Monthly Archives: August 2013
Revival through the family
A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity; But the rebellious dwell in a dry land. (Psalm 68:5, 6)
TURNING THE ATTENTION TO THE FAMILY
The above passage reveals that it is God’s clear goal to heal, support, and preserve the family. In his infinite mercy, he is willing to make good on the losses and injustices which have been suffered. The family was planned out to be the proper environment, the emotional womb which generates healthy children, destined to consistent spiritual growth.
It has been clearly proven that people born outside of the protection and love of a family environment become insecure. This insecurity manifests itself in various forms of self-rejection and rebellion. This is where the deepest problems of any individual are rooted.
The most intense areas of spiritual warfare don’t begin outside in the world where the demons are throwing a party. The primary spiritual battlefield is inside the walls of the church, and is the most arduous strategy of the enemy’s attack, which is always characterized by a form of infiltration. In other words, it is in the mind, the family and the church that we will face the greatest Satanic investments. The point of attack invariably begins with the principle of attacking the authority figure. “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” (Matthew 26:31)
The main pillar of the family is the father figure, who is the divine reference point for the children and the wife. The absence of the father figure imposes a state of widowhood and orphanhood that destabilizes the family environment, provoking insecurity and a lack of protection. This is why Satan appears as the father of orphanhood.
We must not deceive ourselves: the strategy of attack of the enemy is against the father figure. This is readily evident in observing world religions. In Brazil there is a matriarchal religious system, run primarily by female patron Saints that, under a pretext of intercession, block the relationship with God the Father.
In Catholicism there is a big “mother of God” with the “Little Lord Jesus” in her arms and a father that never appears on the scene. This world outlook has manifested itself in the family situation shipwrecking relationships. Almost all the problems related to the wife and children are collateral effects of a father who for whatever reason, failed in fulfilling his proper place in the family. What we see so much of nowadays due to adultery and alcoholism are families with absent fathers, a “supermom” who takes on all the responsibilities, and due to her impulses motivated by insecurity becomes a “home Sargent” with the children suffering all the collateral effects of this inversion of roles.
As incredible as it may sound, in all the cultures of the world, the most common expression of Satan is as a “mother”. This is emotionally very strategic. Satan is an expert in transfiguring himself into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). These are frontal attacks, however subtle, against the fatherhood of God.
In the above passage from Psalm 68, God is presented as our main reference point for fatherhood. While the devil is the father of orphanhood, God is the father of the orphans, the protector of widows and the restorer of families. He has never abdicated this position in relation to the human race. Even though the human race has become lost through sin, he still adopts us thereby redeeming our sonship.
Jesus gave up his right as the “only begotten son” of God to become the “firstborn” of many brethren. Through the incredibly expensive price of his death and resurrection, he included us in his kingdom and family. We have been taken hostage by death, victims of our own sins. We were separated from God, but Jesus paid the price for our ransom and brought us back, giving us the Holy Spirit that cries out “Abba father!” Through his sacrifice he brought us into his family; not as slaves to religiosity, but as true children of God who can enjoy total liberty and have intimate access to the heart of the Father.
This is the dynamic of family restoration. The fatherhood of God exposes the company of loneliness, opens the prisons of rejection and makes the personality prosper. However, for God to break the chains of fatherlessness in our lives, we must first break the chains of rebellion in our lives. As long as we fail to do this, we will live in a totally sterile spiritual and emotional realm. We must choose to release our rights as victims and be baptized through the ministry of reconciliation.
“And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.” (Malachi 4:6)
The curses of the land are directly related to the destruction of the structure of the family principle. This is the heart of the battlefield. The human race has been a victim of a satanic conspiracy to control the family. Sins, family conflicts and misalignments have the tendency to self-perpetuate, adversely conditioning successive generations. Many times it is not easy to resolve such situations and disarm these schemes of curses. It requires not only the search for a correct diagnosis through intelligent spiritual mapping, but also an adequate treatment and the whole process of renewal, instruction and transformation of the mind.
The spiritual leader and the family
In life we juggle many balls. Most of them are made of rubber, and if we drop them we are able to pick them up and continue juggling. The family, however, is like a glass ball. If we drop this ball, it will break. And if we lose it, we will lose the game of life. There is no success that can compensate for failure in the family. Ministry, friends, work, finances and even health are all rubber balls. If we lose them, we can easily get them back. However, if we lose our family, the spiritual trauma, especially for a leader to continue to be a leader, will be fatal.
In these situations not only have many leaders fallen to the wayside, but many churches also have been traumatized and imprisoned in terrible legacies of morality, division and curses. This path leads in the opposite direction of revival.
And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4)
This passage establishes the motivational platform of the citizens of Babel. Wrong motives can suddenly fragment the process of growth. This verse shows us four transgressions which make up the motives of those people and caused their unity to result in a doomed process of confusion and dispersion.
Let us build for ourselves – self-centeredness and possessiveness
In developing the work of God, a self-seeking attitude of building it for ourselves is very dangerous. The hidden motive of building it for ourselves expresses open rebellion against the Lordship of Christ. It is not the style of leadership but the spirit of leadership that can be a problem in this respect: whether we consider ourselves owners or stewards, masters or servants, pastors or rulers. To lead is to guide, to serve and to care for. What is the true motive behind our ministry? Are we serving the church or using the people?
In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul states that God gave pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc. to the church. He didn’t say that God gave the church to pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc. Leaders belong to the body of Christ but the body of Christ does not belong to leaders.
When leaders feel that they are the owners of the ministry, they begin to manipulate people. Leaders begin to see their own objectives as primary and people as secondary. Their prayer life of is substituted for excessive demands on people and their dependence on God is replaced by the manipulation of their staff. They make their own decisions independently of God’s authorization, and thus rebel against God’s will. All of this happens very subtly and under the cloak of spirituality.
This was one of the most serious sins of the religious class of Jesus’s time. This is why he confronted them with various parables one of which is the rented vineyard (Matthew 21:33-34), the evil steward (Matthew 24:48-51) and others. These are the people who coerce others to do the work of God. These people stop being servants and became masters. Jesus leaves us with the key question:
“When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” (Matthew 21:40)
When we lose the recognition that we are mere stewards, the enemy begins to inject various strategies of control which begin to wear us down and destroy our relationships. Manipulation, domination, greed, disguised extortion, and various other attitudes motivated by insecurity and fear of losing control and reputation will implode our relationship with God and place us in a spiritual situation in which even though we feel confident, in reality we are on the verge of collapse.
A tower whose top will reach into heaven – megalomania
God is great and certainly has great things for each one of us. However, he never starts with something big and ready to go. The motivation based on megalomania usually is host to pride and arrogance. This motivation can cause us to stumble over a whole series of divine principles such as humility, faithfulness in the little, unity, etc.
All of us are impressed with big and majestic things. Maybe the greatest danger of this type of motivation is that it leads us into forgetting about God. This type of moral amnesia has brought many empires to total destruction. This was the divine verdict over the people of Edom, who arrogantly went too far in their judgment against Israel:
The pride of your heart has deceived you, You who dwell in the clefts of the rock, Whose habitation is high; You who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’ Though you ascend as high as the eagle, And though you set your nest among the stars, From there I will bring you down,” says the Lord. (Obadiah 1:3-4)
Re: the great Temple of Jerusalem, Jesus said that there would not be one stone left upon another that would not be knocked down, because they had forgotten God and rejected the prophetic word. They got so stubborn after the success that they had achieved that they were unable to discern the divine visitation. Under the pretext of protecting their religious structure, they assassinated the Messiah – God’s revival in person. They locked themselves into so many rules and regulations that they lost the essence of relationship with God.
They became insensitive to the presence of God to such a point that they not only “did the work of God without God” but also “did the work of God against God”.
The danger of large religious structures is that they makes us feel untouchable, so secure that we no longer need God, thus the Holy Spirit retreats together with his blessing. When this happens we feel that we are above divine correction, and we ourselves define the height of our fall.
Jesus took us out of an empire, the “power of darkness”, and transferred us into his “kingdom of love” (Colossians 1:13). The words “power” and “kingdom” are motivationally antagonistic just as “controlling” and “serving”. When a church stops being part of the kingdom it becomes an empire, megalomania, self-sufficient motivation is placed in check.
Let us make a name for ourselves – idolizing a reputation
Self-affirmation and the love for fame are dangerous tendencies that also reveal a personality imbalanced by insecurity.
Are we building a tower or an altar? A tower is a memorial and a monument to itself. An altar is a place of total surrender to God. This is the basis of true worship. What are we building for God? The Bible says that Saul built a monument on Mount caramel in his own honor. His motivation in making his kingdom into a tower brought his kingdom to decadence and chaos. He was sternly rebuked by God.
David also went through a similar situation being tempted by Satan in the same way. He sinned against God by counting his people, trusting in the growth and potential of his army. He sinned against God ignoring that: “the horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.” (Proverbs 21:31).
In the end though, David repented and submitted himself to divine correction. To demonstrate his attitude of humility he built an altar to God on the threshing floor of Araunah, where Solomon later built a temple. In this way he had the promise of his reign sealed by an eternal covenant which fulfilled itself in Christ.
We must not build our identity solely on what we do. Intimacy with God is the greatest key deployed in the formation of our identity. We must not simply seek out the ministry. This can be a way of further feeding our insecurity and running from God’s dealings with us. We must first seek the Lord, and he will establish us in his ministry.
We must not seek out a position because of the advantages we can get from it. Instead, we must serve the body of Christ through our gifts. By exercising them, in due course we will be placed where we belong. We shouldn’t seek the affirmation of men; rather, we must focus on God’s approval so that he will show us approved before men.
The lust for fame is a temptation that has overcome many. Fame in this case is a “reward” that the devil gives so that people do not become that which God planned them to be. Every time we become intoxicated by vainglory, self-worship or fame we move further away from our identity in God.
The way for us to become what God wants us to be is worship. Worship releases the revelation of our identity. But self-affirmation shuts us up even more in structures of insecurity.
Lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth – (“stay” instead of “go”) – possessiveness and apathy.
This defensive attitude reveals the heart of those men. They were being strongly motivated by fear and insecurity. A motive based on self-promotion does not lead us in the great commission, but rather the “great omission.”
God’s original plan for the earth is revealed in the first chapter of the Bible:
“And God bless them, and God said to them, “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28)
Once again the original plan of God, which is spelled out later in the New Testament through the great commission of Jesus, is confirmed to Noah, the new beginning of the human race: and God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:11)
The intention of God was to fill the earth. When we lose the goal of filling the earth with the knowledge of the glory of God, then confusion, division and the lack of understanding enters in. When we sin against the responsibility to disciple nations, we are compromising the quality of the growth.
The most efficient strategy of sanctification is evangelism. Evangelism makes the difference between those who whose feet are sunk into worldliness and those whose feet are shod with the preaching of the gospel of peace and clothed with the armor of God.
We lose the blessing when we stop being a blessing. When the church loses the view of the lost world and becomes a “tiny empire”, it is a sign that is being controlled by insecure people and no longer guided by the Holy Spirit. This explains why there are so many people who still haven’t heard the gospel. This seeming unity based on fear and insecurity buries the authority of the church and endangers the quality of the growth.
The antidote to this toxin that sickened the motives of humankind in Babel only came at Pentecost through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The first thing the Holy Spirit did was to break the religious sophistry that fed the bias and apathy of the church in relation to the Gentiles.
The first message of Pentecost was a view of different people of various languages. This apostolic missionary vision reached its peak with Paul, the greatest apostle to the Gentiles. The primitive church maintained the quality of growth because it had a distinguishing characteristic: the boldness to witness. They brought the gospel to the hands of the known world. Biblically they were more than a witness, they were martyrs. The Greek word used for witness in the New Testament is “martyrs”. They paid the price of obedience and evangelized the world and their generation.
Unfortunately there is a generalized evil in the church: many want to find a way to serve God without the direct involvement in the great commission of making disciples of the nations. More than ever the church needs a “touch of eternity”.
The obedience to Jesus’s command to “go” is the key to unity, understanding and ministry complimentary of the body of Christ. This was the last commandment Jesus left us. When we don’t do what God has commanded us to do we begin to do what he has commanded us not to do and this is where curses, confusion and divisions begin. The church which becomes an end in itself is condemned to the same destiny as the Tower of Babel.
If in any way we are not directly involved in the great commission, we can be certain that there is something very wrong with “our gospel” and with our lives.
What does the last commandment of Jesus mean to us; a “great opinion” in which only some must be involved? A “great omission” because we feel that it is not for us and therefore must only apply to others? Or “the great commission”, the commandment for everyone in which we have a commitment to fulfill our part completely?
One simplified version of Babel was exemplified by Jesus himself in the New Testament. He speaks of a man who prospered so much that he tore down his barns and built even larger ones. The motive of this man was founded in personal interests and in seeking out security in this world. This is when the church becomes a barn and a platform to guarantee success and human comfort. But suddenly a verdict is heard:
But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:20-21)
Has your church become a “missionary barn”?
What are you building, a tower or an altar?
The implications of growth
The quality and type of growth is a major key to revival. Every growth process has a price and brings a set of consequences into operation. Growth can be a two-edged sword bringing either great blessing or multiple problems and problematic people. The reality is that we simply produce fruit according to our own kind. This is the law of reproduction that governs all aspects of our nature. Our motivations also determine the kind of seed that we are planting. Diseased and sick people preach a sick and contaminated gospel; this is the negative side of growth.
Another aspect of growth is that it flows from God. Paul declared: “I planted. Apollo’s watered. But God caused the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6) this is one of the greatest secrets in life. We can plant and water, but the growth is by nature, supernatural; it only comes from God. Jesus states the same truth in a challenging way:
“And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27)
No one grows 17 inches (which is one cubit) taller from one day to the next just out of eagerness or desire. It is necessary to have good health and patience throughout the growth process.
Jesus warns us against anxiety which can become a dangerous enemy. By ignoring this warning, many leaders end up obstinately following a “miracle recipe” for growth which dispenses with the natural development of people who have been proven and approved by God. Molding a person’s character requires a lot of work and can take more time than we imagine. Growth that lacks the support of stable and consistent leaders may be a great time waster, and even lead to stagnation.
The prospect of rapid success has always been a point of temptation. Someone once said that a leader’s greatest enemy is success. Success is like a minefield. Satan assures that many seductive schemes are strategically placed in this minefield such as arrogance, self-sufficiency, authoritarianism, impatience and primarily pride and vainglory. Becoming successful is often not very difficult and many are able to attain success. However, very few are able to remain successful. This is where many stop building an altar and begin building a tower. The altar is divine, the tower is human.
A disproportional anxiety for growth transgresses the laws of process and has become a snare to many pastors who end up becoming victims of methods that, despite being effective, violate the ethics, the will and the timing of God. They end up building without first laying a foundation. This type of growth can work for a period of time; however, it won’t withstand the coming storms of life and ministry.
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to want.” (Proverbs 21:5)
Many leaders, due to a fear of losing people and the resources they represent, avoid confronting their own sins and properly dressing their own wounds. They end up compromising the principles and values of the kingdom of God. This is a terrible way to sow spiritual seed because it sacrifices revival in favor of growth. When we lose the zeal for sanctification our growth becomes vanity and at best, a waste of time and resources. It is easy to understand why some churches grow so rapidly and afterwards fall apart and dwindle just as rapidly. The gospel without the cross produces weak, vulnerable and incapable churches.
More than ever we need to invest in character qualities, producing pure motives in people that yield lives centered on the moral principles of the kingdom of God and a gospel that glorifies the cross. Motivation, values and message are the three dimensions of the cornerstones of discipleship. Without an authentic foundation in this, the development of disciples is destined to failure.
Corrupted motives, a life full of “power” devoid of principles and a gospel without the cross represent the cornerstone of a crisis of holiness, which in turn, leads to a crisis of leadership the likes of which devastate the church today.
THE ROOT OF CONFUSION
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (Genesis 11:5-7)
Growth can suddenly become contaminated and even turn cancerous. This was the terrible tragedy of Babel, which represents the second downfall of the human race.
In this case it is clearly evident that unity is the indisputable principle which produces growth under any circumstance. The big question however, is the motive. Growth is inevitable, but the motives establish the quality and the destiny of the growth. The motives determine the character, and the character determines the destiny. A correct principle can be totally unbalanced by a corrupted motive. This is the way which the devil strategically undermines biblical principles of growth.
We can learn principles from the history of Babel: between being divided and having the wrong type of growth, the former is the lesser evil. Therefore, it is indispensable that we know how to learn from divisions and correct our motives for growth. Without this the church can suddenly stop being an altar of God and become a tower honoring the human personality.
Many mysteries are contained in this critical phase of conflict, in which it is fundamentally important to discern if it is time to insist on a formula for growth or to learn from the disappointments and suffering caused by divisions and then be able to grow on the right foundation, which is God’s glory.
Before we can grow, before God builds us outwardly, he will excavate and dig foundations and probe us to encounter firm soil in our lives. He will birth right motives and a solid character in our personality. This is an arduous and painful job. It is a path of tests and situations in which our values and principles will be checked in the minutest detail and our motives will be profoundly examined and corrected if need be. God only builds upon foundations that he himself establishes.
At Babel there was a community that was building foundations upon reprehensible motives. There is no lasting unity when motives are wrong. Even if a principal is right, a corrupted motive transforms such a situation into a time-bomb. It is only a matter of time until it all erupts into chaos. Unity inspired by wrong motives is in truth a seed of division and confusion.
It is important to add that it is not always the devil who is the author of division. God sometimes creates division in righteousness thereby condemning our obscured and corrupted motives. It is up to us to discern the source of such division, whether it be satanic or God sent, with the spiritual tools that He has bestowed upon us. We may rightly begin by edifying an altar to God’s glory, but let’s be careful to maintain the humility and spiritual perception necessary to protect us from the degeneration of our efforts to the construction of a tower as a monument to “human efforts” and initiative.
One of the collateral effects of the gospel of material prosperity is that it limits people to the level of superficiality and suppresses intercession. At best, people will become concerned for their own financial needs and personal problems. This eventually prevents these people from receiving blessings and prolongs their personal suffering. Job’s situation was only restored when he took his eyes off of himself and began to intercede for his accusing “friends”. It was through his intercession that his own suffering was eventually terminated and reversed.
A life of praying for only our own personal needs can quench the gift of intercession in the church. This emphasizes self-satisfaction to the detriment of true conquests for the kingdom and produces people who are ineffective in spiritual warfare thus compromising quality growth of the church.
We need much more than a magic prayer from a “super pastor” mentality that only succeeds in addicting people to prayer lines. People become accustomed to dumping their problems and responsibilities on others, and unfortunately due to the ignorance of many churches in how to deal with such attitudes these people are often treated in ways that only reinforce their problem. The preaching of the gospel that focuses exclusively on human needs, and not on the cross and Lordship of Christ has been corrupted by secular humanism. Such needs focused preaching is valid in evangelism but it must not be the spiritual “bread and butter” of church doctrine.
In this context we can understand the strange warning that Jeremiah received from God:
“Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you.” (Jeremiah 7:16)
The people in this case didn’t need to receive prayer; they needed to take a stance. Not only does God not listen to prayers that exempt those who offer them from assuming their moral responsibility, but such prayers betray spiritual apathy and promote religiosity. This is very subtle because the tendency is to end up learning that any type of prayer is good. By praying without discernment, we can be inciting spiritual indolence in others.
People frequently approach pastors and church leaders for prayer. Whenever possible these leaders should evaluate the request and the spiritual posture of the person. They must try to listen to the person and also hear God, by doing this tremendous results can be obtained.
After a time of ministry a woman asked me to pray for her and bless her emotional life. I like to be useful, so I asked her if she could be more specific. She began to expose all of her suffering and then ended up revealing also that she was living with a man who wasn’t even a Christian. I explained that my prayer would not have any effect as long as she didn’t repent and break up the relationship. I told her frankly: “I can only pray for you if you are truly ready to change the situation.” This confrontation changed her life forever.
Many people today are facing financial problems. I have heard the same story many times; “pastor, I have gone to many prayer meetings and have asked many men of God to pray for me. The little I had I gave, and later things got worse! Nothing seems to work!” When we come across this type of situation, we usually find many unresolved things such as defrauding others, unpaid debts, possession of stolen or shoplifted goods, swindling and even fraudulently writing of checks against negative balances! I’m speaking about Christians!
These people need to make a genuine stance of repentance and restitution much more than they need to receive a magic prayer. Sometimes I repeat what God said to Ezekiel: “even if Noah, Daniel and Job, the greatest intercessors of the Bible, were to pray for you, if you haven’t taken an adequate stance, God would not move one hair on your head”. God isn’t moved by our self-piety or by an introspective attitude of spiritual self-judgment, no matter how much we are suffering. This suffering sometimes is the way that God chooses to challenge us to take a spiritual stance against something of which we are blind to or have even chosen to ignore.
God acts according to principles. Prayer needs to be supported by coherence with the principles of the kingdom of God.
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. (John 15:7)
This type of confrontation that deals with the roots of the problem produces a much greater effect than a “powerful” yet blind prayer which wasn’t birthed through spiritual discernment. When people are confronted at the root of their problems, producing fruit of repentance, the prayer of faith will have a great effect.
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (James 5:16)
People who have come out of witchcraft and the occult which is becoming more and more common nowadays are used to obtaining things easily. Feelings, money, problems, etc. are taken care of rapidly through a magic formula or simple witchcraft. Yes, it actually works. Witchcraft with all of its “spiritual technology” is very compatible with this third millennium in which everything is computerized, robotized and remote controlled. This is why witchcraft has spread as never before and is now “in vogue” in developed countries.
In the same way, may come to church expecting the same type of quick easy results. The result is religious hypochondria. There are lots of people who are totally weakened, dependent upon others, negligent in seeking the face of God, morally empty and easily impressed and seduced by mysticism. They are not willing to take a stance to pay the required price. Instead, they seek out someone to whom they can transfer their problems. Instead of making disciples, many Christians are reproducing parasites, propagating a cheap grace and irresponsible healing of people’s wounds. This pattern of Christianity without the cross must be eliminated in order to see revival and the advance of God’s kingdom.
The problem is not the church but the problem of the church!
We live in a time of outright moral decadence even within the ranks of conservative Christian churches. We have been exposed to a world that is involved in many dangerous entanglements which are not always as easily sorted out as we think. Besides the seriousness and depth of moral problems and traumas which suck the air out of the quality of the Christian life that we could otherwise experience, we also face quantitative challenges.
The church as a whole has experienced considerable growth in different places around the world. In some countries even the secular media has taken note and labeled it the “evangelical boom”. Millions of people have come into the body of Christ in the last decades. But together with all of these people came all of their problems, evil stains, traumas and every type of spiritual bondage and ungodly attachments. The world has deteriorated so much that a large percentage of the people that have arrived in evangelical churches need to go directly to an intensive care unit for the soul.
I spent one month in southern Brazil for a practical “workshop” for pastors and church leaders on how to minister to problematic members to discover that a considerable percentage of church members today are problematic. I was raised in a small conservative denomination in the U.S.A. and left for the mission field in the Amazon Basin region pretty much unprepared to face the needs of a large portion of the converts that I was reaching through a church planting ministry that I was working with.
I was raised in an atmosphere almost unheard of in this day and age. I was born to married parents both of whose parents were happily married and among my aunts and uncles there had never been even one divorce and I am talking about 17 aunts and uncles. I was born after both my parents were converted to Christ and both sets of grandparents were also converted. I had a happy, uneventful childhood and never suffered any kind of emotional or psychological trauma. Naturally I imagined that most of the people in the world had a similar experience.
My experience with “the world” was like a season of “That 70’s Show”, which I am sure, was filmed at my high school and with my classmates who later stayed on to film the series. It was a pretty innocent and simple life by today’s patterns. The great majority of today’s young adults have seen more suffering than I may yet see in my whole life. I would have never dreamed that by going to Brazil I would lead a flock of people that had been “through the mill” before they were 15 years old. I am referring to sexually abused young men and women who had been abused by aunts, uncles, neighbors, fathers, step-fathers, and brothers and sisters, and I am talking about both heterosexual and homosexual abuse as well as the practice of prostitution and bestiality. I was completely unprepared for such “baggage”. I have since learned a lot about how to minister to such victims, some of which have become the aggressors in all of this abuse.
The church definitely needs to be more prepared to receive those who are arriving in our lives and our churches. We cannot ignore the depth and complexity of people’s problems. Some people are virtually like a 1500 piece jigsaw puzzle whose pieces need to be put together except that the resulting image of the mosaic is undefined at out of focus. Others are involved in cases of immorality and broken marriages and relationships that resemble a game of pool just after the opening break. Some have experiences with irreversible losses and terrible traumas. Others still carry with them the influence and severe consequences of deep involvement with Satanism and idolatry. Some have simply migrated from a worldly addiction to a “gospel addiction”, and are still trying to survive inside the church moved by the throbbing pain of their unresolved wounds. Yet others are actually malicious and infiltrate the church through cunning manipulation trying to achieve their own agenda. The list goes on and on; there seems to be no end to the variety of such problems.
With all of this growth, the church has more problems than it seems to be able to cope with – or “digest”. So, the church as the body of Christ is suffering indigestion, food poisoning. People are not being healed and end up becoming the focal point of many chronic rebellions and devastating divisions. Divisions and apostasy reflect the nausea of this church indigestion.
But God has an answer: We must open our hearts to the new Wine skin of true revival, a movement of personal and profound zeal and sanctity that advances against “religiosity” and the wickedness of the world which has penetrated the church. Standing against religiosity does not mean turning our back on the church. Unfortunately that is what has happened in many cases. Leaving a church because of problems is like killing the surgeon who discovers that your favorite aunt has cancer. Let’s not kill the messenger, let’s encourage him to prepare himself for the surgery. Also standing up against religiosity does not mean that we should not resist the wickedness of the world. When a person leaves the world without the world leaving the person, the whole church is contaminated.
Sick people, besides not growing and maturing, infect other people with their illness. This hinders the process of growth in many ministries. The high contingent of members sometimes has been a declaration of poor quality, of how the church is made little difference regardless of its size. Much is spoken about churchgoers who are comfortable just sitting in the church pews. Truthfully speaking, however, most church members are not sitting in the pews. A whole generation of new Christians is spiritually alive but wounded, and they are lying in stretchers in need of spiritual healing. The good news is that they can be healed and regain their spiritual health and the potential to bring the same feelings to others. The first step in this direction is to recognize the spiritual indigestion that these issues provoke in the church. When this happens the cure will be sought and then eventually it will be found.
Getting a handle on Christian revival
Many Christians are trying to discover how true Christian revival begins. Revivals have appeared and disappeared all throughout the history of God’s people. There is no science to it. It is just as Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes” (John 3:8)
Christian revivals generally have no face and do not wear a suit and tie. We can observe common characteristics of powerful moves of inner healing and deliverance of the personality through diverse revivals. Many have witnessed the anointing gushing out through the narrow path of the cross, healing wounds, freeing captives and raising up a generation of worshipers, visionaries and missionaries.
True Christian revival is not a superficial phenomenon that places a “cloak of spirituality” over people. Instead, true revivals remove the cloak of spirituality and confront wounds, producing consistent spiritual development. Revivals come not to produce timid, spoiled children, but to turn them into true warriors. They come to heal the sterility of the body of Christ, and to raise up a generation that will conquer the nations by fulfilling the great commission.
All true Christian revivals have an element of renewal. They are revivals of the cross in which there is no room for rigid religiosity and lack of brokenness! Jesus made this restoring nature of revivals clear by saying:
“Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17)
We can observe a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in these last days, just as Jeremiah prophesied:
“Therefore you shall speak to them this word:’Thus says the Lord God of Israel:” Every bottle shall be filled with wine.” “And they will say to you, ‘Do we not certainly know that every bottle will be filled with wine?’ (Jeremiah 13:12)
Many times revival is referred to as new wine. However, God is awakening the attention of the church to the importance of wineskin as well. We have spoken much of the wine and little of the wineskin; much about the power but little about the healing the soul; much about anointing and little about character.
One of the great dangers of revival is to live with much anointing and little moral fortitude. This was the transgression of Saul, a charismatic man who knew how to please people; yet suffered from chronic moral and emotional weakness. He ended up becoming a victim of his own anointing. This is the danger of the old wineskin: it can easily be destroyed by its own anointing.
Jesus warned that the danger is in the wineskin. The preservation of the new wine depends on the wineskin. The heavenly wine is extremely important, but without the wineskin it will be wasted. The new wine symbolizes the manifestation of God, but the wineskin refers to us, the church, the family and individual. The new wineskin originally made of leather is naturally characterized by its resistance and flexibility. It is a type of a healed personality that is prepared to face the treatment, the pressures of spiritual life and the challenges of God. While the new wine represents the filling of God, the new wineskin is the symbol of a healed personality, a pure conscience, a settled past and a promising future. This movement of the healing of the personality that heals the church’s womb, restores its ability to birth the will of God and free up gifts and callings, is the mark of genuine revival. It is the guarantee that this revival will remain and reproduce its effects in the lives of many.
New wine has to be put into new wine skins. When the Holy Spirit comes, he produces changes, and this applies to a renewed mentality. Just as wine creates pressure within the wineskin through the process of fermentation, the power of the Spirit requires a solid, yet flexible personality.
Indeed my belly is like wine that has no vent; It is ready to burst like new wineskins (Job 32:19)
The new wineskin is the vessel that will bear the value of the revival, conserving and maturing the anointing. The old wineskin aborts the revival. When the new wine is deposited into old wineskins, the revival’s days are numbered. Depositing the new wine into old wineskins has been a disastrous transgression of the church.
Many Christian revivals don’t last long because they lack the vision of mapping out the wounds and curses, emotional regeneration and transformation of character. Inner personality cracks caused the filling of the Holy Spirit to suddenly leak out. The old wineskin becomes dried out, the personality hurt by dissolutions and disappointments, the soul is wounded, the heart of stone addicted to sin, and bad religious habits – all of this needs to be replaced by a lifestyle that is humble, broken, flexible and transparent. The gospel is not a book that you carry under your arm; it is a lifestyle that consistently renews itself.