Monday, May 10, 2021

Fresh Encounter: God's Pattern for Spiritual Awakening Chapter 19 Review

 Fresh Encounter: God's Pattern for Spiritual Awakening

Authors: Henry and Richard Blackaby and Claude King

Chapter 19 Review

On page 242 the authors write:

Brian Edwards noted that revival doesn't outlast one generation because it is not intended to be normative. He wrote, "Revival pulls the church out of its rut, awakens it from its sleep and sets inertia in motion." Revival is restorative not normative. Once revival has done its work, it is no longer necessary.  The new, vibrant walk with God revival produces, however, ought to be carefully nurtured and zealously protected. 

Revival is God's means for bringing His people back into an intimate, loving fellowship with Him. Once people have returned to God, the key is to maintain the relationship God has restored. While people can enjoy gathering with their church family night after night and having emotional experiences during the services, returning to God must lead to nurturing the newly experienced, intimate walk with God. 

It appears that the people of America today are obsessed with having an "experience".  Today we see concerts, social media events, games, vacations and the like all promising an "experience".  The problem is that we have now created a generation that always expects an "experience" and is completely unsatisfied with "normal" life.  This shift in cultural expectation has infiltrated the church as well.  

From the 70s-90s we saw a great movement in what has been labeled the "seeker friendly church".  The idea was to entertain and/or provide so much for the people that they wanted to return for the next service.  Out of that movement we now see, as common practice, across the American Church landscape today are churches that play secular music, us props, have celebrity appearances and the like in fulfilling a promise to provide an "experience".  Many churches are calling for revival not for repentance sake but the sake of an "experience".  

Biblical revival served a single purpose and had a beginning and an end.  The single purpose of revival was to revive the people of God (believers), so that they can get back to what was the expected normal Christian life.  Once the people of God have been revived they no longer have a need for revival.  That's why we see the quote "revival is restorative not normative" repeated throughout the book.  

Living for Christ is not one amazing experience after another...with each experience greater than the last.  Living for Christ is taking the normal everyday things and using them for the glory of God.  Sometimes was have amazing experiences and sometimes we have "typical" everyday lives.  We don't seek experiences, we seek Jesus.  

Monday, May 3, 2021

Fresh Encounter: God's Pattern for Spiritual Awakening Chapters 17 & 18 Review

 Fresh Encounter: God's Pattern for Spiritual Awakening

By: Henry and Richard Blackaby and Claude King

Chapter 17 Review - Why Revival Terries: Preparing for Revival 

It seems that many talk of wanting revival but few actually experience it.  I believe one of the issues is too many individuals and churches try to "come back to God" on their own terms.  On page 226 the authors word it like this:

People may have left God on their terms, but returning to God is always under His condition. 

When we consider the stories of Cain, King Saul and the Pharisees we see how ineffective people are when they try to determine how they should worship God.  God has clearly taught us throughout His Word that we are to humble ourselves in repentance.  A biblical view of repentance is important.  Yes, repentance restores your relationship with your heavenly Father and brings a new spiritual freshness to your walk with Him.  But repentance, as we see in the story of David, doesn't guarantee that we will not face the consequences of our actions.  Too many times we come to God with unscriptural expectations.  On page 227 the authors put it this way: 

It is absurd and erroneous to suppose that when you have repented of sin all the consequences of your sins cease. 

Seeking revival can be a painful process because it is removing sin from our lives.  This painful process of pruning often causes people to walk away from revival.   

The authors gives us common terms (or conditions) to revival on page 228:

1. We must return to Him.

2. We must return with our whole heart and soul.

3. We must repent of our sin. 

The best way to prepare for revival is repentance.  Without preparing our hearts for revival how can we expect revival to come?  On page 229 Wallis is quoted as says: 

There are two foundation stones for every revival: God's sovereignty and people's preparedness. 

Does our preparedness require the extortionary?  No.  God moves in the ordinary life of a repented believer.  On page 229 the authors say:

It is not necessarily the spectacular that ushers in revival but an increase in the ordinary. 

God's plan for His people is fairly simple: live a life surrendered to Him.  You cannot live a life surrendered to God without repentance playing a vital role.  

Chapter 18 Review - Becoming a Catalyst for Revival 

Page 233:

Does God need people to accomplish His work? No. He has myriads of powerful angels ready and eager to do His biding. However, throughout history God has chosen to work through weak, ordinary human instruments. 

Biblically and historically God has used ordinary people to accomplish His work.

I guess the next logical question would you want to be a catalyst for revival?  What holds us back from truly desiring to be used by God?  I'd say that desire probably isn't the issue but the cost.  Every generation of Christians have battled with being too attached to the world.  

Are we really willing to give us acceptance, peace, money, positions, sports, vacations, houses and the like for Christ?  Are those things necessary to give up for revival?  Not always, but maybe sometimes.  Did you realize that travel ball is a multi-billion dollar business that pulls 10s of 1,000s of our families away from church every weekend?  Do you realize that people spend more money on homes and vacations than they can actually afford and therefore they stop tithing?  Do you realize that Christians would rather be liked by their neighbors than offend them with the gospel?   Should we give those things up?  Maybe, maybe not.  Sports, vacations, homes, etc. aren't necessarily bad in themselves.  But they most certainly can become distractions that pull us away from Christ.  Therefore, the better question maybe...are you willing to give up anything that hinders you from whole heartily seeking after Christ?  If there is something that you wouldn't give up...that object has become an idol.  

So, what are the characteristics of a person who desires to be a catalyst for revival?  On page 233 the authors give this list:

1. Ordinary People

2. People with a Passion for God

3. People Committed to God's Word

4. People Committed to Prayer

5. People Committed to Working with Others

6. People Willing to pay the Price

7. People Filled with the Holy Spirit

8. People who Give God the Glory

Don't just desire to be a catalyst for revival...become a person who is a catalyst for revival.  Weed out the things holding you back.  Remember, to be fully living for the glory of God is were we find our greatest joy.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Fresh Encounter: God's Pattern for Spiritual Awakening Chapter 15 and 16 Review

 Fresh Encounter: God's Pattern for Spiritual Awakening

Authors: Henry and Richard Blackaby and Claude King

Chapter 15 Review - Worship and Revival

In chapter 15 the authors challenge us to have a biblical view of worship.  We learn that worship is not limited to music.  Worship is a lifestyle.  Romans 12:1-2 (NASB95) says: 

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. 

Paul is reminding us in Romans 12:1 that worship is centered around a life completely surrendered to God.  Not just moments of singing or only at church services...every moment of every day is an opportunity to worship.  In verse 2 Paul gives us some details on what a life surrendered to God generally looks like: (1) not conforming to the world but (2) being transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Therefore, you cannot embrace the world or the ways of the world and be worshiping God.  

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB95) we see these amazing words: 

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 

In light of this verse we read on page 193:

Biblically you cannot encounter God and remain the same.

Encountering God and living for His glory will never leave you in the same place you are currently.  Yes, come as you are...but then expect God to change you.  If you have no desire to change...beware...because you need to desperately seek the Lord in prayer.  Believers should always be changing.  But not just any type of changing.  We should be changing in such a way that we begin looking more and more like Jesus.  

Chapter 16 Review - Counterfeits to Revival 

One would think that revival would cause the enemy to go running.  But in reality we learn from Scripture that the enemy goes on the attack all the more in times of revival.  

On page 210 and 211 the authors say: 

Often it is not the attack on revival that harm it most but those who claim to be its allies and spokespersons. 

One would think that in the midst of a mighty moving of the Holy Spirit, God's enemies would be in full retreat. But that is when they are most dangerous. 

Often the attack is not outright obvious.  The attacks from the enemy are often disguised in a sliver of truth.  Since the beginning Satan has been slightly altering the Word of God.  We see it in the garden and in the temptation of Jesus...Satan misquotes and misuses Scripture.  

On pages 212-219 the authors explain how the enemy can take common things and slightly change them to deceive people: 

Signs and Wonders, Emotionalism, Unity, Music and Institutional Building

How do we know if the enemy is using these things to deceive us?  We test everything according to the Word of God.  The authors also give us some warning signs on pages 220-224:

Self-centered Rather than Christ Centered, Lack of Repentance/Holiness, Unbiblical, Experience Driven and Extremes.

What do you trust in?  Your emotions, experiences, feelings, logic, advice from others, books...  There are a lot of places we can go for information but there is only one place that has complete truth...God's Word.  Anything else is either counterfeit or incomplete.  We MUST test everything to God's Word.  Just because we experience something doesn't mean it's from God.  Just because we have a dream doesn't mean it's from God.  Just because we feel at peace doesn't mean it's from God.  

A good passage of Scripture to memorize is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-21 (NASB95): 

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Fresh Encounter: God's Pattern for Spiritual Awakening Chapter 13 & 14 Review

 Fresh Encounter: God's Pattern for Spiritual Awakening

By: Henry and Richard Blackaby and Claude King

Chapter 13 Review - The Role of Prayer in Revival

Prayer is a very powerful tool graciously given to every believer.  But what is prayer?  Simply put: Prayer is communicating (speaking) to our heavenly Father.  

Through prayer we confess sins, ask for forgiveness and commit to live for God's glory.  In theory prayer sounds pretty straight forward and easy.  Yet for many prayer is difficult, lacking and shallow.  Why?  Of course every person will have a different story and issue when it comes to prayer.  But generally speaking, I'd say that two of the major issues in prayer is (1) knowledge and (2) commitment.  

(1) Knowledge: What do I mean?  It's difficult to talk with someone you don't know well.  Think of your closest friends.  Conversation is easy and flows.  Now think of meeting a stranger for the first time.  Conversation seems choppy and shallow.  The foundation to a great prayer life is a solid understanding of who God is as revealed in the Scriptures (Bible).  

(2) Commitment: What do I mean?  Obviously when you are talking to the God of all the universe it's different then talking with your good friends.  Whenever we encounter God through reading the Bible and prayer there is an expectation of change.  As believers we have committed our lives to becoming more like Christ.  Prayer forces our hands.  How can we come before a holy God and not walk away committed to being different than we were before?  I fear many believers don't pray because they don't want to be faced with having to choose between God and their sins.  

These ideas lead us to page 172 where the authors write:

Today many want to see revival come, but they are not prepared to cry out to God in prayer with the fervency and humility required. Jonathan Goforth noted, "The history of revival shows plainly that all movements of the Spirit have started in prayer." 

Then on page 181 they write: 

Are you willing to adjust your lifestyle significantly enough to be the kind of prayer warrior God will use to change your family, your church, your city, your denomination, and your nation?

The key to a vibrant prayer life is our willingness to acknowledge that God's ways are better than our ways.  His will, His desires, His paths, His plans...ALL better.  And you will know His will, desires, paths and plans when you know Him personally.  Therefore, study the Bible to know more of who God is and pray with an expectation of committing to becoming more like Christ. 

Chapter 14 Review - Corporate Hindrances to Revival 

On page 184 the authors write: 

One of the major reasons revival has not yet come - despite multitudinous praying, conferencing, and organizing - is because of corporate hindrances. Corporate hindrances are church practices that hinder rather than facilitate revival.

By allowing unbiblical theology as well as secular methodology to permeate their activities, church practices can actually quench the Spirit's work rather than promote it. In this chapter we'll consider eight obstacles to revival prevalent among churches today.

These eight obstacles are outlined on pages 184-191: 

(1) Misleading Terminology, (2) Misdirected Appeals, (3) Mistaken Compassion, (4) Misplaced Priorities, (5) Misleading Revival Terminology, (6) Misdiagnosed Symptoms, (7) Misguided Relationships and (8) Missing Prayer. 

Just as individuals are in danger of straying from sound biblical teaching so is the church.  The church must diligently work to stay true to God's plan and design for His church.  We must remember that numbers isn't the goal...glorifying God is the goal.  Yes, we pray that many will be saved but we don't seek numbers at the expense of being obedient to the Word of God.  Remember, a church with 50 people attending could be more faithful in glorifying God than a church of 50,000.  

The church is called to make disciples, not to have mega marketing campaigns to get more people.  As a church we must continually remind ourselves that God's ways are better than our ways.

May we at WFBC seek to glorify God as He has commanded us in the Bible.  

Monday, April 12, 2021

Fresh Encounter: God's Pattern for Spiritual Awakening Chapter 12 Review

Fresh Encounter: God's Pattern for Spiritual Awakening 

Authors: Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King

Chapter 12 Review

Chapter 12 focuses on the fruit of revival.  On page 157 they quote Arthur Wallis: 

"Clearly it is the saints, not the sinners, that are primarily involved in revival. The quickening of the saints is the root, while the saving of the sinners is the fruit."

They continue on page 157 with: 

Although authors define revival and spiritual awakening in various ways, we see a distinction between revival and spiritual awakening. Revival is for God's people, for Christians who have given their lives to Christ but whose faith has wavered and whose spiritual vibrancy has waned. Revival renews the flames of fervent love for Christ the believer once knew. Revival brings God's people back to Himself. Spiritual awakening applies to the unbelieving world. It involves the conversion of a great number of people over a brief period of time. It is evangelism on a massive and rapid scale. Spiritual awakenings generally occur after God's people have been revived. 

Too often I think we misrepresent revival.  Often when we talk of revival we speak of people getting saved.  When in reality we should be looking to ourselves and how we have lost focus.  It's easy to see that others have an issue that needs to be fixed; it's difficult to look into the mirror and admit that I have an issue that needs to be fixed. 

This is true for the church body as a whole as well.  Rarely do we see churches, as a whole, repent and change how they operate.  Why?  Honestly I'm not sure.  Maybe it tradition, pride or selfishness.  I do know that each church is different and should seek Christ to show them how they have fallen short; rather than comparing themselves to others.  

On pages 157-158 the authors continue writing: 

Brian Edwards noted there is "little that is new" in revival.  That is, all the elements of revival, such as preaching, singing, praying, testifying, and repenting are activities that ought to characterize the church at all times. Edwards notes that revival is not normative Christianity. It is restorative Christianity, bringing God's people back to where they should be. Says Edwards, "Revival is not normal any more than spiritual decline and backsliding is normal. These are opposite ends of the normal life of the church. Revival is supernormal and backsliding is subnormal."

Being in the mist of revival sounds like a great place to be! And it most certainly is, but revival is designed to pass.  Once we are revived it's time to get to work.  Ephesians 2:10 (CSB) says:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do. 

Some things to remember...

Christianity is both individualistic and cooperate.  Individually, we need to glorify God with every aspect of our lives.  Corporately, we worship God together to encourage one another's faith. The goal of revival is to impact both aspects of Christianity...the individual and the body.  

What is the fruit of revival?  Simply put, we become more Christian.  Individually, we should have a renewed love for God's Word, prayer, loving others and sharing the gospel.  Corporately, we should have a renewed love for God's Word, prayer, loving others and sharing the gospel.  Ultimately, our church experiencing revival is directly connected to us individually experiencing revival.  

If you are unwilling to maybe the reason we, as a church, hasn't experienced revival.  May we each seek revival so that we may experience revival together! 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Fresh Encounter: God's Pattern for Spiritual Awakening Chapter 9 & 10 Review

 Fresh Encounter: God's Plan for Spiritual Awakening

Chapter 9 & 10 Review

By: Henry and Richard Blackaby and Claude King 

Chapter 9 Review

In chapter 9 the authors focus on the concept of discipline.  On page 105 they write:

Modern Christians have lost the fear of God. People no longer believe God rebukes His people. Many think the God of judgement and wrath is found only in the ancient pages of the Old Testament. They believe the God of the New Testament is characterized by love and grace. Such thinking reveals a skewed and limited knowledge of what Scripture reveals about God. 

For God said, "For I am the Lord, I do not change" (Mal. 3:6). "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8). The God we discover in the New Testament is the same God revealed in the pages of the Old Testament.  The Lord is one. He doesn't change.

There are two specific places in Scripture that I think of when considering God's discipline of His people.  Of course there are many more but we'll just quickly review (1) Acts 5:1-11 and (2) 1 Corinthians 11:27-32.  

In Acts 5:1-11 we read the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira.  They lied about money given to the church and God struck them dead.  This story reminds us that in the NT God still takes sin seriously.  While God is full of grace and love, He is also full of wrath and justice.  We see a couple who didn't take the commands of God seriously and it cost them their lives.  

In 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 we see people are getting sick and dying because they are partaking of the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner.  Paul explains to the church of Corinth that glorifying God is a serious calling.  Too often we approach worship half-hearted.  

Discipline maybe difficult at the time, but it is necessary for our sanctification.  While living in a broken, fallen world it can be difficult to discern what is discipline from the Lord or spiritual warfare.  On page 120 the authors encourage us to ask three different questions when we face hardship.

When hardship comes, always ask: (1) Is this an ordinary life experience that comes to every person who lives in a decaying body and a sin-filled world? (2) Is God using these events in my life as a means of pruning me so I become more like Christ? (3) Or is my condition an expression of spiritual warfare since I am a Christian who serves God in an evil and spiritually darkened world? 

Whether your hardship is discipline, spiritual warfare or just a typical day living in a fallen world...remember the James 1:2-4 (CSB): 

Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. 

Chapter 10 Review

In chapter 10 the authors focus more on repentance.  On page 127 the authors write: 

The word repent indicates a turning away from sin and a wholehearted return to our love relationship with God. Henry Scougal noted: "Repentance is a delightful exercise when it floweth from the principle of love." Remorse is inadequate. Behavior modification is ineffectual.  Returning to religious activity is futile. Confession is part of repentance in that we acknowledge our wrongdoing, but repentance involves a broken heart and a decisive return to God. Repentance without absolute humility is not repentance at all; it is at best rededication. "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death" (2 Cor. 7:10). 

On page 128 they continue: 

Three fold process of change: (1) an adjustment of attitude, (2) a change of heart and (3) transformed desires and actions. 

Repentance is a word that seems to be missing from too many believers' lives.  Yes, repentance plays a vital role in one's justification but it also plays a vital role in our sanctification process.  A sign of maturity is a believer who's life is marked by repentance.  

On page 137 the authors conclude chapter 10 with this statement: 

As long as Christians are content with their sin and the present level of their spiritual vitality, they will remain as they are, or they will continue to decline. However, the Holy Spirit is always working to open people's spiritual eyes to the reality of their spiritual condition. When they recognize their woeful condition, they must confess it and fervently turn from it.  When God's people renounce their sin, the Holy Spirit's power is unleashed among them. Most of the great revival movements in history began when God's people grew weary of their sin and repented of it. 

Such profound movements of God among His people compel us to ask the same question the saintly Robert Murray McCheyene regularly asked: "Is the desire of my heart to be made altogether holy?" 

How we respond to our sin will determine the health of our relationship with our heavenly Father.  May we all seek repentance. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Fresh Encounter: God's Pattern for Spiritual Awakening Chapter 7 & 8 Review

Fresh Encounter: God's Pattern for Spiritual Awakening 

By: Henry & Richard Blackaby and Cluade King 

Chapter 7 Review

On page 84 the authors challenge the readers to consider some personal questions to consider to determine if you are in need of revival: 

One of the dangers that believers face is reading the Bible is assuming it applies to others rather than themselves.  Taking time for personal reflection is important.  Psalm 139:23-24 (CSB) says:

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns.

See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way. 

Throughout the OT we see God establishing festivals and feasts for personal reflection; for example: Passover Feast, Feast of First Fruits and Feast of Trumpets. On page 85 the authors explain: 

Solemn assemblies were days for God's people to gather for a sacred task. There were prescribed as times to: demonstrate obedience to God, His commands and decrees; remember God's provisions for His people; acknowledge God's ownership of all their resources; offer sacrifices; recognize God in His holiness; confess and repent of personal and corporate sin; renew fellowship and the covenant with God. 

So, how do we apply the principles found in the OT festivals today?  God has given us various opportunities to seek and know Him. To name a few avenues of growth and renewal...through the Holy Spirit we are able to (1) enjoy personal time with the Lord studying His Word and praying, (2) corporately worship the Father on the Lord's day, (3) worship through tithes and offerings and (4) live a sacrificial life as described in Romans 12:1-2.  

Submitting to God's ways is vital for the believer.  Too often we "take matters into our own hands".  It would do us well to memorize Isaiah 55:8-9. 

Isaiah 55:8-9 (CSB) says:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways." This is the Lord's declaration.

For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. 

On page 93 the authors state: 

And it is critical that we familiarize ourselves with the ways God revives His people, for those are the same ways He will seek to revive us and our church as well. 

God has a specific plan for His people.  We must SUBMIT to His desires.  

Chapter 8 Review 

In chapter 8 the authors focus on the goal of revival...restoring our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  All that God has, is and will do with and to us is for that intimate relationship with Him.  Throughout Scripture it appears that revival has a pattern.  The authors explain the various phases of revival on pages 97-98. 

The purpose of discipline, correction and a call to repent is center on having a right relationship with God.  On pages 98-99 the authors recap "God's Purpose for Revival".  They sum this up with two phrases: God pursues a love relationship and God calls people to work with Him (page 99).  

In conclusion on page 103 the authors write:

God is on mission to redeem a lost world. He could use any method at His disposal, but He chooses to work through a holy people consecrated to Him and for His purposes.  When God's people sin and turn away from their covenant relationship with Christ, they are no longer in a place to serve God and to bring Him glory.  God will discipline His people and draw them back to Himself.  Once God's people repent and return to Him, God forgives and cleanses them and will use them once again to accomplish His purposes. God takes our relationship with Him extremely seriously because out of that relationship our life has meaning and purpose as we relate to Him and serve Him. 

Your will be most satisficed in life when you are walking with Christ in obedience to His Word.  Our Heavenly Father is the source of all great things.  Seek Him, not the world.  Live for Him, not yourself.  Long for revival personally and corporately.  Desire an intimate relationship with Him.  


Fresh Encounter: God's Pattern for Spiritual Awakening Chapter 19 Review

 Fresh Encounter: God's Pattern for Spiritual Awakening Authors: Henry and Richard Blackaby and Claude King Chapter 19 Review On page 24...