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Archive for the ‘Revival’ Category

For this Reformation Day I’ve been enjoying reading through the Belgic Confession – one of the early reformed confessions (1561). I love it for its clarity and straightforwardness but also there is a lovely warmth that comes through. Surely this is what our church needs today – lovely truth, doctrine with devotion, a passionate creed. I think this is my favourite section – on the intercession of Christ:

We believe that we have no access to God except through the one and only Mediator and Intercessor, “Jesus Christ the righteous,” (1 John 2:1).
But this Mediator, whom the Father has appointed between himself and us, ought not terrify us by his greatness, so that we have to look for another one, according to our fancy. For neither in heaven nor among the creatures on earth is there anyone who loves us more than Jesus Christ does.

Although he was “in the form of God,” Christ nevertheless “emptied himself,” taking “human form” and “the form of a slave” for us; (Phil. 2:6-8) and he made himself “like his brothers and sisters in every respect.” (Heb. 2:17).

Suppose we had to find another intercessor. Who would love us more than he who gave his life for us, even though “we were enemies”? (Rom. 5:10)
And suppose we had to find one who has prestige and power. Who has as much of these as he who is seated at the right hand of the Father, (Rom. 8:34) and who has “all authority in heaven and on earth”? (Matt. 28:18).
And who will be heard more readily than God’s own dearly beloved Son?

So, the practice of honoring the saints as intercessors in fact dishonors them because of its misplaced faith. That was something the saints never did nor asked for, but which in keeping with their duty, as appears from their writings, they consistently refused.

We should not plead here that we are unworthy— for it is not a question of offering our prayers on the basis of our own dignity but only on the basis of the excellence and dignity of Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is ours by faith.

Since the apostle for good reason wants us to get rid of this foolish fear—or rather, this unbelief—he says to us that Jesus Christ was made like “his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest” to purify the sins of the people. (Heb. 2:17) For since he suffered, being tempted, he is also able to help those who are tempted. (Heb. 2:18)

And further, to encourage us more to approach him he says, “Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:14-16)

The same apostle says that we “have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus… Let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith….” (Heb. 10:19, 22)

Likewise, Christ “holds his priesthood permanently…. Consequently, he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb. 7:24-25)

What more do we need?
For Christ himself declares: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Why should we seek another intercessor?

Since it has pleased God to give us the Son as our Intercessor, let us not leave him for another— or rather seek, without ever finding.
For, when giving Christ to us, God knew well that we were sinners.

Therefore, in following the command of Christ we call on the heavenly Father through Christ,our only Mediator, as we are taught by the Lord’s prayer, being assured that we shall obtain all we ask of the Father in his name.

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First day of the Ministry Training Course with the 2013/2014 apprentices. Great to hear stories from their different placements and see how God has really been growing them over the last seven months. A highlight for me was the first of a series of expositions of Job from Fidel:

Job

Job 1:1-2:10:

  • Big question is, ‘Does God have real worshippers?’ (1:9). I’d never thought of it like this before but when Satan says, “Natoka kuzunguka pote duniani, nikitembea huku na huko humo” (1:7) he is basically saying that he hasn’t seen anything worth mentioning, nothing to worry him, no-one breaking the pattern of self-interest, no-one worshipping God for who he is. Then verse 8 is God giving the exception that Satan has missed. Then verse 9 is Satan’s rationalisation – this isn’t a genuine exception to his observation – Job is just a religious form of self-interest. Then come the tests that prove who is right – is there a real worshipper who genuinely seeks God?
  • The reality of the spiritual realm, reality of Satan, his limited knowledge, the LORD’s restraining, but also the extreme permissions granted.
  • We love this verse: “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” Well in Job’s case there is something prepared for him (1:12; 2:6) but this plan for his life isn’t revealed to him and he probably wouldn’t want to know it anyway.
  • Every time you read it it is utterly amazing that Job loses everything and worships (1:20). He really is the true worshipper. He wasn’t worshipping God for the stuff. He wasn’t worshipping the stuff itself. He was, and continues to, worship God himself.
  • Three times in 25 verses we are told Job was blameless and upright. What comes next has absolutely zero to do with some personal sin.
  • What are the 2 things emphasised in prosperity preaching? Health and Wealth. What does Job have taken away? His Wealth and then his Health.
  • His life is spared (2:6) because it’d very important for us that we listen to the next 40 chapters, see the innocent sufferer, wrestle with the theological arguments.
  • The big question for us: Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?

Also today:

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edwards murrayJonathan Edwards was born to Timothy & Esther Edwards in 1703 and died aged 54 in 1758. Timothy (his father) was a pastor in East Windsor, Connecticut (then a British colony).

Edwards was converted while in college in 1721. He writes in his ‘Personal Narrative’ of how he felt a new sense of things especially after reading the words of 1 Tim. 1:17 “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour & glory for ever and ever, Amen.”

“From about that time, I began to have a new kind of apprehensions and ideas of Christ and the work of redemption, and the glorious way of salvation by him… The appearance of every thing was altered; there seemed to be, as it were, a calm sweet cast, or appearance of divine glory, in almost everything… Prayer seemed to be natural to me, as the breath by which the inward burnings of my heart had vent.”

After college in August of 1722, Edwards began a regular preaching ministry in New York. He loved writing since his school days and his writing would cover a variety of topics with titles such as ‘Of Rainbows’ ‘Of Insects’ ‘Of Atoms’ e.t.c. to which he gave very close attention. But for the next 12 months, his interests changed. This was evident when he wrote his ‘Resolutions’ where he first acknowledges that he’s unable to do anything without God’s help. But one notable resolution was ‘I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to an old age.’ He also writes of how there was this growing desire for holiness.

Later on, in 1724, Edwards took up tutorship at Yale. His subject of interest was natural sciences, an interest that had been stimulated by Isaac Newton and William Whiston. Edwards also worked in the library, and from his religious catalogue, the names that predominated it are those of old authors of Reformed & Puritan persuasion more than his contemporaries. They included Calvin, Perkins, Van Mastricht, Sibbes, Manton, Flavel, Owen and Charnnock.

In August 1726, the church of his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, at Northampton, New England, invited him to come with a view to his appointment of assistant minister. Preaching was to be his life-work and for next twenty-three years he was to be ‘Mr. Edwards of Northampton’.

After arriving in Northampton, Edwards later wrote

“The gospel has seemed to me the richest treasure; the treasure that I have most desired, and longed that it might dwell richly in me.”

His convictions grew and developed as a result of his heartfelt awareness of the power and desert of sin. Men must be saved by sovereign mercy or not at all, and the more he saw of this way of salvation – God giving grace to those who had no claim or right – the more was his own dependence on it. His convictions would later be heard beyond Northampton when at the age of 28, he was invited to give a Public Lecture in Boston on July 8, 1731.

In the later part of December 1734, using Edwards’ words:

“the Spirit begun extraordinarily to set in and there were a number conversions. There was a great and earnest concern about the great things of religion and the eternal world in all parts of the town and among persons of all degrees and all ages.”

This was the beginning of the revival. In preaching, there was a new degree of earnestness. Their understanding of what was required of a preacher was different, they knew their purpose was not to induce regeneration in the hearts of the hearers. The work of giving new life to the spiritually dead is solely the act of the Spirit of God. None can enter the kingdom of God without first being born from above.

But they also believed that it was God’s usual way & manner, in bestowing grace, to work in sinners prior to their regeneration in order to reveal their false security and to bring them to conscious emptiness and need.

In the words of Robert Bolton:

“A sinner must feel himself misery, before he will go about to find remedy; be sick before he will seek a physician; be in prison before he will seek a pardon. He must be cast down, confounded, condemned, a cast away, and lost in himself, before he will look about for a Saviour.”

The preacher’s work then comes in: thoughtless, worldly hearers have to be addressed as Paul addressed Felix (Acts 24:25):

“The pastor’s work is not only to exhort men to a voluntary examination of themselves, but also by the sword of the Spirit, he must labour to open the apostums (festering sores or abscesses) of proud sinners, discovering unto them as occasion serves, their wickedness, and denouncing the wrath of God against them, if possibly the Lord shall give them repentance, as he did to the hearers of Peter, Acts 2:37.” (Edwards, quoted by Murray p. 129)

Continued… Next Post

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Bonface & Daniel MTC April 2013

Some of today’s highlights:

Very fruitful time discussing pastoral ministry – looking to God’s Word and listening to Benard Kariuki and Joel Mutea sharing their wisdom and experience in wisdom. Lots of helpful things came out:

  • The Calling and Ministry are for every member of the church (Eph. 4:1, 4, 12)
  • Who is equal to pastoral ministry? (2 Cor. 2:16)
  • The movement into pastoral ministry comes about through a number of things:
    • Passion, desire (1 Tim. 3:1), a “fire in the bones” (Jer. 20:9)
    • Character, ability, family life, maturity and repute affirmed by others in the church (1 Tim. 3:2-7)
    • Trial and error – test the water, try out different careers – God will get you where he wants you in the end
  • The need for great humility both in receiving correction and in correcting others
  • ‘Community sermon development’ – instead of the man of God with the definitive word from God, sermon preparation becomes a humble, accountable, communal activity
  • Challenges in our context – including the paradox of pastor-worship and at the same time a despising of the path of pastoral ministry

The falseness of Job’s comforters:

  • “The believer should not suffer like this, suffering is proof of sin”
  • using arguments of ‘spiritual’ experiences and extra-biblical revelation (Job 4:12-16) and the wisdom of the elders (Job 8:8-10)
  • a trite superficial use of Scripture – their words are packed with biblical allusions but it is a selective twisting and claiming of Scriptural ‘promises’ ignoring the more difficult portions (e.g. Ps. 88) and the big shape of the Bible story
  • gaps in their theology – the deep fallenness of the world, the reality of Satan (God’s bulldog), the eternal view (Ps. 73), the reality of innocent suffering (Abel, Joseph) and the place of innocent/sacrificial suffering in the plan and character of God himself (sacrificial system à Cross)
  • they speak of God but not to God

James Wainaina on Luther:

  • The big test of doctrine = does it have suffering at the centre? Luther found in the Psalms a theology of the Cross not a theology of worldly glory.
  • True grace – salvation is not a transaction but a gift – all top-down – the only and necessary qualification to come to the table of salvation is to be a sinner – we are always only beggars.
  • Theology is not just for the head but for experience.

And from the story of Festo Kivengere this great quote:

It was a temptation to develop some special revival message such as ‘brokenness’, something that belongs to our mission – how terrible! – and forget that the answer is found only in, “I, when I am lifted up… will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32)

Resources:

Please pray:

  • For a revival in faithful Bible teaching and servant leadership in our land and that God might be pleased to raise up gospel workers for his harvest field even from amongst iServe Africa.
  • For Sammy as he continues to take us through Job, for Lydia Maingi encouraging us with the life of Gladys Aylward and for me as I teach the second years on eschatology.
  • That as the apprentices study Romans and Ephesians the Spirit would be producing gospel convictions, gospel-shaped character and gospel-shaped living.

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At the August ‘First Priority’ prayer meeting we read 2 Chronicles 18 – the gripping story of the faithful prophet, out-numbered 400 to 1, standing before the kings of Israel and Judah. Harrison provoked us to think through a number of questions:

  1. Why are we seeking the Lord’s will?  Jehoshaphat has just led a greater revival than his father Asa (2 Chron. 17) but now he’s throwing in his lot with the terrible apostate king of Israel Ahab (2 Chron. 18:1-3). Unlike the northern king, Jehoshaphat is still concerned to “Enquire first for the word of the Lord” (v4).  But why?  Is he really willing to obey it?  It turns out later that he is not (v28).  Are we looking to God’s Word to rubber stamp what we already think and want?  How different are we from Ahab who’s main concern is for someone to tell him something good about himself (v7)?
  2. Who is our master?  For the 400 prophets it’s pretty clear who’s the boss – the king – their pay master general.  For Micaiah it’s also clear – “As the Lord lives, what my God says, that I will speak” (v13).  What about for us?  Who are we ultimately trying to please – our mentor/supervisor/senior pastor/bishop, our congregation (what their itching ears want to hear), ourselves, or “the Lord sitting on his throne” (v18)?
  3. Are we more concerned for passion or for truth?  Zedekiah ben Chenaanah has a very powerful message. He ‘goes symbolic’, he declares “Thus says the Lord”, what he says is followed by multiple ‘confirming words’ (v10-11)… but it is just hot air.  What do we mean when we say that a sermon was “powerful”?  Do we want preaching that blows the roof off and sends us out pumped up to take on Ramoth-gilead or do we want the truth?
  4. Are we willing to be unpopular?  The 400 prophets have strength in numbers and the favour with those at the top of society.  Micaiah is pressurised (v12), slapped in the face (v23) and imprisoned (v26). The same happens to Jesus and then Paul and then to thousands of those who have preached the pure Word of God through the ages.  Much as we pray and work with all His energy for a revival of faithful Bible teaching we had better get used to the fact there will always be great resistance and very rarely will faithful prophets be in the majority.
  5. Are we under judgment?  When we look ‘behind the scenes’ and see why the 400 prophets are united in false prophecy (v18-22) we have to face the possibility that a rise in false teaching may be a judgment from God. Praise God that even in judgment he remembers mercy and has his true prophet in place (v7), responds to the desperate cry of the Davidic king (v31), preserves a remnant (1 Kings 19:18) and soon brings a new revival (2 Chron. 19-20).
  6. What kind of message do we have?  At first sight (or hearing) the message of the 400 prophets sounds like good news (v5-11) while Micaiah’s message sounds like bad news (v16-22).  We might start thinking, “So the prosperity gospel preachers have got all the good news and we just have bad news to tell people?” But look closer and follow where it leads and you find a different story. The message of the false prophets is, “You strive and God will give you victory” – and it leads to destruction (v34). The message of the true prophet is, “God is desperately concerned for his sheep and their shepherd who are heading for disaster and he’s graciously giving you this warning ahead of time” (v16) – all you have to do is believe this message and sit still and you will live. The words of the false prophets tie on heavy burdens and make empty promises.  But the faithful preacher has the words of eternal life, the voice of the Good Shepherd, grace and safety – words that sting at first and cut down pride but only to heal us and free us and lift us up to the throne of grace.

At the same ‘First Priority’ we looked at the country of Germany – where the Reformation began 500 years ago. We could see various parallels between Micaiah ben Imlah and Martin Luther.  Both massively out-numbered – almost lone voices preaching the truth in the midst of thoroughly corrupted and twisted religion. Both preached the inability of man and the sovereignty and love of God.  Both hauled up before the authorities (having been lent on very heavily to just go along with the official Church view).  Both declared their consciences bound to the Word of God.  And both suffered for their stand. 

Latest estimates suggest that in Berlin today only 0.1% of the population are evangelical Christians.  There is great need of a new revival, a rediscovery of the power of the Word of God, the beauty of Jesus, the good news of grace alone, justification in Christ.

  • For a good brief profile of the German mission context see here.
  • For more prayer resources on Germany see here.
  • For an example of mission from Kenya to Germany see here and here.

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James Wainaina continues on 2 Chronicles 17….

 

We’ve seen that the revival in 2 Chronicles 17 was preaching-driven. Jehoshaphat chooses not to bow down to Baal but seek and obey the old, neglected law of God and not only that, he is so courageous about the ways of God that he sends a team of princes, Levites and priests to teach fellow Israelites that true revival is only found in a return to the book of the law. This is preached to all in Israel and the revival started by Jehoshaphat’s father Asa is repeated but this time on a larger scale because he takes the good news of God’s book of the law to all the people of Israel.

As we look at Jehoshaphat, we might be tempted to read ourselves as Jehoshaphat – to jump into his shoes. However, we would do better to see him as the Davidic king, a pointer (an imperfect pointer when we reading on to chapter 18) to great David’s Greater Son. It is better that we see ourselves as the people of Judah, needing a king who will lead us in the ways of the Lord – a king who has not sinned but has fully and perfectly sought the Lord and walked in the ways of the Lord. That king is our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. He is the king promised in the line of David in 2 Samuel 7:12-13 who will reign forever.

  1. Isn’t he the stronger man, who has taken his throne, crushed the high places of the enemy and established his kingdom – at the Cross?
  2. Isn’t he the King who has perfectly walked in the ways of his God and Father and not after idols? He has fully obeyed God’s commandments perfectly with no iota of disobedience or wickedness fulfilling all the commandments.
  3. Isn’t he the King whose delight he says is to do the will of His father in heaven including being chastised by the rod and stripes of men (2 Sam 7:14) not because he is a sinner but because He is the substitution offering for our transgression and sinfulness? He who knew no sin became sin for us.
  4. Isn’t he the king who has come down from heaven, he who never took his Lordship as something to be grasped but came down in humility to live amongst us, teach the word of God and send out his disciples to continue being his witnesses to his teachings, suffering and resurrection which has brought forgiveness and repentance to all in Luke 24:46-48?
  5. And isn’t he the king who will come back to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will be established forever and ever in Rev 11:15?

And as we come to a close, Is he the king who rules our life?

  1. Has King Jesus broken into our lives and established his rule?  Have we been revived by him and been given a new identity as a citizen of his kingdom? 
  2. Do we know that Christ’s perfect obedience given to us?  Do we know the assurance of being clothed in him?  That we can stand right before God not because of what we have done but because of what He has done.
  3. Do we know the joy and blessing that the king has taken the stripes we deserved, taking away all our iniquity and transgression at the Cross?
  4. Are we personally listening to the Word that brings revival?  Do we humble ourselves before the Word? In relationship to others, our work places, our families are we looking to Jesus’ Lordship or are we walking in accordance to ways of the world? And are we going out to preach the Word that brings revival? Are we totally convinced that this is how lives will be transformed?
  5. As we wait for the return of the King and the final establishing of his Kingdom and peace, are we humble enough even to serve as determined warriors and brave men on the side of the King? Standing up for the kingdom’s rule in our lives not because we have done it, but because the grace of the cross blows our mind when we think of the manner of love that Christ has loved us with and above all, the realization that His kingdom is established now and forever more.

How do we have revived hearts and lives?

It can only be so through:

  1. A focus on Jesus Christ our ultimate king.
  2. A focus particularly on his work on the Cross.
  3. Such a heart-captivating focus on the joy and blessing of Christ that the idols of money, sex, power and fame will be eclipsed and fade.
  4. A focus on Christ not through some mystical means but simply through listening to the Word (rather than ourselves or the world).
  5. Bringing others to focus on Christ through proclaiming this Word of truth.

May the Lord help us, as we focus on the Lord Jesus Christ our King. This is what will bring a greater revival in our hearts and life. It will bring rejoicing that no man can give. The joy of a greater hope that not even death can take away from us.

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At the last ‘First Priority’ prayer meeting James Wainaina (iServe Africa staff member and apprentice 2009-2011) preached 2 Chronicles 17 to us. A very powerful message on the focus and means of true revival. Here’s what he shared:

Introduction:

Perhaps you and I have heard of the so-much publicised meetings with the tags; “Gospel revival meetings” “Come and expect your miracle” “Your better life now” among others. The big question is: What is the centre of these calls to revival? One of the preachers has said, “If I publicize my meetings with the tag, ‘Come expecting a miracle’, many people will come, but wait until I publicise the meeting with the tag, ‘Come and hear from Jesus’, and the number dwindles.” It leaves us to ask ourselves, what is revival? What does it entail? Is it just a meeting that is branded “a revival meeting?”

2 Chronicles 17 can help us answer these questions. So, let’s go into the narrative, but before that, we can look at some information that might help us understand the chapter. Jehoshaphat is a king of Judah after the split of the kingdom in the line of David. He sits on the throne to fulfil God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:12-13 where God promises to establish a kingdom in the house of David forever – a forever kingdom and a forever king.  The main message of the book is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14. “If my people, who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” That’s what you see in 2 Chronicles 17 – the king (the Davidic king) leading the nation in humility and God fulfilling his promise to heal the land. 

Big Idea:

Through Jehoshaphat’s humble obedience, God brings a renewed Israel that could almost measure to that of David’s or Solomon’s Israel. 

The Narrative:

v1-2: What a King will do when he is a King – establish the kingdom.

v3: God’s presence is with Jehoshaphat.

v3b-4: What does God’s presence produce?

  • Walking – in the ways of David and the ways of God
  • Not walking – according to the practices of Israel
  • Seeking – the God of his father
  • Not seeking – the Baals – the popular choice

v5: “In this way the Lord established him and the kingdom in his hand. All Judah brought tribute to him and he had riches and honour in abundance.”  Through Jehoshaphat’s humble obedience the Lord establishes the kingdom in a way that hadn’t been seen since the days of Solomon.  

v6:In case we haven’t got the message, the author does not leave us in any doubt how the kingdom was established and the blessing grew – it was a matter of the heart – Jehoshaphat’s heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord (Joshua 1:6).  He did not fumble or stumble even when Baal worship was all around. He removed the high places and Asherah poles from Judah unlike Asa who left them after. This was a greater king with a greater heart bringing a greater revival than his father.

v7-9: A team of officials from Jehoshaphat’s kingdom, princes, Levites, and priests are sent out among the people. This time, not to collect tax, forcefully take the sons of Israelites to the army or to forced labour and not to have their daughters as slaves or wives to Jehoshaphat the King, but to teach them the book of the law of the Lord. Jehoshaphat is courageous enough to send the princes, Levites and priests to bring back the book of the law to Israel and remind them of the covenant way of life.

v10-11: Results of teaching God’s word among the people:

  • The fear of the Lord gripped the surrounding nations. It doesn’t say the reason why the fear gripped them but it is fulfilment of the promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:3), a reminder of the days of Joshua (Joshua 2:11; 5:1) and a hint of God’s intention to turn the world upside down with the preaching of his Word.
  • There was no war between Judah and her neighbours. Peace reigned and the total rest promised by God of a land and His presence (2 Sam. 7:11) being with the Israelites is fulfilled when God’s word is faithfully preached amongst the people.
  • Enemies submit to the King of Israel and they bring gifts to Jehoshaphat. Philistines and Arabs bring gifts to Jehoshaphat. The kingdom of God extends to the neighbouring community and there is peace in the region.   (This takes us back to Solomon and even further back to Egypt during the Exodus where the Egyptians gave silver and gold items to Israelites after they witness the great revelation of God before their eyes).

v12-19: Jehoshaphat’s kingdom is established and a great multitude of fighting men, brave warriors serve the King and the established Kingdom. This is like David with his ‘mighty men’ (1 Chronicles 11:10-12:40; 27:1-15) but now they are in their hundreds of thousands.

The kingdom is established when the king realizes that the secret lies not in a new way of doing this, but in the neglected, assumed and forgotten ways of the Lord. Upon assumption to kingship, he goes back to this historical truth and God’s word becomes alive in this kingdom leading to massive transformation not only in his kingdom but also among his neighbouring enemies.

A call to us as Christians: Revival in our churches is not based on a new trick in the way we preach or a new gospel we have discovered or preaching miracles, signs and wonders, not really, revival is based on re-discovery of the historical, biblical God of promise who is revealed to us in Christ Jesus. It is not in feel good, act good sermons but on a call to humility that makes us look at the old neglected Word of God as the only way our hearts will be revived. When we clearly know that when the word of God is taught faithfully, it brings revival in the hearts of men, then we can seek a genuine revival that is focussed on God.

Part 2

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