In the Midst of Azusa, Forgiveness Was Found

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First, just in case you don’t know what AZUSA is…. 110 years ago, on Azusa Street a revival began. On the 110th anniversary, many church leaders, congregations, believers, musicians, etc came together to pray for a new revival.  The church is calling out for a third great awakening.

I have never personally witnessed an event of this magnitude, in fact the only revival I have ever attended was a community one held at a local church.  I was in middle school.  There were a LOT of people, but nothing like Azusa on Saturday, April 9 2016.

First, I want to comment on the diversity of those who came to worship together.  I was not their live, but watching online as much as I could throughout the day.  When the camera would pan the audience and the stage, there were so many colors… ages… genders… just, people.  God’s people.  Together.  In one accord.

I found myself brought to tears each time I heard the Word of God spoken, prayers, or songs of Praise… in a language that is not my own.  English. Spanish. Native American. Hebrew. Arabic. Latin…  it was just beautiful.

Second, I want to point to the overall theme of the event… while the church was calling out for revival… they were acknowledging that we have to get ourselves in order before it can.  There was so much emphasis on getting our own houses in order, so that the spirit of revival can be unleashed.

If we want to usher revival in we have to clean our house first. 1Tim3:5 If anyone can’t manage his own family, how can he manage the church

If you look at the great revivals of the past, those who witnessed it would tell you that there were small pockets of revival happening at the same time in various locations.  Small movements that grew into great movements and spread like holy wild-fire!

What was the core issue that Azusa pointed to, that the church needed to get in order?  Unity under Christ.  We’ve been divided too long, doing what seems right to men and our own minds.  We have allowed man’s notions of what is “godly” to divides us against each other.  Denomination vs. denomination.  Christian vs. christian.  In order to unify under Christ, we must begin with forgiveness.

We must get our house in order as a church, to be a vessel of revival into the world. Forgive and seek forgiveness

Division is one of the things that breaks my heart about the current day church.   We have put ourselves first, our way of thinking… interpretation… worshiping… praying… studying… etc.  We hold people to our “standard” of what righteousness looks like and quite often we are incapable of living up to that standard in the first place.  We allow pride to take root, and then we elevate ourselves about other believers because they are not as wise or knowledgeable as we are.  And then we see friendships divide, churches divide, denominations divide.

We watch our family crumble.  Then a bitter root takes hold, because that bitterness helps us justify our choose to separate, judge, and criticize our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We justify our sin of division, when Christ has called us to reconcile to each other and be one body, one church, under Christ.

We wonder why our prayers are not answered, yet we are in active sin while bitterness, pride, and unforgiveness are sewn into our hearts.  We wonder why our ministry isn’t moving forward, when we have become our own stumbling block.  We wonder why God is not blessing us, when we are constantly building up a wall between us and Him.

If you are holding bitterness, a bad word about God’s anointed, anger toward someone, hate… we are in sin.

When we allow that bitterness to take root, we can speak and act terribly about those God calls His children.    We are criticizing God’s creation, the work He is doing in a person, the mission He has put on their heart, and even God himself!  Because, we are created in His image.  This doesn’t exclude the moments when we are holding unforgiveness, bitterness, or critical thoughts about our own selves.

Every time we criticize our sister/brother in Christ, we are being critical of Jesus who lives in them. God help us.

If it goes unchecked and that bitterness takes root, it can make itself a comfy home in our heart and lives, and it will choke out everything good that tries to come into our life. We can become so focused on the root and it’s offshoots… we miss what God is doing around us.  We become wrapped up in it’s vines and become slaves to it, unable to serve God because we are bound to anger and hurt.

Holding unforgiveness in your heart toward someone, you both are slaves in bondage to it. Free your slaves. Jer34:8

We will keep adding to the weight of the baggage we carry, and we will carry that baggage far longer than God would have us.  It will become heavier, slowing down our walk, weighing us down, stealing our energy, our hope, and our future.  We can’t reach the blessing, when we are dragging dead weight behind us.  Eventually it will win, and break you down until you just give up.

What is the baggage you have been carrying for TOO LONG, that is slowing you down & holding you back from blessing?

We are told in the scriptures that if we have an offense between us and our brother, we are to put our offering down and go handle that first.  We are not to bring our offering into the temple until we have reconciled.  So, until then, every offering you make is empty.  Who is it that you need to forgive?  A friend, relative, church… yourself?  Are you carrying the weight of your own sin?  The sin Christ died for, and cast to the depths of the sea… did you fish it back up?  Are you taking it back from the foot of the cross?  Are you saying… “everything but this Lord, this sin is too big for you.”

God help us.

We can’t bring our offering to the table if we are holding a grudge against someone. Who do you need to forgive?

When we are focused so much on our own pain, bitterness, anger, and what we see as unfair… we miss the fact that our world is mourning and crying out in pain.  Instead of crying out on their behalf, we say:  WHAT ABOUT ME?  What about my pain?  What about my situation?  What about my hurt?  Where is my help?  Where is my blessing?

People groups around the earth are crying out in pain, will you cry with them. Will you mourn with them?

We can not unite under Christ when we are too focused on our own selves.  When we are seeking my own needs or blessings first.  The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.

If Christ can call out to the Lord to forgive those who stood against him, accused him, crucified him… why can we not say of our oppressors, “Lord… forgive them… they know not what they do.”

We need to get on our knees and pray.

Lord, let there be a sweeping release of forgiveness across the country between all people, unite us seventy-seven times seven!

We need to forgive others, and ourselves.  Our past, is our past. It was washed clean and we need to stop picking that back up.  We need to take that stronghold of shame, and let it go.  We need to believe that we are that new creation in Christ, a new thing… a new work, where we are continuing to grow in our pursuit of holiness.  A good work He continues in us until the day of fruition when we are united with the saints in Heaven.

Lord, free of us of our bondage to sin… our wayward steps… our critical words… and our flesh. Spirit come.

Lord we repent of our attitudes of separation and division, let us reunite under you! Amen.

Lord, set the captives free! Spirit, move us to mourn as one body & move us to unite under Jesus

And, we need to pray as if we are the only ones praying.  We need intercessors who are standing in the gap for those who are too weak to pray, or too broken.  We need intercessors to pray for the lost, the prodigals, the ones who have gone astray.  We need to pray fervently, as if everything depends on our pray.  Then when we are all praying, as if we are the only ones, there is a complete community of intercessors praying on behalf of YOU too.

Pray as if no one else is praying. If we all pray, as if no one else is praying we will all be intercessors.

As forgiveness and healing sweeps across our body, and we unite we become a city on a hill, shining the light of the Son, for the lost to find their way home.  We begin to look different from the world, not because of our dress or the words we speak. Instead we look different because we love differently, we forgive even the unforgivable.  We will not be divided but united under the Truth.  Standing in agreement of His Word, and let by His Spirit instead of our own thoughts and our own flesh.

— John 16:13 —

When the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.

In our brokenness HE is magnified because in our healing HE gets the glory.

We must pray that the Holy Spirit will flood our hearts & compel us with your Word, let it pour out of our mouths, a sweet song to a weary world.   So that we can go out and disciple the nations, starting here in our country.  One person, one family, one community at a time.  The mission field is here, in our own back yards.  We still have unreached communities here.  We have missionaries coming INTO the United States in order to preach the gospel!  We must get our house in order, and then we go… we go out beyond our backyards, into the unchurched communities, and then into the world.   Sharing the gospel, baptizing the people, making disciples, and building up leaders to continue the good work.

Lord, send a fire of revival into the hearts of your people. Let us touch the communities around us in a mighty way.

Praise God for what is about to come.

This brings me to my third point, what I took away from Azusa.  I watched church leaders…. catholic, messianic, denominations, cultures/ethnicities… forgive each other.

If others can forgive, so can I.  And, so can you.

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BOOK REVIEW: BEFORE AMEN (Max Lucado)

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I am a huge fan of Max Lucado.  In fact, one of the very first books I read when I became a Christian was “He Chose the Nails”.  As a parent, I would introduce my kids to Max Lucado through “Hermie & Friends”.  I was also very excited to see Max Lucado speak at my local Women of Faith event, several years back.

When Family Christian gave me the opportunity to read “Before Amen”, I jumped at the opportunity.  I admit it, I am biased.  I new I’d love it, because I have always found Max Lucado’s writing credible, honest, easy to read & understand, and poignant to season in my life I am reading it.  Now that I have finished the book, I totally understand why it was chosen Book of the Year.

I’m going to let you in on a secret, that I have hidden from my kids, I write in books.  Yes, the very thing I tell them not to do… I do it.  Endlessly.  Without shame.

My bible…

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My books….

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As I was reading through “Before Amen”, my pen was being put to serious use.  In fact, I am pretty sure if the book had been about 10 pages longer, I’d have run out of ink.

A new Christian may find themselves in that awkward moment, where they want to talk to God… they know they should pray.  However, they don’t know how.   How do I begin?  What do I say?  How do I end?  How long should it be?  And, truthfully, if you google prayer formats, you can find quite a few suggestions.  Start with this, follow with this, etc.  Yet they are still confusing to a new believer.   For example, the A.C.T.S.  format (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) … a new believer will have no clue what “supplication” means.  They find themselves needing a dictionary just to understand how to pray.

When the Council at Jerusalem met, one thing they concluded is that we shouldn’t make faith difficult for new believers.  (ACTS 15:19)

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New believers, they need a simple prayer.

Perhaps though, you are a seasoned believer.  You have been praying all your life, but you find yourself in a moment of crisis, disaster, and you can’t find the words.  Your heart, your soul, LONGS to pray… but the words escape you.  Pain & confusion fill your mind, and your sorrow falls with your tears onto your pillow.  Others have the words to encourage you, the scriptures you should cling to.  Yet, you are unable to speak them or read them.  The tears fall, a silent prayer, when words escape us.

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Seasoned believers, need a simple prayer.

That is what “Before Amen” helps us all, new and seasoned believers, to find.  That simple prayer, when we don’t know what to say, or how to say it.  A prayer that acknowledges our God as our father, who loves us.  A prayer that says “Daddy, I need you”.  A prayer that say, “They need you”.  A prayer that says “Thank you” even when we are in our moments of doubt, lack of understanding, and pain.  A prayer that calls on the authority of the Heavens, on our behalf.

It is here, in my car, I have my conversations with God.

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They don’t always start out with “Dear God” and don’t always end with “In Jesus Name”, but they are moments where I pour out my heart to God about things I can’t grapple with.  This isn’t my formal prayer time, but it is sacred time to me.  It’s an uninterrupted time to wrap my head around the things going on around me.  I know God is there with me, but surely He’d prefer me to be quiet more, and listen more.  This conversation, that may last 15 minutes or 1 hour, isn’t enough.  It isn’t a simple prayer.

It is here, in this corner, where I was broken… beyond words…. crying out to God.   Tears staining my cheek, fingers wrenched around my cardigan, words escaped me.  But, I needed God

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I needed a simple prayer.

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In moments like these, even words like those above elude us.  The good news is that in “Before Amen”, Max Lucado points us not only toward a simple prayer, that has an enormous amount of power, but teaches us the importance of each sentence.  It’s a prayer we can write down on a card to display in our bathrooms, tuck into our purse to access throughout the day, or to share with our friends and loved ones.  A simple prayer that acknowledges our Father, and calls on the authority of Jesus.

In the scriptures, Max Lucado points out, the only thing that the disciples actually asked for a tutorial on… is how to pray.  That is how important prayer is; not only did they want to know how, but that Jesus took the time to teach them.   He set the best example on prayer life.  How, when and where.

“Before Amen” introduces us to this simple prayer, and the chapters that follow expand on each sentence of the prayer.  Why is this portion important?  How do we do it?  How does it help us?  Others?  Everything pivoting on our personal relationship with our Father God, it is a pure and sincere prayer that isn’t congested with fancy words, platitudes, illustrations and ideas.

We get an opportunity to explore how God answers prayers, and how to work through those prayers that are seemingly unanswered.  All of our prayers are important and answered by Him, but in His timing; our prayers for healing, forgiveness, safety, understanding, peace… the joyous and the tear stained.

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Within the final chapters of “Before Amen”, we are left with a very special gift….  A STUDY GUIDE!   Whether for your own purposes, for use in a small group, with friends or even with your spouse; these pages contain practical application questions, scripture reading promptings and guidance to help you span the gap between prayer in theory & prayer in practice.

The study guide in “Before Amen”, is well written and can be explored in a few sittings or spread out over time; to allow you to really reflect on the questions & suggestions.  It also helps us to identify our strengths in prayer, directs us to Bible Prayer Heroes that we can relate to, and gives us suggestions on how to strengthen in other areas of prayer.

Some great quotes, from the book “Before Amen”:

“When we invite God into our world, he walks in.  He brings a host of gifts:  joy, patience, resilience.  Anxieties come, but they don’t stick.  Fears surface and then depart.  Regrets land on the windshield, but then comes the wiper of prayer.  The devil hands me stones of guilt, but I turn and give them to Christ.”   (Max Lucado, Before Amen)

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“Travel to the Wailing Wall if you want.  But prayers at your backyard fence is just as effective.  The One who hears your prayers is your Daddy.  You needn’t woo him with location.”   (Max Lucado, Before Amen)

“Prayer changes things because prayer appeals to the top power in the universe… It is the yes to God’s invitation to invoke his name.”  (Max Lucado, Before Amen)

We are all running the good race, together.  We may find ourselves in those last few yard praying… Daddy, you are good to me.  I know you can.  So please, help me.  Help them.  Thank you. In Jesus name, AMEN.  

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And then we fall into his arms, because He was running with us the whole time. 

If you are looking for a good book to pick up, to start 2015 out right, I highly recommend “Before Amen”Too many books give us a complicated how to, that seem bigger than we can handle.  “Before Amen”  keeps it simple, to the point; it offers tangible and realistic steps that will transform your prayer life, and in doing so will transform you & the world around you.

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