196. Planning for abundance

November is upon us.  Most of us still feel as if the Sword of Damocles is hanging over us. World events, politics and pandemic policy all contribute to the stress of this year.  The second wave, more lockdowns, more masks and in the northern hemisphere the icy fingers of winter restrict life.  

Most people are looking forward to a new year with a fresh start.  Thank God for new beginnings.  Although scholars are of the opinion that the virus might be around throughout the first quarter, promises of a vaccine and the normal weakening of a virus can be seen as positive indicators to some relief.  We can make plans, think of restoration, be encouraged and kindle hope.  It is all good and some good news should be picking us up from the devastation that 2020 brought.  But what about the future?  Has anything fundamentally changed?  

I cannot imagine that we had to live through all this just to return to the same old, same old.  Most people yearn for returning to what has been.  Maybe it looks good on the surface.

We, however, have to look deeper.  We know that people who were so cruelly plucked out of the familiar routines and some control over their life, would be unsettled.  Suicide numbers increased, anxiety and depression medication prescriptions escalated, counsellors were inundated with requests.  Humanity went into crisis mode and mostly still is.

It is easy to break down, much more difficult to build up.  In a documentary on the Tsunami of 2011 in Japan, the pictures of the area where the most flooding took place, are a clear indication that after eight years, the place is not even close to what it has been before.

How would you like your world to look post-pandemic?  I would like God to decide.  It is impossible for any human to be aware of all the evil and horror of this world, that has to change for good.  Plagues and disasters are as old as the world’s history.  It always brings change – sometimes radical.

For sure the next question could be what one individual could do to bring about change.  We know the world needs God.  Every person needs to know how much God loves him.  All need to hear that there is an alternative life on our dirty and tired old planet, where beauty reigns and where restoration for the wounded and broken are possible.  Love is the answer.  Even though this might sound like the softest, humblest and most powerless solution – it is the only solution and the most powerful ever.

Throughout history many people declared themselves as a god, and lots  claimed to be the Messiah.  Do you know their names?  Google it – it is amazing.  Most names will be unknown.  Most people on earth, whether they believe or not, know the name of Jesus.  The impact of his life on our history is undeniable.  He divided the counting of our time.  History is written Before Christ and AD (Anno Domini – in the year of our Lord).  Even nowadays when they use the alternative acronyms BCE (Before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era) the division still stands.  There’s a line that has been drawn through the ages and on that line stands an old rugged cross, says the hymn.

This Jesus is the solution and content of the future.  He is the mind of God, God’s Plan, God’s Will.  Look at his life on earth and you will know what God looks like.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (Colossians 1:15)

He is what our world needs.  We crave the healing, salvation, perfection, peace and joy of heaven here on earth.  That is what He promised in Kingdom living.

Let your Kingdom come…your will be done… on earth as it is in heaven

How will that come about?

The answer is revival.

Revival is the restoration of the church of Jesus over all denominational boundaries to a powerful, effective, life-giving relationship with God in all facets of life.  It is usually associated with mass-conversions and a very positive impact on society.

Over the course of history there have been many revivals.  After the Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther, that brought people back to the Bible and basic faith, the Wesley brothers in England played a pivotal role in spiritual awakening.  Revival in America that started just before the Civil War of 1861-1865 lasted almost fifty years.  It was the preamble to the great Pentecostal revival that started in the first decade of the twentieth century.  Just think of the explosion of worship music over the last four decades that fills our churches with creativity and adulation.

In South Africa the Scottish Presbyterian father, Andrew Murray snr and his sons, Andrew and John, had a massive impact on the spiritual awakening commencing in 1860. It lasted several years to later combine with the spirit-filled, miracle-infused missionary work of John G Lake who established Pentecostalism in South Africa.

In 1904 revival broke out in Wales and in 1906 in California (Azusa street).  In Wales people returned stolen goods, confessed fraud, alcoholism was healed, bars closed and the courts were quiet.  The media was stunned and reacted in mocking insults.  Many of our beloved hymns come from the revival in Wales.  Welsh people sometimes still sing hymns at soccer matches.

All these events were marked by prayer.  When spiritual decline was so deep and evident, ordinary people prayed.  For decades the older Andrew Murray prayed for revival every Friday night.  He knew that was the only response to theological liberalism that swept Europe and taught that conversion is not necessary for anyone who has been nurtured in Christianity.  Andrew Murray’s children listened at the study door when he cried out in a loud voice to God, for revival and spiritual awakening.  They waited patiently for him to finish as they knew he would be in a good mood after prayers and full of fun and games with them.  He refused his younger son, also called Andrew, his ambition to complete a PhD after studying in Scotland and the Netherlands.  The spiritual need in South Africa was pressing – no need for more degrees.

During 1860, on a farm east of Cape Town, a young teacher, her cousin and a farmhand started prayer meetings.  The teacher was so appalled with the spiritual depravity of the farmworkers that she prayed for a week every day for hours.  Shortly after her devoted prayer, people started coming to their meetings and praying spontaneously confessing their sins and calling out to God for salvation.  People came from far and wide.  Farming activities had to be suspended for three months to accommodate the people.  When the same thing happened in the village of Wellington, Andrew Murray jnr wanted to stop it and bring order back to the prayer meetings. One evening a stranger stood at the back of the church and approached Murray.  He said in English: ” I think you are the minister of this congregation: be careful what you do, for it is the Spirit of God that is at work here. I have just come from America, and this is precisely what I witnessed there.” 

It is the mighty intervention of God in every person’s life that we desire Pebble Pals.  We proclaim a mighty God for whom nothing is impossible.  We have the solution for the world.  We know what God can do.  We know his mighty deeds and his Word.

Maybe you might not feel comfortable with the working of the Spirit of God.  Do not be put off by the weird and wonderful.  You could even describe it as “fanatic fundamentalism”.  However, we cannot let our prejudice and comfort zone limit the Spirit of God.  It is not a cheap stirring of emotions.  It is the widening of our minds to embrace salvation and healing for our people.

Revival is in our hand.  We can pray, just like all the ordinary people before us.  Revival not only brings the unbeliever to faith; it also stirs the nominal Christian to a deeper life and victorious living amidst adverse circumstances.  The work of the Holy Spirit is sometimes overwhelming and mysterious.  Do not resist when uncertainty wells up.   Jesus said to Nicodemus that the Spirit is like the wind.  Hear the words of Jesus:

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  (John 3:5-8)

Revival is not always controllable.  Just think how awe-inspiring the events on the day of Pentecost were.  That was the day the Church of Jesus was born.

If you are puzzled or confused, go back to the Bible and ask God to direct you.  The written Word of God is our highest authority.  It is given to us in our hand.  

Everything that happens should line up with the Bible.

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, (Ephesians 5:18,19)

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