In the Midst of Azusa, Forgiveness Was Found

azusa

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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FRAYED – A Church Unraveling

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My longest posts are, generally, the ones where I am pouring out my heart.   So, consider this your warning.  Grab a cup of coffee and get comfy, we may be here a for a while.   My heart is heavy to day.

In recent days my eyes have been opened to how others view the church, more so than ever.  In particular, it has been most apparent as more church/Christian scandals break the news.  From a popular Christian family (who is caught up in the sinful decisions of one of their sons), the Ashley Madison leak (which exposed the names of Christian men and women wrapped up in adultery), bakeries and state clerks (caught up in the gay marriage SCOTUS decision),  and into the press and debates over the released Planned Parenthood videos (and the push to defund Planned Parenthood).

We are called hypocrites for standing against gay marriage, while divorce is still rampant within the church.   In other words, they wonder why we consider ourselves an authority on what a healthy marriage actually looks like… since we can’t seem to get that right ourselves.  We lost our integrity.

We are called hypocrites for standing against something when our own past, or current hidden sins, are being exposed for the world to see.  We lost our transparency.

We are called a “hate group” because of the words of our mouths and behaviors/actions are anything but Christ like. We say the most terrible things about people who are not “just like us”.  We lost our love.

We tear apart people we have never even met based on what a news article says about them.  We cry paranoia over news reports and internet articles where we are only receiving part of the story.     We lost our discernment.

In stead of loving people, we feel justified in screaming “murderer” at a women who had an abortion.  Without any knowledge of the events that brought her to the clinic that day.  We don’t take the time to understand people, but feel justified in judging them.  We lost our compassion.

What does the world see, when it looks at us?  What are we known for?

By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:35 (HCSB)

We have become our own greatest obstacle.

We argue over translations of the scriptures, then we wonder why the world doesn’t trust the scriptures to be accurate.

We argue over personal interpretations of scriptures, to the point that we have divided from a unified body of believers into denominations.  Then, we wonder why the world doesn’t trust that we know what we are talking about.

We rake leaders and teachers, over the coals in public and social media forums.  These are our own sisters and brothers in Christ!  Then, we wonder why the world doesn’t trust us with their failures and short comings.

We put on a false purity, holiness, righteousness, knowledge, wisdom, and illusions of “Christianity” instead of being authentic, transparent, and vulnerable.

We use judgement as a way to sit above others making our sin look smaller, because they are so much worse than we are.

We sell ourselves to the world as people who “have it all together” or “have all the right answers” and then we stumble and fall and discredit ourselves and our faith.  When the reality is that none of us have it all together or the right answers.  We are not spared trials and obstacles.  We simply have a hope that carries us through, and a trust that nothing we do when we fail can separate us from the LOVE OF GOD!

I find myself over, and over again, praying the Holy Spirit would convict us all to get beyond this place of division over foolish arguments and reconcile us to a united body of believers who stand in one accord, sharing the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  That we can be like Paul, who admitted of the sinners he was the worst.   Using that as our platform to woe people to Christ, instead of our “holiness”.

We have become slaves to the traditions and human commands of what a “Christian” should look like, that we have neglected what the scriptures say.  These human commands, they sound good and right, but if we are not testing them to the scriptures, and not praying for the Holy Spirit to help us discern truth… we become trapped.

Colossians 2

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you, for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me in person. I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ.[a] All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him.

I am saying this so that no one will deceive you with persuasive arguments. For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.

Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude.

Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ. For the entire fullness of God’s nature[b] dwells bodily[c] in Christ, 10 and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. 11 You were also circumcised in Him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of the Messiah.[d] 12 Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses. 14 He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them by Him.[e]

16 Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day.[f] 17 These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is[g] the Messiah. 18 Let no one disqualify you,[h] insisting on ascetic practices and the worship of angels, claiming access to a visionary realm and inflated without cause by his unspiritual[i] mind. 19 He doesn’t hold on to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and tendons, develops with growth from God.

20 If you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations: 21 “Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to what is destroyed by being used up; they are commands and doctrines of men. 23 Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence.[j]

The hard truth is the greatest obstacle to our sharing of the Gospel, has become ourselves.

We are not known for our love, hope, and faith.

We are known for hate, judgement, and we lack the basic understandings of our faith.

We are guilty of quoting scripture out of context; or stating the Bible says something that can’t be found in any book, chapter or verse.  We look past certain scriptures as being “out dated” or part of a different “culture”  in one breath, while claiming we believe in the full authority of the scriptures in another breath.

We are unable to defend our faith, because we have not learned it.  We are not students of the word.  We are repeaters of other teachers.  And, even worse, we are repeaters of the teachers who say what we want to hear.  (2 Timothy 4:3)

We look to the scriptures to learn about ourselves.  How does this pertain to me, when we should be asking how it pertains to God.

We are no different than many of the churches in the NT days.

And difficult times are still ahead.

2 Timothy 3

But know this: Difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people!

For among them are those who worm their way into households and capture idle women burdened down with sins, led along by a variety of passions, always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth, men who are corrupt in mind, worthless in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress, for their lack of understanding will be clear to all, as theirs[a] was also.

10 But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance, 11 along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from them all. 12 In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 1Evil people and impostors will become worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, 15 and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God[b] and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

We think that this warning in 2 Timothy 3 is about the world alone, but it isn’t.  This was a letter written to the church, about the things happening within the community and within the church.

We… the body of believers…. will become:

Lovers of self.

Lovers of money.

Boastful and proud.

Blasphemers.

Disobedient and Ungrateful.

Unholy, unloving, irreconcilable.

Slanderers, without self control.

Without love of what is good.

Traitors, reckless.

Conceited and lovers of pleasure over God.

We will hold to the form of godliness, but deny it’s power.

We will become so focused on loving people, that we will distance ourselves from The Word.  Or, we will become so legalistic to the Scriptures, that we will distance our selves from the people who need to hear it the most.

The lion doesn’t go after the animals in the pack, he goes after the one who is isolated, alone, and hurt.  Isolated from the body of believers, as we miss corporate worship.  Isolated from our sisters in Christ, as we hold grudges and fight against reconciliation.  Hiding from our family, instead of embracing them.  Isolated from the Word as we become more dependent on what others say about it, versus reading it for ourselves.  Isolated as we become too busy to – pray, study, attend service, fellowship with other believers.

Our “righteous” divisions are isolating ourselves from the greater body.

And we think we are being holy.

That we have some greater knowledge than they do.

That our self gratifying interpretation is better.

We argue with fellow believers instead of loving them.

We have become proud, and our pride is literally festering and manifesting itself in every area of our lives.

And then we wonder why we are not known by our love?

Our love, has been overshadowed.

We have overshadowed Christ, with our own self righteousness.

We want the world to see us, how holy we are, how knowledgeable we are, and how much will live “in accordance to the scriptures”.

But we are told that all of that means nothing, if we don’t have love. (1 Corinthians 13)

Being right, has become more important than love.

If you wonder why no one seems to listen to you, I wonder…

Are you the sound of love?  Or, are you just making noise?