Azusa Now 2016

I don’t even know how to put it all in words.

The stimulus around me in the Los Angeles Memorial Colliseum with 60K+ people was almost too much to take in, but too glorious to miss!

It took about half an hour before I could get into the stadium at the beginning. The lines fanned out around the coliseum in all directions. I stood next to a man from Australia who came for this event. Behind me a large group of women were speaking Spanish.

When I finally entered the building and found my seat, the stage before me was filled with Koreans who were praying down heaven over America. That’s when my tears started, and there was no stopping them. I decided right then and there that if you have a prayer need, grab a Korean and ask them to pray. I think God Himself could almost be yanked out of heaven through the prayers of these passionate faithful men and women.  In both English and Korean, they prayed for America. Prayers for holiness, faith, hope and love in this land again. They prayed for unity, for forgiveness, and for the life of God to breathe in us again. They prayed for North Korea. They prayed that God would send more South Korean’s to North Korea with the gospel. They were so strong in prayer, and I wept at the blessing and heritage they were sharing with us in Los Angeles.

Prayers went up for the First Nations people of America. They prayed for the end of suicide and alcoholism, they prayed that they would awaken and take their place in the Spirit of God as sons and daughters of God with a purpose and a destiny. It was glorious, it was heart-rending, and it was powerful.

Prayer, worship, and declarations continued. There was the sound of tens of thousands of people lost in worship, singing with all of their hearts with the worship band on the stage who was cranking out music that went right to the very soul, and there was “open” area of the floor of the Coliseum where children, and adults were dancing, waving banners, and even turning cartwheels as they worshiped freely with all of their strength. This beautiful tumult was punctuated with the large group of people cheering and shouting as a man who had come to the event in a wheelchair, was now taking steps around the arena. He was swarmed by people raising iPhones above their heads in hopes of capturing this incredible miraculous moment.

Behind me six rows was a young man praying to be set free from drug addiction while his father wept over him. Students had gathered around this precious family and began to speak life and hope into them.

I couldn’t see it all. Brain cancer was being healed, deaf ears were being opened, six more people got up out of wheelchairs and began to walk, people were giving their lives to Jesus for the first time, and hundreds were coming back to Jesus who had walked away from Him. The miracles were happening all around the stadium, in the outer hallways, in the parking lots, and around the world as people tuned in to watch the event live.

I couldn’t keep from weeping. Hourly, moment by moment for the 15 hours.

The rain would begin to pour, and we in the audience would quickly don our rain coats, or ponchos, pull our hoods up over our heads and I would stand so that the water would run straight down me rather than pooling in my lap.

This was an historic event. One I had prayed to see since I was a teenager asking God to send a revival to our nation. To see on the stage a representative from so many ethnic groups and races represented in prayer, forgiveness, and reconcilliation, was a powerful sight.

 

Lou Engle encouraged all attendees to not interact as though we were there to see an event, but to respond as one Body as the leaders led us in prayer, worship, repentance, and honor. We stood together, we knelt together, we shouted, we prayed, we applauded. When there was a request for silence, the hum and buzz of 60k + people quieted as if a blanket rested on all of us. There were such holy moments.

I flew over 2000 miles to be there, and I didn’t want to miss a thing.

I’m quite sure there will be more to this event that I will process later, but I am so thrilled to have been a part of an event that will shape history. I agree with Lou Engle in this: “The answer to a divided nation is a united church.”

May we continue to forgive, reconcile, and stand with one another for the healing of our nation.

http://www.thecall.com/azusa

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Goodbye Outer Court

I find it amazing that many times in life, I find myself making decisions and drawing conclusions without complete facts or data.  There is this desire to sit in the “outer court” with others and speculate, pontificate, postulate, induce, and deduce meaning, purpose, judgement, and actions.  O, the blogosphere of ideas!  We have come up with answers for almost everything–we just need to sway the audience in our direction.  And we can “succeed”, to some degree, in convincing others we know what we are talking about as long as not all the facts are presented.  Sometimes we don’t know all the facts, and other times we don’t want to know. Let me give you some examples:

1, From my living room in Homer, Alaska, I speculate on what happened to the Malaysian jet that disappeared, using knowledge available to me from the internet (true or untrue).  I can read articles, watch news casts, and talk with friends and neighbors.  I can unravel the mystery, come to a reasonable conclusion, and be utterly wrong because I do not have all the facts.  Perhaps someone or someones out there knows exactly what happened, and is keeping it a secret.  I don’t know.

2. I am in the jury box selected to decide the guilt or innocence of an offending minor, and as the testimonies are presented, information leaks out–important information that could sway the case one way or another, and it is quickly stricken from the record and not allowable as evidence in the case.  We the jury debate and grovel over someone’s permanent criminal record using just a few pieces of the puzzle while internally begging that they would release more, since we know there is. Again, from the sidelines, our information has been limited, therefore our judgement may be wrong.

3. I have a secret sin.  Others around me have theirs too.  None of us want to judge the other because in doing so, it will expose us.  So we argue in the outer court.  We rationalize our sin.  “We have good reasons why we don’t need to break off that relationship.”  “No one needs to tell us what to do in our private lives.”  “God made me this way, what else does He expect?” “It doesn’t matter that we didn’t honor our contracts, our agreements, our word.  No one else does either.”  We brag about our laziness, go on and on about our addictions, tell hundreds of stories of our misbehaving children, our lack of self-control, and take no responsibility.  This is the Outer Court after all.  There is no judge here.  I might be wrong, but no one here is going to tell me.  No one here knows all the particulars.

What if i could know the facts?  What would I do then?  When it comes to our hearts, there is an answer.

God calls me into relationship with Him that brings me out of the “Outer Court”.  He calls me to leave the “God wants me to be happy” zone, and calls me into intimacy with Him.  Very few will venture here.  Here is where I learn the hard truth.  Here is where the ugliness gets exposed.  From my motives to the execution of my actions, every mystery is unraveled.    This is what happens in intimacy.  I find out that my secret sins are not a secret.  I am exposed for the lies I have covered.  I have no excuses for the responsibilities I have let go of.

God’s holiness and character demand that I come clean.  God’s kindness draws me to repentance.  God’s mercy allows me to make a u-turn.  God’s Spirit empowers me to choose Him over my secrets.  God’s love renews my purpose and infuses my hope.  God’s faithfulness establishes the reasons why I need to honor His Word.

Out here in the outer court, I justify myself, because I look pretty smart out here. I deflect the conversations off of me, and pin my troubles on another.  Even “Born into Sin” becomes my banner.  I am what I am.  Live and let live.  But in the inner-court, where the real judge sits, where the coach of the team calls the plays, where the laws of God call me out, where the Mastermind behind every mystery executes His plans–this is where I have been called to live.

See, intimacy can be defined “into me—see”.  It’s where our lives are vulnerable and naked before the One to whom we must give an account.  But not vulnerable to be exploited–no that is not God’s character.  Vulnerable to be corrected, covered, clothed, and cared for. Here is the crazy thing–God is what our soul desires.  He is the satisfaction of all of our yearnings.  He is the fullest expression of every virtue we know, and the only source of it–but we are afraid. Why should we go there?  For the very reasons I stated above–all of our longings are met in God.  Every desire and yearning of our heart has a fulfillment in Him.  “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” (St. Augustine of Hippo)

What else do we find in this “Inner Court”?  Mercy, grace, love, forgiveness, a fresh page to write our lives on, hope, compassion, purpose, meaning, healing, satisfaction, direction, wisdom, miracles, humility, power, and life.  See–it’s everything we long for when we are wasting away in the outer court, drowning in our excuses.  It’s the power to start again and change the direction of our lives.  Instead of living for the “outer court”, we boldly approach the throne room of God and ask for help.

Where is this “Inner Court”?  It is in the presence of God.  How do you get there?  You ask Him to take you there.  You read His Words (The Bible), You pray, You worship, and like David you say, “Search me O God and know my heart.  Test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there be any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Psalm 139:23-24

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Hungry for revival?  Say goodbye to life in the Outer Court.

 

Own Your Hunger

Some dear friends of ours who were missionaries in Papua New Guinea for over 30 years were sharing a story with us one day about some of the frustrations they had in the village where they served.  These friends were sent by New Tribes Missions, into a small village in a remote part of the country where the gospel had not yet been heard.  Their job was to learn the language of the people and then translate the Bible into that language and find ways to present the gospel to them in a way they could understand.  This particular tribe was a tribe of hunters and gatherers who lived day to day on the meat they trapped, or hunted, and on the herbs or trees that they collected that day or that week.

Seeing the need for sustainable food for these people, my friends began to order corn seed from their mission station to be delivered to them in the village where they could plant it and teach the people to plant, tend and harvest their own vegetables or produce.  And so it began, the missionaries placed the seed in the ground, watered it, weeded it, fertilized it and produced a crop of corn with enough of it’s own seed to be used in the next planting.  It was a fantastic idea that they brought to the field, that sadly died in the field.

Here’s what happened:  They would teach the people to plant the seeds in the ground, but in this harvesting/gathering culture, there wasn’t time or attention given to the seedlings to be sure they grew.  The gardens were unattended during the days and nights and the wild pigs would come in and root up anything that thought about growing, eat it and leave the garden destroyed.  The plants that would miraculously survive and grow into full ears of corn were consumed immediately and none of the seed set aside to plant again.  So, the locals would return to the missionaries on a regular basis asking for more seed to plant since theirs was consumed.

I remember hearing the story and thinking, “Why in the world didn’t the people catch on to the fact that they needed a sustainable food supply?”  It seemed logical to me that they should apply themselves to planting and farming, but alas, my 20/20 vision here would prove to be fuzzy in another area of life where I live….

Now travel to my continent and visit the churches where my culture and generation go to worship.  You will see the same frustration on the faces of the pastors and workers as you would have seen on my missionary friends.  Week after week, year after year, many of these pastors and leaders labor over the scriptures.  Gleaning insight and wisdom, nurturing faith, and applying truths they have learned, many pastors will devote over 30 hours to the one sermon they will prepare on Sunday morning.  Within the study and presentation of the message will be enough “seed” to plant and grow for a lifetime and certainly enough to feed one for a week of time.  But the same problem persists.  Our culture doesn’t know what to do with the seed.  There isn’t any time devoted to nurturing the seed or be sure it is growing properly.  Our busy, hectic schedules find us running constantly and leaving our spiritual life at the mercy of the elements and our enemy.  While we are out hunting and gathering possessions, positions, and reputation, our spiritual gardens wither and die off.  We don’t put fences or boundaries around our spiritual lives; but instead we allow them to be opened up to whatever wild hog happens to be running through.  Sometimes that wild hog will be the movies we watch or the company we keep.  Our sustainable life is consumed before we know it.

Then there is Sunday when we run back to our churches and places of worship and say “Feed me!  That last seed didn’t take, and we are hungry!  Not only that, but we have children too and they need fed.”  It’s common to hear Christians say that their church just doesn’t feed them or meet their spiritual needs, or that it would be a better church if it had better programs for their children, or their teenagers.  The problem, however, often lies in the lifestyle of we who come hungry.  Are we feeding ourselves throughout the week?  Are we feeding and nurturing our own children?  Are we tending our own spiritual lives, or leaving them unattended?

I hear so much talk of revival, and honestly the “talk” part has worn me out.  Who will actually own their own hunger?  That’s my question.  If we are really hungry for the things of God, then why aren’t we planting, nurturing, and tending our own spiritual life?  If we are desiring more of God, why aren’t we looking for Him or seeking Him faithfully with our free time?  If we want victory over our addictions and sins, why aren’t we inviting accountability into our lives and doing the hard work of repentance and changing?  Why does our garden look like it’s been ransacked by hogs?  Where is the seed to get us through tomorrow and our children through their childhood?  Doesn’t revival start in our heart and then work it’s way out from there?  And if our churches aren’t meeting all of our hungers and needs, isn’t there a way that we can bring into our live the kind of prayer partners that will  pray with us and encourage us on this path to revival?  What exactly do we need?

Why do we ask Him for revival when we are not willing to take steps of repentance?  Why should our churches make the worship longer or the prayer times more frequent, if we have no plans to cultivate that part of our lives throughout the week and watch it take root?  Why should we desire better programs for our children, when we intend to let them watch ungodly movies and tv shows, surf the internet unattended, and play games we have never screened nor plan to pay attention to?  What is the sense in that?

My point is this, revival will happen when we own our own hunger.  When we really sincerely believe that our spiritual life and the lives of our children are worth protecting, nurturing, cultivating, and continuing.  Revival’s earmarks will be repentance, accountability, prayer, study, and love for one another on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  Instead of wild hogs running through our lives on the weekends, you will see us tending our fences and teaching our children.   The Holy Spirit will have so much to work with because we will have finally turned our lives over to this Jesus that we call “Lord”.  Instead of one pastor growing a garden to feed a village, the village will grow the gardens that feed the world.  That’s how the gospel is spread.  That is how the gospel is enjoyed.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2Chronicles 7:14