Longing for Revival pt1

Every once in a while, I read a book that provokes, incites, and inspires. It challenges my beliefs and apathy. “Longing for Revival” is one of those books.

In the first ch, author James Choung talks about his hatred for the word “revival” and shares why. I had similar feelings and experiences. Growing up in a pentecostal holiness church, we had “DISTRICT SERVICES” and youth camps where a revival type preacher would tell us that we need to be hungry for God and nothing else. For hours, we’d pray and ask God to use us for His glory. We wanted to the power of the Holy Ghost so that we could see the nations saved.

Some of it (much of it) was lots of emotionalism because most campers and service attenders just went back to life as usual (me included). But there were also sincere moments when I sensed something happening that was bigger than myself. I sensed a purity to the whole of the message: to give ourselves completely over to God and allow him to have his way in our lives. So when I began reading “Longing for Revival” and James started with his story, I immediately related.

I’ve been praying for revival in my own heart and for the City of Oceanside. While I’ve placed a pause on church planting, my heart still wants to see revival break out in our great city.

What I felt lacked in my childhood faith was how to sustain a faith that included a holistic view of scripture, the church, self-hood, and strategy. We didn’t debrief our experiences much, nor did we have deeper theological, scriptural roots. We had what the authors call “high mystery/low strategy” (p.162). And it’s true! We had access to God’s power and experienced dreams, prophetic words, and healings. But none of it translated to reach the community, be on mission, or even to see spiritual transformation in our lives (shaped into the image of Jesus). We didn’t have practical strategies to sustain God’s presence and to be mobilized for mission. This discouraged me many times and so the word revival became a hype, sensationalism-emotional experience. Nothing else.


I love the author’s definition of revival:

“A season of breakthroughs
in word, deed, and power
that ushers in a new normal
of kingdom experience and fruitfulness”

Longing for Revival, by James Choung and Ryan Pfeiffer. p.17

Like great visionaries and strategists (that in some ways feels like a company vision statement), they break down each line-phrase, unpacking their choice of words and why they each matter. It’s worth chewing on ch1 just for the vision and breakdown of it!

The definition of revival seems to have deep roots in Romans 15 where Paul says that he has “fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” Their take is that when Paul says “fully”, it might point to more of a holistic view of the gospel which involves (as Paul says)

  • word – “what I have said”
  • deed – “what I have done”
  • power – “by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit”

These three words will continue to resonate and resound in the book!

I skipped the first part of the definition (I think I’d rather refer to it as a VISION statement) but it was a breath of fresh air that revival is a season. It doesn’t last forever. It has a rhythm to it that must be discerned and attended to. None of the weather seasons last forever. Neither does a season of breakthroughs. Many of my upbringing experiences were about holding on to those feelings of revival and I didn’t realize they were for a season SO THAT we might be sent into the world as missionary signposts and servants, learning to be a faithful witness fully proclaiming the Gospel of Christ (in word, deed, and power).

Lastly, a fully proclaimed gospel that leads to revival creates a new normal. As I think about the purpose of the Church, I need to keep remembering that we are to become more and more like the image of Christ Jesus. We are to be transformed, conformed into being “little Jesus’s”. The gospel creates a new normal in our lives. But it should also spill out into the other realms of our lives: a new normal at work, school, campus, marriage, relationships, family, music, etc!

Don’t we long for a new normal?
Don’t we finish out the year hoping for a new normal in the coming year?

It’s why we need Jesus to revive us and cause us to be empowered by the Spirit for his Kingdom sake.

This book will be one that I keep going back to this new year as I long for revival in my own life and in my ministry setting. I needed to read this book at this season of life and ministry.

Advent Hope

Psychology has done a wonderful job of giving us words and concepts such as vulnerability and the false or shadow self to talk about our weaknesses.

The AA or 12 step program starts with the admission of powerlessness.

The Bible starts (in Genesis) with two concepts of humanity:

  1. Original goodness
  2. Original sin

We need a way of looking at both our God given identity (of original goodness) and admitting our sins (the shadow self). It’s how we become most human and reflect a divine image in this world.

The appointed prayer of the week during the Advent season helps us to be vulnerable about our sins but also looks toward the coming of Christ in our lives so that we might reflect a new “original goodness” identity. We admit that our powerless to be this new type of original goodness person and need help from a Higher Power.

Prayer

“Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Grant us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.†”

Ten Missiological Principles

Many moments of learning to be faithful lead me back to simple things like God’s desire to be near and close to humanity and creation. The God of the Bible is not one to be distant, full of vengeance, or cold-rigid-frigid. Incarnational, caring, compassionate, just. That’s the God of the Bible.

Followers of Jesus are called and sent into the world to be a certain type of person, live by a certain morality, and represent a King that is transcendent…yet in our midst. We are to live a compelling life that looks and feels like the heart of Jesus.

Ronald Rolheiser has become a spiritual mentor through his writings. I hope to have coffee, lunch, or dinner with him one day. In the piece he wrote here, there are ten missiological (being on a mission) principles to help us live out our faith in a secular society.

This spoke to me at a profound level:

“3) Spirituality is peoples’ birthright. The secular culture hungers for spirituality, but is largely spiritually illiterate. People go where they get fed.”

Ron Rolheiser

You’ll have to read the article for the other 9. Worth the read.

A Precious Container of Enough

I’m doing this Ignatian Spirituality Daily Devotional this month. It’s been great! Today’s was especially encouraging. I was listening to it on my run through the neighborhood.

A prayer I needed this morning. What I have (and offer) is enough…because it loves You!

“Lord,
I am a precious container of love,
genuine and costly.
When it is time to pour it out,
don’t let me get too lost in calculation,
or worry about wasting it.
Don’t let my desire to love others
get drowned out by the voices that tell me it’s pointless.
Give me the courage to break the jar,
and let me hear you say that what I offer is enough,
because it loves you.”

Jesuit Prayer inspired from the Gospel of Mark ch.14

https://www.pathwaystogod.org/day-22-challenge

Being the Beloved

Pain is a teller of grief and loss.

[silence]

The hardest thing for me to believe is that I am loved and lovable. I can hide behind a veneer of victimization (“what about me” syndrome) as a zone to protect myself. But it leads to more sadness and depression. And then the voice of shame really goes to work on me, robbing me of any feeling of being at home with myself.

[silence]

I long to…

  • love and be loved
  • understand and be understood
  • see and be seen
  • value and be valued
  • hear and be heard
  • know and be known
  • like and be liked

[silence]

Like Mary looking for Jesus at the tomb, I too am looking for something that I’ve lost, something that gets taken from me: the voice of being loved. Failure, shame, guilt…take it from me.

Something has died in me and I’m looking for where it might have gone.

Why am I grieving? And what am I looking for? Two questions for the journey. I’ve lost the voice of being the beloved. I’m hoping to hear it again.

[silence]

“Do not be afraid for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name – you are mine…
Because you are precious in my presence, you have been glorified,
and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:1-4)

Spiritual Awakenings

For a long time, I wanted to be admired and liked, so much that I didn’t know who I really was. As I get into my 40s, I have felt more exposed and in touch with my failings. It’s felt raw and overwhelming at times.

But I’m grateful for a spouse and friends who remind me of who I am. They’ve been a presence of encouragement throughout my inner struggles to shed false identities and claim belovedness.

There’s more to come. There’s more I’d love to accomplish. But I’m grateful that if I don’t hit my personal goals, I’m loved.

During Holy Week, I long to know that my false self doesn’t inhibit God’s grace and compassion towards me. I long to know this new reality that Jesus offers through death and resurrection.

Healing False Images of God

They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+6&version=NIV;MSG

I once heard someone say that the moment you ask “why”, you’re a theologian. And we all ask why, which means we all have some kind of working image of God.

The Christian faith says Christ Jesus is the full revelation of God. God incarnate. Emmanuel, God with us. For 3.5 years, Jesus is near and revealing Himself. Most don’t get who He is. His 11 disciples (one of them betrays him) don’t get Him completely.

We’re constantly imposing our image of ourselves onto God.
“Isn’t he the son of Joseph?”
“Jesus can’t be the bread of life!”
“We grew up with him, in Nazareth. We know His parents!”

Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t react to our images of Him. He is “self-differentiated” enough to be who He is: King of kings and Lord of lords. Our idolatrous impositions don’t move him.

Yet we are to pray for a truth based image of God that rightly sees Him as King and Lord, aligning our lives to His purposes and goodness. Jesus is admonishing the pharisees to see Him for who He really is. This will take some self-reflection on their part.

Our prayer today is that we would be people who allow God to be God, imaging Him for the King and Lord that He is.

Mystery Reveals My Heart

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

In Christian tradition, one great claim and aim is to be made in the image of God. This means to experience a transformation such that we become who we have always been: children of God who imitate the One who creates and loves. Orthodox theologians call this theosis: the process of becoming one with God.

In this union with Christ, we become as He is. “Christ becomes like us (incarnation) that we might become like him (theosis).”

My assertion is that this process of theosis most happens in mystery and suffering. Moses becomes a holy person through his own desert experience after leaving everything he knows: Egyptian living, customs, and rites. His Egyptian identity is shattered when he learns of his Hebrew roots. This crisis of identity leads him to act in ways contrary to God-like character, shifting him into the desert for 40 years. He enters a mystery, a great unknown.

Jesus enacts the Christ identity most on the cross when He takes on sin and death, trusting that the Father is not limited by death. Since Christ is the ultimate icon of theosis, we might dismiss the example and say, “Well, this is Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” and be done with the story. But incarnation and theosis are claiming that we too will go through our own process of desert/cross/mystery.

I’m in a season of mystery and am handling more like Moses, pre-desert. I’m more like Peter who is sold out and convinced one moment, but then betrays Jesus the next.

To be in a season of mystery and the great unknown shake my core of trust, destabilizes my devotion to Christ, and causes a feeling petulance. How’s that for someone who claims to trust and follow God?!

The word mystery is about hiddenness and is closely related to mystic. To be a mystic requires a self-surrender (a kenosis…self-emptying) to the Great Mystery. I don’t know what this all means, but I’m comforted by the reality not all of life is explained away in three easy steps to success.

It brings my comfort to know that I am called to surrender to Mystery and be shaped by God to be like him in all things. During this lenten season, life feels dark, foggy, and cloudy. There are a few unknown variables in my life that are driving me crazy. I can’t control them or make them go away. I’ve been angry and irritable, much like Moses and Peter. The mystery of circumstances has revealed my childish and immature response. Mystery has revealed my heart…and it’s not pretty.

Last night during a worship time at our church, Christina broke script and sang a song that was not our list. I don’t remember the lyrics, mostly because I was confronted with a sense of the Holy. I put my drumsticks down, stood up, palms up. I was frozen and paralyzed in what felt like God’s focused presence. I remembered Isaiah 6:

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=isaiah%206&version=NIV

In that moment, all I could do is surrender to Mystery and the Holy. When I got up this morning, I had a deeper hope and one that had the courage to surrender to Mystery.

I don’t have answers to some of my perplexing questions. But I have a sense of God’s presence in the Mystery and a grace to surrender.

Article: Sacred/Secular and loss of divine action

It seems like today’s cultural view on God has shifted mainly towards His inaction. Faith in our culture seems to have little to no transcendent quality. There is no more “mystery, transformation, and ontological encounter”. The writer’s use of baptism and the ontological reality that happens is getting lost.

Taylor’s perspective gives us both a window into the challenges we face and an explanation of why faith-formation initiatives have missed the mark. Seeing secular3 as the construct of an immanent frame allows us to see why a deeper theological construct is necessary, for the believability of divine action itself has come under question. To discuss faith in ministry, we are compelled to do so theologically, exploring how transcendence might be testified to in a secular age of unbelief.

https://www.catalystresources.org/faith-formation-in-a-secular-age/

Brene Brown on Midlife Unraveling

I felt my life start to unravel last year. Questions of life significance, my body feeling different “chronic” conditions, and feeling the depression of “is this IT?” Unraveling is a better way to describe what is happening.

Midlife is not a crisis. Midlife is an unraveling.
By definition, you can’t control or manage an unraveling. You can’t cure the midlife unraveling with control any more than the acquisitions, accomplishments, and alpha-parenting of our thirties cured our deep longing for permission to slow down and be imperfect.
Midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:
I’m not screwing around. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.

https://brenebrown.com/blog/2018/05/24/the-midlife-unraveling/