Taming Your Anger - God's Strategy for Change, Part 3

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1:19-20

Passivity Is Not Our Goal

You say you have a temper. You may find this surprising, but God has too many disciples who won’t get mad at anything! God wants men and women of temper; He hand-picks such individuals and makes them godly.

I can see this strategy at work in my life. If someone offends me, I may think bad thoughts about that individual, but immediately God’s harness pulls me back, and I feel compassion for that person—I want to help him and forgive him. My former drive to receive acceptance and approval (and punish those who don’t give them to me) is now a passion for helping others be the best they can be in Christ.

Does my story encourage you? I hope so. Hidden beneath your anger is a fervency—a drive –that can be redirected in positive ways when you yield to God. We’ll talk about the yielding process in a later blog, but before we do, let’s set the record straight on anger. You can’t deal with anger until you understand what it is—and is not—and how God wants you to deal with it. Here are nine key points:

Anger doesn’t have to be a sinful emotion

Most people assume that anger is a product of the fall, that God never intended man to feel anger. Why, then, did a sinless Jesus get angry and storm into the temple with a whip in hand and drive the money changers out of His Father’s house (Matthew 21:12-13)? And why did Paul write, “Be angry, and yet do not sin,” if anger and sin cannot exist independently (Ephesians 4:26)? Clearly he assumed that anger is not sin in and of itself.

Anger is an integral part of God’s divine nature

Dozens of times in the Old Testament, God’s anger burns. Check your concordance. You may be surprised to see how often God was angry with His people, for example. But the Bible also says repeatedly that God is slow to anger, and the Scriptures always tie God’s wrath to His love.

Because He loves us so much, God becomes angry toward anything that might deface or destroy us, namely sin. His death on the Cross demonstrates both the depth of His love toward us and the depth of His hatred towards sin.

Knowing that Jesus experienced anger suggests that anger doesn’t have to be sinful. It is a natural human emotion designed for constructive, spiritual purposes. We come into this world with a powerful set of impulses, which are the driving force of life. We didn’t create them. They were wrought in our nature by the hand of Him who made man in His own image.

Anger that’s under control can produce boldness and courage for the things of God

But this emotion can also be misused for sinful purposes. The difference? Control. Misused anger is under the control of self. It is a reaction to an external event that challenges or threatens your perceived rights.

Rage goes beyond anger. It’s an emotion that even self can’t control. And, because it can’t be controlled, rage provides neither power nor strength. In reality, it demonstrates weakness.

Anger is a trust problem

Anger may have numerous roots, but the central issue always involves your refusal to trust God with your future, your possessions, your time or your rights.

Parents grow impatient with their children because they don’t have time to dilly dally. I wonder, are they trusting God with their time, knowing that He will make a way for them to accomplish the things that matter most to Him?

People who experience rejection grow bitter and angry because they cling to their perceived rights to be loved or understood. Ironically, their anger only brings further rejection.

Ungodly anger always involves self

Much of our anger is petty, rising out of mere selfishness. If you fly off the handle when you don’t get your way, self is to blame. And self-assertion is the oldest form of idolatry on earth.

Unbridled anger is your enemy, not your friend

I can’t stress enough the importance of this distinction. Anger might feel good because it helps you to release tension or get your way momentarily, but giving your anger free rein is physically and emotionally destructive. So, to overcome sinful anger, you must first learn to hate it.

Suppressing your anger is not enough

Anger will always find a way to surface. Think of the husband who stays cool on the job only to unload his frustrations at home.

In Buddhism and Hinduism, the goal is to free yourself of all desires that might ignite your passions. But any method of self-control that relies on curbing your desires is not of God. Strong passions are not to be destroyed or suppressed, but harnessed by yielding to the Holy Spirit.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, not your anger

When you aspire to change the way you handle anger, don’t focus on removing the anger, but on becoming like Jesus. Make a commitment to please Jesus. Approaching anger from this perspective puts your struggle back in its proper context. Ultimately, it’s the meekness you’ll learn from Jesus that will steer you away from anger.

Anger is a snare (Proverbs 22:25)

Says Ecclesiastes 7:9. Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools. A better translation of the word “resides” might be “deeply imbeds itself”. In other words, anger works its way into the deepest recess of your heart. And the deeper it goes, the harder it is to rout. That’s why you’ve got to break your anger habit now, before it gets worse.

Come back next week to read more of this classic series on anger

Taming Your Anger - God's Straegy for Change, Part 2

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1:19-20

God Showed Me the Ugliness of My Sin

I walked around the field behind our apartment for nearly an hour, crying out to God: “Lord, how could I have done that? That’s the way I used to be. I don’t want to be like that anymore.”

I couldn’t feel God’s presence or feel Him ministering to me. Then, finally, God spoke to me. “My grace is all that keeps you,” He said quietly. “For one brief moment I lifted the power of My grace from you. I did not leave you or forsake you, but I lifted the power of My grace just to show you that without My keeping grace, you would become seven times worse than you were or than you’ve ever dreamed you could be. I want you to realize that only My grace keeps you.

God’s words hit me so hard that I dropped to my knees. “Please, Lord,” I cried, “don’t ever let me trample Your grace again. Please don’t ever let me become controlled by this monster called anger.”

Consecration to the Lord is Required

That day I learned that anger is my enemy—not my friend—and if I don’t walk with the Lord, anger will take control of me. I’m still tempted to blow up from time to time, but I now find the strength of God on the inside because I hate anger. Occasionally I even feel rage, but I also feel the reins of God. It’s like His hand just takes hold of me.

When I consider the direction in which our world is going today, I do feel an anger inside. But it’s different now. That ball of fury is no longer there. God has tamed my anger. He’s harnessed it and transformed it into a passion for helping people experience the life-changing power of God.

Looking at my life, I am convinced that it’s not the temper or passion God seeks to remove from us, but the self-centeredness—the habit of loving oneself at the expense of other’s rights and feelings. Once self is abased, God can harness the “wild horses” within us and channel our passions in directions that are pleasing to Him.

God Hand-Picks Hot Tempered People

That’s what I see in the disciples. Most of them were hot-tempered people. Certainly, God humbled them until they learned to yield to Him, but He never changed their basic personalities. The religion of Jesus is no opiate. It will not put you to sleep or take the fight out of you. Look at the record. Jesus picked rough and profane men to follow Him—the sinners, the disinherited, the volatile. In His mind, they all made good prospects for Christian discipleship.

They were stormy men with turbulent, yet misdirected passions. But Jesus didn’t fear their enthusiasm, or even their fanaticism. He knew that torrents in men, like torrents in rivers, can be converted and harnessed, their power made to serve righteousness.

Would you have chosen Matthew? He was a cheat, a gambler, a tax-collector for Rome. But Jesus knew that in every weed lies a potential flower when transformed by His glorious power. So Jesus laid His hand on Matthew’s powerful impulses, like anger, and harnessed them, transforming them from expressions of selfishness into spiritual devotion of the deepest kind.

Peter was no shrinking violet, either. Like James and John, the “Sons of Thunder”, he had a strong fighting instinct. Did Jesus take the fight out of any of them? No, He redirected it. Did He command them to get rid of their anger? No, but He encouraged self-examination. When Jesus predicted His horrible death, Peter became defiant, if not angry. 

“Get behind Me, Satan!” Jesus told Peter. No doubt this command had some shock value. Jesus was really questioning Peter’s motives. Who has control of your emotions, Peter, God or Satan? (Matthew 16:23).

Saul of Tarsus was also a man of temper—a born fighter. Until he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, Saul persecuted and killed Christians. After this humbling experience, he became Paul. Still a fighter, but now a soldier in God’s army.  At the end of his spiritual journey, Paul spoke of fighting a good fight. Always a warrior, he had allowed God to harness his temper for the purpose of taking the gospel to the Gentiles.

Come back next week to read more of this classic series on anger

Taming Your Anger - God's Stragegy for Change, Part 1

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1:19-20

Does this admonition make you squirm in your seat? Let’s face it: We live in an angry, stressful world, and it’s easy to justify a hot temper when tensions run high. We also live in a hurtful world. People say and do things that wound us deeply. Anger provides a handy means of self-protection.

So, if you’re thinking, “I don’t have an anger problem, this blog is not for me,” think again. Anger doesn’t always express itself with a booming voice. Ask yourself:

  • How do I react when someone treats me unfairly or disrespectfully?
  • How do I express my frustration when difficult circumstances can’t be changed?
  • Do I grumble and complain when I don’t feel like doing something?
  • Am I defensive, critical of others, or open to receive gossip or slander?
  • Am I always looking for someone to blame?
  • Do I have a short fuse? Do I use verbal assaults to intimidate and control others?

Jesus never promised us freedom from everyday tensions and strife, but a deep, controlling inner peace in the midst of them. If you’re not experiencing that peace, you have an anger problem.

Be honest: Is anger like an old friend—someone you go to when the going gets tough? Then take note: So long as anger remains your friend, you will never attain the righteous life God desires for you.

Worse still, your anger will lead to evildoing (Psalm 37:8). (Perhaps it already has.) It will become a weapon in Satan’s hand—a wedge—for enabling more damaging forms of sin to creep into your life (Ephesians 4:26-27). In the end, anger will destroy you, your relationships, and the people you abuse verbally.

Getting free of anger is easier said than done, however. Anger is like that stain on your carpet that just won’t come out. No matter how many cleaning solutions you try, nothing works. And no matter how many times you ask God to take it away, your anger persists.

One possible reason, I believe, is that your objective is not in line with the will of God. You’re trying to obliterate or at least suppress your anger when God wants to redirect it.

Drawing from personal experience, I’m going to show you how to approach the problem of anger from this direction. I want you to see how God can take a man or woman’s anger and harness it for his glory.

My Battle Against Anger

Before I became a Christian, anger was my biggest problem. People who know me now find that difficult to believe, but anger literally consumed me. I’d get mad and irritable for little reason. I’d hit walls and get into fights over trivial issues.

As a kid in school, I had learned that the best way to protect myself was to act angry, because the more I acted angry, the less people would want to fool with me. Anger also helped me deal with frustration and perform better in sports. If someone made me angry, I could run faster and play more aggressively on the football field. So I learned to treat anger as a friend, not an enemy.

But, when I came to the Lord, God delivered me of my anger. It was gone immediately. But, here was the problem. I didn’t take anger seriously after that. I played with it by allowing petty irritations to come into my life unchecked. I didn’t repent of them or even see them as sin. I justified irritability because my anger had once been so much worse.

Then one Saturday morning, my anger returned with a vengeance! I don’t remember why, but I was in a bad mood that day—and I took every opportunity possible to express my frustrations. I slammed doors and made cutting remarks to my wife. After hours of stewing, I finally exploded.

I was standing at the door of our walk-in closet when my wife said something I didn’t like. All of a sudden, I felt something burning in the pit of my stomach. Like a fire, it swept up over me and exploded out of me. Do you know the feeling? It’s called rage. I swung as hard as I could and I ran my fist right through the closet door. I looked at my wife. Her eyes were as large as softballs, because she’d never seen rage in me before.

At that moment, I felt dirty. I felt ashamed. Because I already knew what the Word said about anger. “Please forgive me,” I said. “I have to get out of this house. It’s not because I’m angry at you. I’m angry at myself right now.”

Come back next week to read more of this classic series on anger

Revival Comes as a Tornado-Part 3

This classic was originally published in March 1998

A tornado is a violent whirling windstorm that accompanies a funnel-shaped cloud. Severe thunder, lightning, and torrents of rain are present as well. Just as a tornado advances across the sky, touching down on land here and there, a genuine revival moves through the spiritual world, stirring up life among believers in its path.

Divine truth strikes like lightning. God’s voice thunders, bringing heavy conviction and repentance. And torrents of saving and delivering power from God rain down upon men, women and children.

Let’s explore the remaining ways in which a true revival mimics a tornado:

1.     A Revival, Like a Tornado, is Destructive and Therefore Unwanted by Many People

Just as a tornado uproots trees and tears the roofs off of buildings, revival shakes the foundations of religious traditions and uproots strong leaders who cry out against God’s dealings.

Revival is messy; it disturbs routines and challenges the old ways of doing things. Church services no longer follow a tight agenda and time schedule when the Holy Spirit is given time and opportunity to do His work.

Because revival stirs up the status quo, expect to hear people of all doctrines and denominations protest loudly. They ignore the benefits of such a strong, cleansing storm, claiming that it does more harm than good. Stopping short of renouncing it completely, they look for messy spots to criticize. They remind me of the Pharisees who chastised Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. Both worship the law more than the law-giver. “Don’t go to that place,” I hear them saying. “It’s full of wildfire and too much excitement.” So many stay away, and so stay in their sins.

I understand why. The positive results of revival spoil the pet theories of certain ordained ministers. The revival’s simple focus on the Cross of Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of worldly formalists. The leading of the Holy Spirit frustrates the Jezebels and Ahabs who are determined to rule and control in their churches. And the presence of a righteous Lord cuts through the persistent hypocrisy of modern-day Ananiases and Sapphiras.

A young man once said the evangelist Billy Sunday, “My father don’t like these revivals.” Sunday replied, “That’s where your father and the devil are in agreement, son.” Woe unto the one that stands in open opposition to the salvation and deliverance of those God seeks to set free.

Writes Jeremiah, Behold the whirlwind of the Lord goeth forth with fury, a continuing whirlwind; it shall fall with pain upon the head of the wicked (Jeremiah 30:23 KJV).

A “continuing whirlwind” is a tornado. If you resist the truth, harden your heart, and curse such a storm, you are, in effect, cursing the God who sent it.

2.     A Revival, Like a Tornado, Pays No Heed to Men’s Ideas of Dignity

The mission of a revival is to seek out and destroy “sin germs” from which men are dying. It brings a holy search warrant to expose the secrets of the darkened heart. It comes to extinguish the fires of rebellion burning deep inside. And a revival tornado does all this without even consulting men’s notions of dignity as to how its work should be done. Many believers pray for revival and talk about revival in times of drought, but when it comes in unexpected, often humbling ways, they prefer the dignity of a dry spiritual life.

Throughout Scripture we find examples of men and women who dared to be out-of-the-ordinary when it came to seeking God.

Eldad and Medad prophesied in the camp, not at the Tent of Meeting, and Joshua wanted Moses to rebuke them for doing things a little differently. But instead Moses said, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets…” (Numbers 11:29).

Elijah and Elisha did not belong to the regular school of the prophets, yet they exercised a mighty influence for God.

John the Baptist wasn’t ordinary, but his message of repentance made way for Jesus.

Jesus Himself was not recognized for doing things in a dignified manner. Imagine the raised eyebrows when Jesus spat on the ground, made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to a blind man’s eyes (John 9:6). And yet, when the man washed his eyes in the pool of Siloam, he came back seeing!

3.     Just as More Rain Falls in One Tornado Than in Numerous Showers, More Souls are Saved in One Revival Than in Years of Evangelistic Effort

I admire the skill of a fly fisherman who artfully snags a single fish. But, I can also appreciate the prowess of a huge fishing boat. With its powerful motor and huge net, this single vessel pulls in thousands of fish at one time!

In periods of revival, our Lord employs such a net. Thank God for big boats and true revivals!

4.     Like a Tornado, a Revival Moves On, Despite All Opposition

Your distaste for revival will not keep it out of your community. The question is: What will you do if revival comes to your church? Will you stand back and watch with a critical eye? Or will you welcome God with an open heart?

I urge you to pray, as I pray…

O precious Jesus, save us from our own fears and prejudices. Keep us from clothing the gospel with our paltry notions of human dignity. Deliver us from crowning our feeble efforts with approval while ignoring the jeweled crown of Your cross and the power of the Holy Spirit to sweep multitudes into Your loving, merciful arms. Bring us to our knees for our sins and powerlessness. And cloud our eyes with tears of repentance. Allow us to see the blackness of our own hearts and the blinding power of our comfortable, religious traditions. And, God, fill us with a deep and intense desire to please You. Enlarge our capacity to love You more.

Revival Comes as a Tornado-Part 2

This classic was originally published in March 1998

In my mind, a revival is a veritable tornado! A tornado is a violent whirling windstorm that accompanies a funnel-shaped cloud. Severe thunder, lightning, and torrents of rain are present as well. Just as a tornado advances across the sky, touching down on land here and there, a genuine revival moves through the spiritual world, stirring up life among believers in its path.

Divine truth strikes like lightning. God’s voice thunders, bringing heavy conviction and repentance. And torrents of saving and delivering power from God rain down upon men, women and children. This analogy doesn’t stop there, however. Let me suggest eight additional ways in which a true revival mimics a tornado:

1.     Like a Tornado, a Revival Draws Attention to an Unseen Power

Man’s attention is usually fixed on the material world, but a revival tornado causes people to see and feel the power of the spiritual world.

Whereas the sunshine, dew and gentle showers of ordinary religious climates go unnoticed, a mighty revival tornado captures the attention of even hardened sinners who seem impervious to the Word of God. They begin to weep, tremble, pray, and cry out for God’s mercy, and their lives are transformed into scenes of holy triumph.

Others, who have tried religion before, but have never experienced victory over sin, are miraculously delivered from strongholds—their hope in God restored.

2.     Both a Tornado and Revival come From God; Man Cannot Stir them Up

The mission of God’s wind is to fulfill His will (John 3:8). Men have no power to direct that wind; we can only respond to it. We can hold evangelistic crusades, coax the lost to come to Jesus, and encourage people to express a desire to go to heaven when they die. After that, we can even baptize them and count them as members of the church. But there is no more revival power in all these things than the twitching of a corpse under the currents of an electric battery.

In revival, by contrast, God initiates and fuels all spiritual activity. He raises the spiritual temperature in a church or community. He causes the atmosphere to become heavy with “spiritual moisture” and charges it with the electricity of His presence. Once these atmospheric conditions are just right, He unleashes a cyclone against the human heart. Everything not founded upon the Rock of Jesus Christ is removed and destroyed.

At no point can man either stir up this storm or hold back its fury. A tornado begins and ends as God wills.

3.     Like a Tornado, a Revival Purifies the Atmosphere

Before a tornado hits, the atmosphere is heavy and hot. Disease-carrying mosquitoes hover over swamps and lakes. Smog blankets the valleys. But when a tornado passes through, it cleanses the atmosphere. A similar atmospheric change takes place in a revival, delivering people from the swamps of sin and the foggy skies of unbelief.

I have actually felt this cleansing take place in revival meetings. At first, a thick and heavy spiritual atmosphere envelopes the room. The presence of God weighs on your heart, pressing you into contact with God. Then, in the gaze of God’s holy eyes, you feel naked and exposed. You can’t hide your sin anymore. It’s all around you, like the flying debris of a tornado. As you confess your sins and repent before the flaming eyes of Jesus, the work of the cross is completed in you. Death to sin is applied to your heart. Chains of bondage fall off. Addictions and demonic strongholds crumble by the power of God. And you are cleansed.

4.     Thunder and Lightning Characterize Both a Tornado and a Revival

In an atmosphere of revival, the thunder of God’s voice terrorizes a sinner’s heart. His Word strikes like lightning, penetrating the heart so deeply that it arrests the attention of even those who typically reject the gospel or refuse to obey God.

The Holy Spirit so grips their hearts that they are open to instruction. Hardened hearts literally melt like wax before a flame. Humiliation, confession and the turning from sin follow, crushing sin like a steamroller flattens a grape. Then, in a flash, freedom rushes in like a flooding river, liberating the heart from areas of sin it has battled for years.

A so-called revival, in which the lightning of God’s truth hits no one, is a sham. Such revivals don’t bring rain or cleanse the atmosphere of malaria.

In true revival, the Lord hurls red-hot thunderbolts on religious sin, searing hypocrisy, dead orthodoxy and modern-day Pharisaism.  Powerless to cleanse the heart of sin, they cannot coexist with the genuine power of God.

Many Christians forget that the Lamb of God is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth;” Jesus told His disciples, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). A sword will cut sin out of the heart and break every yoke in our lives (Isaiah 58:6).

Although Jesus meets the weeping, repentant sinner with overflowing mercy, He attacks the unrepentant sinner with the fury of a hungry lion. He devours all prey, be it religious or moral sin.

Come back next week to learn four additional ways in which a true revival mimics a tornado.

Revival Comes as a Tornado-Part 1

This classic  was originally published in March 1998

Revival is in the news today. In Cuba, for example, after four decades of communism, the masses are flocking to churches. According to USA Today, Assemblies of God pastors are now holding up to 20 services a day to accommodate new members. “There’s an incredible spiritual awakening happening in Cuba,” says one pastor. “It’s powerful. You can feel it. Cuba’s people are starting to wake up.”

Just across the Gulf of Mexico, in Pensacola, Florida, more than 500 people stand in line for hours, sometimes in the rain, just to attend an evening service at Brownsville Assembly of God. Services run four nights a week, often long past midnight. Even so, no one wants to go home. And Brownsville isn’t the only city experiencing revival. It’s springing up all over the world; and most significantly, it’s taking place across denominational lines.

This is not to say, however, that every so-called revival or manifestation of God is genuine. Counterfeits exist, but my plea is that the Body of Christ would focus on the “big picture”—not the “scratches on the frame”—and remain open to what God is doing in our world today.

Let’s search for the true meaning and purpose of revival, accepting the possibility that God may manifest His presence is “unconventional” ways. Let’s stop clinging to man-made doctrines and expectations, remembering the words of the prophet Isaiah who declared long ago that God is in the business of crushing human pretensions.

And the pride of man will be humbled, and the loftiness of men will be abased; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day (Isaiah 2:17).

That day is rapidly approaching, and I believe the growing rumble of revival is genuine and truly significant. We’re in the path of a tornado, and if we’re too busy analyzing, judging and condemning this storm, we’re going to miss God.

With that in mind, let’s define revival as the Holy Spirit describes it in the Old Testament.


A Biblical Definition of Revival

In Exodus 33, God told Moses to break camp and lead the children of Israel out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land. But there was one catch. While Moses was up on Mt. Sinai spending time alone with God, the Israelites had foolishly worshipped a golden calf. And because of their infidelity, God declared He would not accompany them on their journey to Canaan (v 5). Instead, God offered to send an angel before them (v 2). But Moses wouldn’t accept that concession. “If thy presence does not go with us,” he told God, “do not lead us up from here” (v 15).

I like that! “If you don’t go, I’m not going,” Moses was saying. “I want you to be there—nothing else will suffice.” That attitude, my friend, is the hallmark of true revival!

When you seek the presence of God, you are seeking revival. When you experience the presence of God, you are experiencing revival. And when you see God saving, delivering and empowering, you have seen revival! It’s that simple.

More Than Just a Storm

In the Old Testament, the prophet Ezekiel looked out over the River Chebar with his spiritual eyes and saw the presence of God and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power as a storm cloud. And as I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it (Ezekiel 1:4).

In the New Testament, Jesus Himself likened the Holy Spirit’s activity to that of the wind’s. The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going (John 3:8).

And when the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost, Luke described His arrival as a violent, rushing wind (Acts 2:2).

Certainly, passages such as these associate revival with stormy, windy conditions. But after reading an old book called Revival Tornadoes, I began thinking of revival as something far more tumultuous than an everyday rainstorm. Published in 1889, this out-of-print classic chronicles the life of evangelist Rev. J.H. Weber. As I studied his experiences, my conception of a movement of God as being neat and orderly went by the wayside. I’m no expert, nor do I pretend to know how the Lord must come, but in my mind, a revival is a veritable tornado!

A tornado is a violent whirling windstorm that accompanies a funnel-shaped cloud. Severe thunder, lightning, and torrents of rain are present as well. Just as a tornado advances across the sky, touching down on land here and there, a genuine revival moves through the spiritual world, stirring up life among believers in its path. Divine truth strikes like lightning. God’s voice thunders, bringing heavy conviction and repentance. And torrents of saving and delivering power from God rain down upon men, women and children.

This analogy doesn’t stop there, however. Come back next week for eight additional ways in which a true revival mimics a tornado.

Fanning the Flames of Revival-Testing for Authenticity Part 2

Is genuine revival taking place in my church?

Counterfeits certainly exist, but they’re not always easy to identify. To determine if what you’re seeing and feeling is really of God, start by asking three key questions:

1.      Is the Message Christ-Centered or Issue-Centered?

When God is present, the message from the pulpit and the testimony from the congregation will reflect it. Jesus is not just in the message, He is the message.

2.      Are Lives Changing in Radical Ways?

The presence of Jesus imparts the saving, delivering and empowering life of Christ. Philosophies and causes can change behavior. Jesus doesn’t just change behavior; He changes the heart, which, in turn, controls the behavior.

Galatians 4:19 says that Christ is formed in us. In 2 Corinthians 4:10, Paul declares that the life of Jesus is manifested in us for all to see.

In other words, the presence of Jesus is something tangible and all-encompassing; it alters the very make-up of the heart. With a new heart, sin becomes repugnant, and the decision to turn from it follows naturally, yet forcefully.

Thus, in revival, God’s Spirit literally pours out on men, women and children who have been struggling in feebleness and clothes them with power to put aside sin and put on garments of holy praise and righteous living.


3.      Is Repentance an End in Itself, or the Gateway to Holiness?

In the atmosphere of revival, a community of believers is brought low in humility and repentance. In the presence of God, we begin to feel dirty and sinful.

Those who know Jesus as Savior repent of every thought or action that’s not in line with the character of Jesus.

Those who don’t know Jesus cry out in repentance for salvation. And everyone turns to God with an intense hunger for righteousness and His abiding presence.

But that’s just the threshold of revival. To continue on with God, you must despise and abandon anything of the world, either good or bad, that dampens your burning fervor for the nearness of God.

True revival doesn’t stop at repentance. It goes deeper. It turns your world upside down!

Originally published in the March 1998 issue of Reaching Higher

Fanning the Flames of Revival: Testing for Authenticity

Is true revival taking place in me?

To answer this question, look beyond physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s power. Look for tangible changes in the atmosphere of your spiritual life. Interestingly, those changes have counterparts in the physical world. I’ll show you what I mean in just a moment.  But first, consider how the earth’s unique atmosphere supports life on this planet.

  • It stores the building blocks of life—things like oxygen, water and carbon dioxide
  • It presses on the earth
  • It transmits sound
  • It reflects light

Just as God designed a physical atmosphere to support physical life, He also designed a spiritual atmosphere to support spiritual life. It, too, sustains life, presses in on us, and transmits sound and light.

Because revival purifies the spiritual atmosphere, it also enhances these life-sustaining properties. So if God is reviving your spirit, expect to see at least three results:

Greater Power to Live in an Anti-God World

Scientists tell us it is impossible for spiders to live in water, and yet the water spider survives by storing air globules in its underwater nest. These portable oxygen tanks enable the water spider to “breathe” underwater as needed.

Revival is like one giant air globule; it creates a healthy spiritual atmosphere—one that nourishes and sustains life. By importing that “air supply” into the worldly atmosphere in which we live, we are empowered to do things beyond our natural abilities. 

How has God enabled you to “breathe under water” recently?


More of Jesus: Less of “Self”

The weight of the atmosphere presses upon the earth with a force of about 15 pounds per square inch. In the spiritual realm, the Spirit of God presses on us to squeeze out “self” and make more room for Jesus. As we yield to His pressure, Christ is able to manifest more of His life through us.

During times of revival, the spiritual atmosphere is especially heavy, which intensifies the “pressing” action of the Holy Spirit.

What is God trying to squeeze out of you right now?

Better Hearing

The atmosphere is the transmitter of all sound. Without it, we could not communicate verbally. How true this is in the spiritual realm as well. When we are “in the Spirit,” the Lord is able to “transmit” His presence, His voice and His blessings to us.

An atmosphere of revival magnifies this transmission. If your spiritual hearing is poor, it will improve greatly. If you’ve always been open to the voice of God, you will receive fresh revelation.

What are you hearing from God lately? Does He seem to be speaking more loudly or clearly than ever before?

Brighter Light and Glory

Just as our earthly atmosphere reflects the light of the sun, our spiritual atmosphere reflects the light of God’s Son. Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus says, “He shall receive of mine and show it unto you” (John 16:14 KJV). The word “show” or “manifest” is “anangello”. It signifies repetition and intensity. It means to punctuate in detail.

During times of revival, the Holy Spirit punctuates Christ’s glory, reflects it, and reveals it in more intense ways, bringing deep repentance over sin and mighty deliverance and freedom in His presence.

In what area(s) have you felt the need to confess sin and repent lately?

From what has God liberated you?

Originally published in the March 1998 issue of Reaching Higher

The Blood of Jesus - Your Protection from the Evil One, Part 2

The blood of Jesus is a tangible power in both the spiritual and physical realms, and we need to apply it to our lives every day as protection from the enemy.

In 1 Peter 5:9, we are told to resist the devil by standing firm in our faith. How? By the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11). The power to overcome satan lies in the blood of Jesus, but you must understand what the blood stands for and how to apply it.

Using the Blood to Fight Spiritual Battles

Hebrews 9:13-14 shows us how the blood works its power. Although animal sacrifices foreshadowed what God was going to do through Jesus, the blood of goats and bulls could not operate in the spiritual realm (Hebrews 10:4).

But the blood of Christ is different. Because Jesus is an eternal spiritual being with a physical body, His blood can penetrate both the earthly and spiritual realms. And because of that, it is able to cleanse the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. What’s more, because the spiritual realm dictates what takes place in the earthly realm, the blood of Christ is a powerful weapon against satanic operations that affect events on earth.

How to Apply the Blood in Your Life

Pleading the blood of Jesus over earthly circumstances is not something mystical. It’s not an incantation, but a spiritual exercise of faith.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Hey, Pastor Bob, where in the Bible are we commanded to ‘plead the blood’” Let me show you.

David used the term “plead” when addressing Saul, who had wrongly accused David of planning to harm him. “The Lord therefore be judge and decide between you and me;” David said, “and may He see and plead my cause, and deliver me from your hand” (I Samuel 24:15).

David knew that if he pleaded his case before God’s eyes of justice, God would protect him from Saul’s lies and assaults. And God heard David and delivered him from the hand of Saul.

Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, God even invites us to plead our causes before Him. “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgression for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins. Put me in remembrance; let us argue our case together. State your cause, that you may be proved right” (Isaiah 43:25-26). (Note that the King James Version translates the word “state” as “plead”)

Jeremiah understood the necessity of doing that: “Righteous art Thou, O Lord, that I would plead my case with Thee; indeed I would discuss matters of justice with Thee” (Jeremiah 12:1a).

These men of great faith understood that the word “plead” was a legal term, not an act of begging to persuade God to do something. It meant “to assert a defense by an advocate”.

According to John, the blood of Jesus is your advocate. “…We have an Advocate with the father,” he writes, “Jesus Christ the righteous, and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins…” (I John 2:1-2).

That word “propitiation” derives its meaning from Greek culture. In ancient times, it described how a man might try to appease the gods—and protect himself from their wrath. In the Bible, however, propitiation refers to the work of Christ’s blood, which is to protect and help us avoid destruction.

You have a legal right to plead the authority of the blood of Jesus just as you have a legal right to use the name of Jesus. You are stating your case that satan has no authority to rule you, accuse you, condemn you, intimidate you, or harm you or your family. Satan is stripped of all authority and disarmed by faith in that precious blood. He is no longer free to act against you or your family to bring harm or mischief. And satan must therefore flee.

When you plead the blood of Jesus, you are calling on God—as David did—to fulfill God’s promise of protection in Psalm 35:1-2, “Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help” (KJV).

Althea didn’t make such an eloquent appeal to God that night in Brooklyn. But something happened when she claimed the blood of Jesus against the horror she faced. In response to a simple cry for help, God took action.

I encourage you to make that cry—apply the blood of Jesus to the doorposts of your life. Dare to stand on the written promises in God’s Word and testify boldly of your faith in the blood of Jesus. When you do, satan will flee from you, proving once again that Jesus is Lord over all the earth.

Originally published in the November 1997 issue of Reaching Higher

The Blood of Jesus - Your Protection from the Evil One, Part 1

Althea emerged from an underground subway onto a dimly lit, isolated street in the Red Hook district of Brooklyn. It’s a neighborhood where violence and crime happen every day. As she made her way home, a sense of danger gripped her. Was someone following her?

At the door of her apartment building, Althea cautiously placed her key in the lock. Suddenly, an ominous figure lunged at her and she felt the cold steel of a knife at her throat. The man smelled of alcohol and spoke quickly. She was terrified. She knew he was probably drug-crazed as well.

“Get inside,” he ordered. Without even thinking, Althea cried out to God: “The blood of Jesus! The blood of Jesus!”

Almost immediately, the knife lifted from her throat. She turned to see her attacker for the first time. “In the light I could see his eyes clearly,” she recalls. “They seemed filled with fear. Then his head moved from side to side, and his lips began to quiver. He muttered, ‘Get away from me.’ He turned around and disappeared into the darkness.”

What saved Althea? I have no doubt that it really was the blood of Jesus that protected this defenseless woman. Surely her attacker didn’t understand why he panicked and fled, but Althea did. Knowing she had a legal right to His protection, my friend had called on the name of Jesus and He’d heard her cry.

Pleading the blood of Jesus made all the difference. It’s more than a theoretical concept, my friend. It’s more than textbook theology or symbolic rhetoric. The blood of Jesus is a tangible power in both the spiritual and physical realms, and we need to apply it to our lives every day as protection from the enemy.

In 1 Peter 5:9, we are told to resist the devil by standing firm in our faith. How? By the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11). The power to overcome satan lies in the blood of Jesus, but you must understand what the blood stands for and how to apply it.

Why the Blood is So Powerful

In Exodus 12:13, God tells the Israelites that He is going to deliver them from the bondage of Pharaoh by a mighty sign—the blood of a lamb sprinkled upon their doorposts. “And the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you…

The blood represented the shed blood of another Lamb of God who would come later—Jesus Himself who came to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). It pointed to Calvary, where blood flowed from the wounds of God’s only son.

There Jesus secured salvation from sin on our behalf, “Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us…having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).

But that’s not all that happened at Calvary. Jesus also disarmed all the power and deception of the devil (Colossians 2:15). And we can participate in that victory by faith (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8). So the blood of Jesus not only saves and cleanses us from sin, it also preserves us.

When the Israelites sprinkled blood on their doorposts, they were marking their homes—setting them apart—and when God saw that mark the destroying angel stayed away, sparing their first-born children.

When, in faith, you sprinkle the blood of Jesus on your circumstances, you are marking your life as well.  And when God sees that spiritual mark, He will not allow the destroyer to come near to harm you.

The mark of the blood is not for our sight, but for the holy eye of God. Remember that. It doesn’t matter if your eyes are clouded with tears or you can’t see hope ahead because fear stands in the way. “…When I see the blood,” God says, “…no plague will befall you to destroy you…” (Exodus 12:13).

He will come to you in the power of all that the blood signifies. Even if you’re shrouded in the darkness of failure—and you can’t see a way out of your troubles—the Lord God will always see in Jesus that which pleases Him. When you’re marked with the blood, you’re safe from the devil.

How the Blood Gives Victory

To understand how that’s possible, let’s trace the bloodline of Christ, noting its circular pattern.

The bloodline began in heaven. The fall of man did not catch God by surprise! God never plays catch-up to satan. Before the foundation of the earth, God had a solution to man’s sin and the devil’s overthrow. 1 Peter 1:18-20 says we were redeemed with the precious blood of a spotless lamb—the blood of Christ, who was known before the foundation of the world.

When Adam sinned, God Himself shed the first blood when He made coats of animal skins to cover man. His action was a foreshadowing of Christ. And every time an animal was slain on every legitimate altar in the Old Testament, the Israelites saw a muddied snapshot of the Lamb, which the book of Hebrews says was slain from the foundation of the earth. “His works were finished from the foundation of the world” (Hebrews 4:3b).

The precious blood came to earth in the body of Jesus (John 1:29) and was poured out on Calvary’s altar. But the path didn’t stop there. It turned upward again on the third day after the crucifixion, when Jesus arose triumphant over death, hell and sin. He then carried His own precious blood into the Heavenly Holy of Holies where it was accepted by God the Father on behalf of each of us (John 20:17; Hebrews 9:11-12).

The powerful redemptive blood has returned to the Heavenly Tabernacle, before the throne of the Living God, where it will forever “speak” mercy, power and protection for every believer (Hebrews 12:24).

We honor that blood when we acknowledge its circular pattern and its ongoing power over satan. It is said of Moses. “By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the first-born might not touch them” (Hebrews 11:28).

When we believe in the power of Christ’s blood in our hearts, our faith applies it to the doorposts of our lives.

(This series will conclude next week. Subscribe to get future posts in your inbox.)

Originally published in the November 1997 issue of "Reaching Higher"