Over lunch yesterday, a much younger pastor and I talked about our calling, about the future of the Church. I’m getting ready to take a seat on the sidelines; he’s coming into his prime years of productivity but both of us have questions about how Christianity will be lived in the coming years.
How will the Church look coming out of the pandemic years?
Will people return to the congregation or ‘privatize’ their faith?
How will the message of Christ find a way into the hearts and minds of the younger generation of which about 4 in 10 are stated, “nones,” meaning that they self-identify as having no spiritual preference?
Much more personally, I ask myself, “Jerry, what will your faith life look like as you move into your retirement years, away from leadership in the local church? Will you stay vital and strong in the Lord, your commitment to Him the core of your life?”
We are all in constant need of revival, an infusion of the Life of the Spirit that keeps our faith from turning into a relic, focused on some memory of yesteryear. Some of us will see that word, ‘Revival’ and it will bring to mind a week of church meetings conducted by a fiery preacher who stirs up a surge of emotional enthusiasm. That could be a partial idea but spiritual revival is more. For others a ‘revival’ is seen in the launch of a moral cause, the birth of a new church program, or the construction of a house of worship. Not really, though those things can bring a temporary renewal. Revival certainly is not rolling back time to recapture some moment of spiritual ecstasy.
Ezekiel’s famous vision, that weird one in chapter 37, defines revival for me! The preacher saw a valley full of old, dry bones. “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” (Ezekiel 37:1-3, NIV)
At the Lord’s command, he preached the Word of the Lord to those bones. Before his eyes they rattled, arranged into skeletons, took on flesh; and the wind of the Spirit blew over them restoring life. What a vision. God said, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord!” (Ezekiel 37:4, NLT) Ezekiel’s responses –“So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet-a great army.” (Ezekiel 37:10, NLT)
The breath of the Spirit can and will bring life to people and places that resemble a valley of dry bones! If your soul is dry, your heart without a love for Jesus, if your eyes have lost a vision of the Most Holy One – the answer is a revival, a renewal of life.
God can make the dead live again!
“Won’t you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6, NLT)
“O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years.” (Habakkuk 3:2, KJV)
“For this is what the high and lofty One says- he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15, NIV)
“Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence.” (Hosea 6:1-2, NLT)
It is a real mistake to think that we can manufacture a revival – in our own heart or in our church – with more meetings, more hype, or pumped up emotions. Those ‘revivals’ are more like a circus that comes through town, creates a little excitement and then moves on. Genuine revival starts in our heart, work of the Spirit of God that is deep, personal, and persistent. While we cannot make it happen, we can prepare for revival, hunger for renewal, and wait on the Lord.
First, we pray. In our prayers we confess our desire and ask the Lord to send the Word anew that makes us live!
Second, we humble ourselves, acknowledging Who He is – Majesty enthroned – and we are – His children in need.
Third, we turn to Him; “here I am, Lord; all that I am, all that I am not. It is You I desire more than anything or anyone.”
I am praying for revival, knowing full well that when the Holy Spirit shows up, He comes as a disrupter, asking for change.
Will I let Him own my life, change my heart, fill my mind? This is the heart of spiritual revival.
Here’s the word from the Word. It is more of Ezekiel’s strange vision. My prayer is that it becomes a template of renewal for 2021.
“Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord.’ “ (Ezekiel 37:11-14, NKJV)
(a song from Delirious, a rewind to 2004!)
Looks like tonight the sky is heavy
Feels like the winds are gonna change
Beneath my feet the earth is ready
I know it’s time for heaven’s rain
It’s gonna rain
‘Cause it’s living water we desire ’cause
To flood our hearts with holy fire
Rain down all around the world we’re singing
Rain down can you hear the earth is singing
Rain down my heart is dry but still I’m singing
Rain down rain it down
Back to the start my heart is heavy
Feels like it’s time to dream again
I see the clouds and yes I’m ready
To dance upon this barren land
Hope in my hands
Do not shut do not shut
Do not shut the heavens
But open up open up
Open up our hearts
Rain down all around the world
We’re singing rain down
Give me strength to cross the water
Keep my heart upon Your altar
Give me strength to cross this water
Keep my feet don’t let me falter
Rain Down © 2004 Curious Music UK (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)
Martin Smith | Stuart Garrard
CCLI License No. 810055