealous for THAT encounter.  We can’t busy ourselves with what works in Australia, in Pensacola, or in the big new church on the other side of town with a coffee shop and valet parking.  Praise God for moving in such notable ways in those places; we rejoice for them!  We will buy their worship tapes, listen to the preaching on our CD’s, read the books and let the zeal for the house rub off on us, too–but our job is still to look to GOD ALONE for our own visitation, whatever that visitation should look like for us.  I can almost guarantee that it’s going to look a lot different here in the foothills of Appalachia than it does in Sydney, than it did at Mezuzah Street or at Murphy, NC.  But…if God’s the one generating the power, we won’t have to build a single program or training center to keep it going.

Obey the Lord, pure and simple.  He will not let it be said that the success of His Body comes from the neck down!  Know this:  if you obey Him only, instead of trying to power your own movement, you will never ever be in danger of deception.  You won’t have strange fire, and you won’t have no fire.  You will have HIS fire.  And you won’t have to grow sideburns or pedal a bamboo bike!  Just saying…

“Acting Up” in the Last Days’ Church

UnityDuring those days, the entire community of believers was deeply united in heart and soul to such an extent that they stopped claiming private ownership of their possessions. Instead, they held everything in common.  The apostles with great power gave their eyewitness reports of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  Everyone was surrounded by an extraordinary grace.”  (ACTS 4:32-33 VOICE) 

The last days’ church is finally learning what it means to have an Acts 4 church! We think of the “all things on common” phrase as some kind of socialism mentality. It isn’t. For the 21st Century church, it at least in part in part means that the church all across town or all across a geographical has all things in common. Let me explain…

Not every local church is called to have every single kind of ministry under the sun…and it’s OK! We didn’t understand that for so many years. So after wearing ourselves out with dead works, we found ourselves and our members exhausted and less fruitful instead of MORE fruitful.

Look at a healthy, balanced family that cares for and trusts one another. If one part of the family has a need, another is there to undergird it. I grew up next door to Granny and Grandpa. If we needed a ladder and didn’t have it, Grandpa did! If Granny needed a cup of sugar and didn’t have it, Mom did. We shared resources and had whatever we needed.

Same in the Church. We have learned finally (and are still learning) that what part we are meant to contribute to the entire Body is enough, because we are part of the whole. We don’t have to be paranoid of losing our members to the church down the road, or them paranoid of us taking theirs!

If your local church isn’t called to the food bank ministry, don’t open a food bank…but get behind the church who does. If ours doesn’t have a daycare, we can send our kids to yours…and so on, and so on.  Encourage participation in the church in your area that does addiction intervention.  Speak well of and refer folks to the one which does a great outreach program to high-risk teens.  Every strength in every local Bible-teaching church is a win for the entire Body! Build the component for which God has called YOUR church, and don’t fear someone else’s church getting ahead of you. We are running this race together. 3 or 4 strong ministries in each church is so much better than having 30 or 40 that are bearing no fruit but look good (in name only) on our brochures!

Don’t waste what you’re not using. If your church no longer does hymnbooks, donate them to a mission or to a church who does. If a church has had a fire or flood or vandalism, chip in and help that local body to rebuild. Pass on those leftover Sunday School curricula to a house who couldn’t afford its own. Milk every bit of good out of what God’s made available for you by putting it to work in someone else’s hands, too!  These things are the 12 baskets of fragments taken up after the 5000 have been fed.  They’re gathered because they’re not meant to be left to waste!

I can remember a time when it wasn’t that way. Churches were catty with one another. We wouldn’t cheer one another on, for fear of someone else’s church outgrowing ours. So we had little congregations of disconnected believers who were (yes, I’ll call it what it is) PREJUDICED toward one another! And we couldn’t grow. We weren’t busy winning new souls because we were too busy trying to keep our members from running off to join the new, hip church down the road.

Thank the Lord for bringing us to a new day. God is unifying the Body of Christ and eroding the electric fences of denominationalism. We need the strength of organized churches, and it’s a good thing to belong to a group where there’s safety in numbers, but a logo or name need never define us as a separate part of the Lord’s Body. It feels good now, because it’s RIGHT, that we support one another’s churches, ministries, and that we all can come together in prayer and a unified purpose: to win souls and to be salt and light to the world who hasn’t yet found Him.

I love every time Church in the Mountains hosts an event and so many of the local churches here in Mingo/Pike throw off their labels for a night and just worship and seek God’s face together. Our Father is pleased. When we learn to get it right, we will see more territorial strongholds broken because God isn’t blocked by our own territorialism! We will see more Winchester KY breakthroughs where drug capitals turn into portals of evangelism and deliverance.

I’m excited for what is about to just take off and explode with growth in our area, as our churches learn to embrace the truth that each local house is a member in particular! As we do, these little buildings are going to pack out with the lost who are finally seeing that we are the Lord’s disciples, because we have love one to another.

When you pray for your own church and pastor today, call out the names of the other churches and pastors in your town, too. Ask God to bring revival not just in your house, but in their houses too. There’s not one building big enough to hold us all, but God has definitely got enough work for all of us to do if we’ll just be about His business! Pray and get ready for your local church to bring in its share of the harvest!

Secondhand Smoke

smokeCan fire be carried in the bosom without burning one’s clothes?  (Proverbs 6:27 NRSV)

I think I just now realized that the expression “hot under the collar” came from this verse of Proverbs!  Oh the challenges we face in the Twenty-First Century Church, with our 24/7 news and social media.  We have become absolutely saturated with information until it’s coming out our ears.  The Word said it would be this way in the end times…Daniel’s age-old prophecy declared that knowledge would increase.  Interesting, isn’t it, that only knowledge seems to have increased.  Our world is just as unwise as it ever was; in fact, we’ve gotten pretty stupid to have become so smart.

As believers, we must guard our souls from toxic overload, truly.  At the time Ecclesiastes was penned, the only sources of information were books (well, scrolls and tablets to be more precise) and direct word of mouth.  Yet this totally relevant-to-our-day word was given to us all those centuries ago: The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.  Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.  (Ecclesiastes 12:11-12 NIV)  Imagine the author’s awe had he a glimpse into the age of technology!  Now, it can be fittingly added, “of being bombarded with information true and false, there is no end…and overexposure is exhausting and unhealthy!”

A couple of decades back, I remember Nettie Neace teaching in Sunday School how that the Lord had delivered her from an addiction to watching the news.  Just a young adult at the time, I couldn’t really grasp the idea of keeping news channels on all day long; but that was before the Internet!  Now all we have to do is click open our social media just to say hello to friends and family, and it’s on!  Why, we can rabbit-trail all day long, following links to a million different opinions about our world’s debauched condition.  We can shake our heads in disapproval, rant a while, and then click “share!”  It goes on and on and on, and to what end?  At the end of the day, we probably haven’t actually prayed about the people and conditions who’ve shocked us so…but we sure have been drawn in by the stories and pictures!

God spoke the words “secondhand smoke” into my spirit this morning as I pondered these things.  Just as you can become sick from breathing someone else’s cigarette smoke, you can also become physically and spiritually sick from taking in the sinful, appalling stories about others’ lifestyles.   Are you absorbing the toxins just because you won’t distance yourself from what’s polluting your soul?  Many times we don’t even realize we’re doing it…if you’ve lived with a smoker or worked in a place where you have to breathe it all day, you can begin to tune it out to where you don’t even notice it anymore.  Your lungs do, however.  When we make it a daily routine to tune in to the next episode of “As the World Churns,” we are drawing fire into our bosom; we are filling our lungs with the fumes of sin.  Proverbs warns that it will burn us!  In our own covert ways, the world’s reveling can even become a form of entertainment as we take it all in.  It may not have immediate effects, but when you allow yourself to become glued to screen, letting commentary anger you and raise your blood pressure, it is going to do cumulative damage.  I made a comparison yesterday on my Facebook status that all of this is like poking your finger in your eye, yelling “ouch!” and then poking your finger right back in your eye again!  We can make ourselves victims of these whether our views lean to the left or lean to the right–there are plenty of ploys to anger us by “the other side” or to, as my grandma would say, “get our goat!”  And there are people who sure know how to push our buttons.  We can walk right into the smoke and hang out there, or we can recognize what it’s doing to us and walk away.

Does this mean we are to be like ostriches with our heads in the sand?  No, not at all.  We need to advocate and practice balance.  Jesus told His disciples to watch and pray, lest they enter into temptation.  We should limit our time around tv, newspapers, and social media to reasonable amounts.  What you read, stop and pray about it before just going on to another and another.  The true litmus test of whether it’s worthy of your attention is this:  1.  Does it move you to pray and intercede, or does it instead cause you to rant and rave?  2. Does it have the ability to enrich your life in any way, or is it just more “fluff?”  3.  Does it rob you of peace, or does it instead give you peace?  4.  Do you read it because you are seeking answers, or do you read it because you are addicted to the rush of another shock?   5.  Does knowing about it in any way stand to benefit you?  6.  Would Jesus post it to His status if He had a social media account?  Would He share, forward, bookmark, comment on, or consider it to be worth sacrificing time spent doing good?  7.  Can you actually do anything about what you’re watching, or are you just another spectator with an opinion?

I need work, too.  I’m not that into television, but I can easily get drawn into news stories online.  I have a big heart, I can come pretty unglued by all the sinful, unjust, hateful things going on.  Most of them don’t put me in a prayerful state, I must confess.  They depress me, discourage me, disillusion me.  If that’s all I fill my soul with all day long, how can I do anything more than wallow in misery?  I have to apply the Word to what I see, and pray for the people who are so full of hurt and deception; but I also have to know when I’ve ventured beyond praying and now I’m just loitering.  The Apostle Paul gave us a great guideline to follow about what we breathe in, and there’s nothing smoggy, smoky, fumey, stinky, or dirty in a bit of it:  Brothers and sisters, think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected.”  (Philippians 4:8 NCV)  If ever there were a time we need to apply some First Century godly wisdom, it’s now.