Wednesday, 30 June 2010

10 Revival Characteristics

I've been reading 'The Story of Toronto' by John Peters this week. It's essentially a biography of John & Carol Arnott, & the incredible events surrounding their church in Toronto back in 1994.

The book itself is horrible. Horrible cover, horribly written, a horrible series of lists & repeating arguments. However, the Toronto story itself is so compelling, & Peters a sympathetic observer,that it remains a gripping read.

In one section of the book, Peters outlines 10 characteristics of men that God has used in revival or renewal. They are worth noting here. They are a provocation for those of us who continue to thirst for more of the kind of God we first encountered with such joy way back 16 years ago.

1/ Men used by God often have little external attraction. The Apostle Paul, in person unimpressive, but a mighty man of God.

2/ No stereotypical background. Zinzendorf was an aristocrat, Christian David, his fellow worker in Saxony, a carpenter. Wesley & Whitefield, highly educated, Billy Bray, a barely educated Tin Miner.

3/ Often dismissed as nonentities by other men. Evan Roberts was said to be 'too unassuming to claim anything like leadership.'

4/ Took prayer seriously. Lanphier began his prayer meeting for business men in downtown New York with a handful, 6 months later, 10,000 were praying for revival. Within 2 years, 2 million were added to the church.

5/ Maintained a close & intimate walk with God. They were people who were 'saturated with God', to use Brian Edwards memorable phrase.

6/ Had a life transforming experience of God. In 1737 George Whitefield prayed, 'God give me deep humility, a well guided zeal, a burning love & a single eye, then let men or devils do their worst.' In response he entered into a life changing experience with God which radically effected his life & ministry.

7/ Were humble & realistic in their assessment of themselves & their abilities, not at all proud.

8/ Had a passionate desire for God. John Wesley wrote in 1734, 'My one aim in life is to secure personal holiness, for without being holy myself, I cannot promote real holiness in others.' This was even before his conversion which didn't occur until 1738!

9/ Read & studied the bible diligently. It is claimed that Jonathan Goforth, who was used by God in China at the start of the 20th Century, read through his Chinese New Testament 55 times.

10/ They were obedient to the bible. These were not men & women of academic pursuit, they longed to bring their lives into line with the scriptures. Jonathan Edwards, John Wycliffe & Peter Waldo come to mind.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Touching the Father's Heart

I've been deep in one of the greatest stories Jesus told in preparation for our 'Touching the Father's Heart' event this weekend. The story of the Father's love in Luke 15 is so richly layered & never fails to speak meaning into our lives.

Here are some thoughts that will probably feature in the first session regarding the two sons - The one, painfully aware that he has put himself out of his Father’s house, out of his Father’s love, out of his natural & rightful inheritance.
The other, painfully unaware that his years of self righteous hard work,duty & faithfulness, obedience, weren’t enough to bring him near to his Father. His desire to impress & earn approval hardening his own heart, missing the point & keeping him as far away from home as his younger brother even though he never left .

These two sons are types we fall into. Painfully aware or painfully unaware. Either way, missing the knowledge & nearness of the Father’s love & acceptance in the way that He has always intended for us. The Father’s heart for us today sends out the same message.

To those of us who are aware how far we are from Him – He comes out to meet us. He has been searching, waiting. He makes no judgement, He simply accepts, overwhelms us with love we don’t deserve & didn’t expect. There isn’t even a trial period – we are brought all the way back, into His very heart. His robe, His ring, His feast. The message – We belong, we are His, He is thrilled. We aren’t lost after all, He has found us.

To those of us who are unaware how far we are from Him – He comes out to meet us. He comes to find us as we look on disapprovingly. He comes to plead with us that all He has ever wanted is for me to sit & eat with Him. The message - He comes to remind us that all He has is already ours, that we don’t have to work or earn His approval, that we can can simply rest, rejoice, enjoy. We have been lost in a familiar place, but He has still come & found us.

Wherever you find yourself in this story Jesus told, the implication is clear – the Father wants you to be found & known. He gives us an open invitation to the kind of intimacy that we were made for. He has sent Jesus to lead us in to a new & living way, a whole new level of love & acceptance, a whole new way of relating to Father God. Touching the Father’s heart is all about us finding the way in, allowing Him to lead us home.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Mr Genor

Stories are always great, but this one about Mr Genor seemed to really hit home last Sunday at the end of the first 'Just Walk Across the Room' sermon. So many people have asked me about it that I have copied it below. I read the story from the book 'Fire Evangelism' by Che Ahn.

A number of years ago in a Baptist church in Crystal Palace, in south London, the Sunday morning service was closing, and a stranger stood up in the back, raised his hand, and asked the Pastor if he could share a testimony.

He said, “I just moved into this area, I used to live in another part of London, I came from Sydney, in Australia. And just a few months back I was visiting some relatives and I was walking down George Street when a strange little white-haired man stepped out of a shop doorway, put a pamphlet in my hand and said, ‘Excuse me sir, are you saved? If you died tonight, are you going to heaven?’ “

He said, “I was astounded by those words. Nobody had ever told me that. I thanked him courteously, and all the way back to Heathrow this puzzled me. I called a friend who lived in this new area, where I’m living now, and thank God, he was a Christian -He led me to Christ. And now I’m a Christian.

That Baptist Pastor flew to Adelaide, in Australia, the next week. A woman came to him for counseling, and he asked her where she stood with Christ.

And she said, “I used to live in Sydney. And just a couple of months back, I was visiting friends there, doing some last minute shopping down George Street, and a strange little white-haired man, elderly man, stepped out of a shop doorway, offered me a pamphlet and said, ‘Excuse me ma’am, are you saved? If you died tonight, are you going to heaven?’”

She said, “I was disturbed by those words. When I got back to Adalaide, I knew this Baptist church was on the next block from me, and I sought out the Pastor, and he led me to Christ. So sir, I’m telling you that I am a Christian.”

Now this London Pastor was now very puzzled. Twice, within a fortnight, he’d heard the same testimony. He then flew to preach in the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Perth. And when his teaching series was over, the senior elder of that church took him out for a meal. And he asked him how he became a Christian.

He said, “I grew up in this church from the age of fifteen through Boy’s Brigade. Never made a commitment to Jesus, just hopped on the bandwagon like everybody else. And because of my business ability, grew up to a place of influence. I was on a business outing in Sydney just three years ago, and an obnoxious little man stepped out a shop doorway, offered me a religious pamphlet, and accosted me with a question, ‘Excuse me sir, Are you saved? If you died tonight are you going to heaven?’ “ He said, “I tried to tell him I was a Baptist elder. He wouldn’t listen to me.”

“I was seething with anger all the way home to Perth. I told my pastor, thinking he would sympathize with me, but my pastor agreed with the man! He had been disturbed for years, knowing that I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus - and he was right. And my pastor led me to Jesus just three years ago.”

Now this London preacher flew back to the U. K. and was speaking at the Keswick Convention in the Lake District, and he threw in these three testimonies. At the close of his teaching session, four elderly pastors came up and said, “We got saved between 25 and 35 years ago through that little man on George Street giving us a tract and asking us that question.”

He then flew the following week to a similar Convention in the Caribbean for missionaries. And He shared these testimonies. At the close of his teaching session, three missionaries came up and said, “We got saved between 15 and 25 years ago, respectively, through that little man’s testimony and asking us that same question on George Street in Sydney.”

returning via Atlanta, Georgia, to speak at a Naval Chaplain’s convention the Pastor spoke to over a thousand Navy Chaplains. The Chaplain General took him out for a meal and he asked him how he'd become a Christian?

The Chaplain relied, 'I was living a reprobate life on a US Battleship. We were doing exercises in the South Pacific, and we docked in Sydney Harbor for replenishments. We hit King’s Cross with a vengeance. I got blind drunk. I got on the wrong bus - got off in George Street. As I got off the bus, I thought it was a ghost. This elderly white-haired man jumped in front of me, pushed a pamphlet into my hands and said, ‘Sailor, are you saved? If you died tonight, are you going to heaven?’” He said, “The fear of God hit me immediately. I was shocked sober, and ran back to the battleship, sought out the chaplain, the chaplain led me to Christ and I soon began to prepare for the ministry under his guidance. And here I am in charge of over a thousand chaplains and we’re bent on soul-winning today.”

This London Pastor, six months later, flew to do a convention for 5000 missionaries in a remote corner of northeastern India. And at the end, the host took him home for a simple meal. The Pastor asked him, “How did you, as a Hindu, come to Christ?” He said, “I was in a very privileged position, I worked for the Indian diplomatic mission. And I traveled the world. One bout of diplomatic service took me to Sydney. And I was doing some last minute shopping, walking down George Street, when this little white-haired man stepped out in front of me, offered me a pamphlet, and said, ‘Excuse me sir, are you saved? If you died tonight are you going to heaven?’”

He said, “I thanked him very much, but this disturbed me. I got back to my town, I sought out the Hindu priest, and he couldn’t help me. He to go and talk to the missionary to satisfy my curiosity - that was fateful advice. That day the missionary led me to Christ. I quit Hinduism immediately, and then began to study for the ministry. I left the diplomatic service, and here I am, by God’s grace, in charge of all these missionaries, and we’re winning hundreds of thousands of people to Christ.”

Eight months later, this same pastor was ministering in Sydney. He asked the Baptist minister, “Do you know a little manwho witnesses and hands out tracts on George Street?” And he said, “I do. His name is Mr. Genor, but I don’t think he does it anymore, he’s too frail and elderly.”

The man said, “I want to meet him.” Two nights later, they went around to this little apartment, and this tiny, frail, little man opened the door. He sat them down and made them some tea. The London preacher told him all these accounts over the previous three years. This little man sat with tears running down his cheeks.

He said, “My story goes like this.” He said, “I was on an Australian warship and I lived a reprobate life. And in a crisis, I really hit the wall, and one of my colleagues led me to Jesus and the change in my life was so amazing and I was so grateful to God that I promised I would share Jesus in a simple witness with at least ten people a day - as God gave me strength.

'Sometimes, I was ill - I couldn’t do it, but I made up for it at other times. I wasn’t paranoid about it, but I have done this for over forty years, and in my retirement years, the best place was on George Street. There were hundreds of people. In forty years of doing this, I’ve never heard of one single person coming to Jesus until today.”

It has to be deep love for Jesus that enables a man to keep this up over the long haul without knowing any of the results. This is more than could be sustained by simple commitment, this is a love for the lost that flows from a love & gratitude for Jesus. That's over 146,000 people that this simple little man provoked about Jesus. Goodness knows how many more had been impacted for Christ.
Mr. Genor died two weeks later. Nobody except a little group of Baptists in southern Sydney knew about Mr. Genor, but I’ll tell you his name was famous in heaven. Can you imagine the fanfare he went home to?