REVIVAL IS GREAT!!!

THE JOY OF THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH


What has been our experience of Revival? Where does it come from? I would have to say that Revival is the fruit of an ongoing encounter with God. This is Revival. It is born out of a hunger for God and desperation for Him. I used to wonder what would happen if just one person searched for God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength? What would happen if just one person loved God that way? Well there has been one person like that and His Name is Jesus. Look what has happened in this world because of His love for and commitment to the Father.

Did you know that the word Christian means "little Christ"? As Catholics we know that the very life of Christ has been given to us in Baptism. His divine life is in us. We are not just wretched sinners whose sin has been "whitewashed" by God. Who wants that? Then we would just be whitewashed tombs. You can read the New Testament to see what Jesus thought about whitewashed tombs. The blood of Jesus does more than cover like a coat of white paint. No, it cleanses, it removes, it starts anew. When we are born again our sin is totally removed and we are cleansed of it and then we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who begins the lifelong process of making us holy, of making us like Christ.

It is this hunger and thirst for righteousness and holiness that will result in what we call Revival. Revival is a holy life. A holy life will bear the fruit that the life of Jesus bore, and who can doubt that when he went from town to town the dead were raised, the sick were healed, the possessed were set free, the sinners were forgiven and the poor had the Gospel preached to them.

We have gotten so used to our Church that I am convinced that if the Holy Spirit decided to take a vacation from Church, most would never even realize He was gone and many of our programs would continue without any change. Whew!

In order to experience God, in order for God to be near us, in order for the Kingdom of God to be at hand we must be hungry and thirsty for Him. That was what we all experienced in the early days of Charismatic Renewal. Pure and simple we just had a hunger and a thirst for the Lord. By His grace in 1995 my wife and I received a fresh breath of His fire and love coming into our hearts and lives. We have come to call this touch of God and the ongoing movement toward holiness, "Revival", as it is truly reviving us.

Revival really has to do with an ongoing encounter with God, that results in a permanent change in the way we live our lives. Both aspects of this are important - the encounter and the change. I do not want a "one night stand" with God. Many people go out to bars and clubs and dance and drink the night away, hoping that they will meet someone special. They certainly may "encounter" each other but "permanent" relationships rarely, if ever, develop. Our encounter with God must never be just a bunch of "fun" or a "one night stand". It must lead to "relationship". That's what true Revival is. Let me tell you right now that if your encounter with God does not lead to a deeper, ongoing, and submitted relationship with Him then the encounter was as waste of time. I don't care how much you weep and cry, shake, laugh, rest in the Spirit, be under the anointing, sing, or dance before Him in your prayer time, before the Blessed Sacrament, at Mass, or at a prayer meeting if you are not living more closely the life He wants you to live afterward then you might as well be watching a football game or be out shopping for a new dress. That is what Revival is. It is the hunger for Him that leads you to give up everything for the sake of His life growing in you.

Revival is a gift from God for this moment in time. He is so freely giving this gift of hunger and thirst for Him. He is saying twenty four hours a day, seven days a week

" Let the one who is thirsty come forward. Let the one who wants it receive the gift of life giving water" (Rev 22:17).

Don't you want Him? Aren't you thirsty for Him? Then just tell Him that. Say "Jesus I am so thirsty for You, I am so hungry for Your touch. O come Lord, come to me. I need You Lord. I need You so much. Lord I just can't live without You. Fill me Lord, fill me."

When I was first baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1975 I went to prayer meetings because I knew God would be there. I was so excited, I just wanted to be where I knew He would manifest Himself. I wanted to be near Him when He moved. I heard once, and I believe it, that we need to find out where God is moving and we need to go there. What excitement to go to a prayer meeting. What joy! How and why did all that change? I really do not have all the answers but I think it has something to do with the cost of following Him. How many of us were and are willing to "give up everything" to follow Him? How many of us are truly willing to let the Holy Spirit expose those areas in our life that are the hardest to look at? How willing are we to be refined by the fire of His love?

Whatever the reasons, after a while I sort of lost that anticipation of what God might be doing in the next prayer meeting. The loss of that anticipation was really an outward manifestation of something that had already happened in my heart. I had tried to domesticate the Holy Spirit. I had tried to fit Him into my life when in reality I should have been trying to let my life fit into Him. Its kind of like, I was saying, "Holy Spirit, I have changed as much as I am going to, and from now on You have to change. If You want to be in my life You better fit in. You have to change who You are so that You can fit into my life. If I have certain sins that I want to hold on to then You better get used to them and still be with me. "

Well God doesn't change. He doesn't lower the standards when we don't meet them. Only the school systems do that. His standards are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Culture may change, schools may change, times may change but He does not. Neither do His standards. It will still cost you everything to follow Him. Well after a while our prayer meetings got rather boring. We just went through the motions. We acted like we did before, but the power of the Holy Spirit and the manifest presence of God just was not there like before. That was the way it was in my life too. You would have thought that I would have realized that something was wrong, but I decided instead that I was maturing. I "learned" that joy and excitement and feeling His presence were signs of immaturity. For about fifteen years I stayed like this until finally I got sick and tired of it. I got sick and tired of not experiencing God. I got hungry and desperate for Him. My prayer became "Lord!!! There must be more. There has got to be more than this. Come on Lord, is this what You wanted when You baptized me in the Holy Spirit? Really now Lord, I know that Your desire was so much more than this."

Well He eventually answered that prayer. Revival has changed all that. At our Revival meetings we do not have any agenda but to worship God, encounter Him, and move from encounter to change. Never yet has He failed to show up in a tangible way. Never yet, when I am willing has He failed to move me toward holiness. In our Revival meetings we just worship Him until we sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in the room or church and then we lay hands on each other. That's when the good stuff starts happening. The manifestations such as holy laughter, crying, dormition in the Spirit, His Presence, the glory, the anointing are simply signs that He is present and is active. I often think of how the leaves shake on a tree when the wind blows. The shaking leaves are a result of the wind blowing. Some manifestations of the Holy Spirit are like that. They are the result of the wind blowing. Beyond that though how we must appropriate that which He plants within us at the Revival meeting.

The meeting itself is like God is shining His face upon us. If we allow His face to continue shining upon us then the world will be changed. In fact one of the primary ways that He makes His ways known upon the earth is by letting His face shine upon us (see Psalm 65) . Revival, once you have experienced it, is having God's face shine on you in such a way that you know it and continually experience it. Words to a song that I love express it rightly.

"If only we could see Your face and see You smiling over us and unseen angels celebrate, for joy is in this place." (The Happy Song by Delirious).

God is indeed smiling over us. The ongoing experience of that smile is Revival and it is contagious.

The joy of the Lord and the laughter through which His joy is sometimes manifested seems to be rather controversial among some charismatics, but holy laughter has been present on several significant occasions in the history of the Catholic Charismatic renewal. I personally listened to David Mangun, one of the original Duquesne retreatants, as he described breaking out into laughter during the Sunday morning session following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit the previous night.

Patty Gallagher Mansfield, author and mother was there that weekend as well. Patti was interviewed and quoted in Charisma magazine. She spoke of the Duquense outpouring and said "I began to tremble at His holiness," she told Charisma, "I was flat on my face flooded with His love." Then, half of the students were sovereignly drawn to the chapel and experienced a deep presence and love of the Lord accompanied by weeping and outbursts of laughter." (Charisma Magazine, page 58, February 2003).

A few years back while either Renewal Ministries or the FIRE team was in Eastern Europe. Ralph Martin stopped his talk and asked the priests and religious to come up for prayer if they wanted. One priest almost ran up to the teams. A prayer group leader from Columbia spoke in person with one of the prayer team members at that conference. When the priest was prayed over while kneeling he fell over and burst into laughter. Later, when asked about it, he said that he had not laughed under the communist regime for over ten years. Indeed, here the Lord turned his sorrow into laughter.

Lastly, I heard the preacher to the papal household give his testimony on television. His response to the first charismatic prayer meeting that he attended was laughter.

I am not trying to make a case for holy laughter but just wanted to point out a few instances of it's manifestation. Holy laughter is a gift from God and we need to allow it. In my wife's life I relate the following story. She is from an Asian country though she has been here in the states since 1971 she has never quite gotten used to the culture. As a result she had sort of a low-grade depression for most or our marriage (we got married in 1981). Many mornings she would seem overwhelmed by the pressures of life, the hustle and bustle, the financial problems, the problems of raising children, the artificiality of the American culture, the pursuit of success, etc. This was almost like an impurity in the foundation of a house. You can pour the foundation, but if there is some sort of permeating impurity in the concrete it may never "set" properly and the house you build on it may have some problems. During the early part of 1995 I had become very "Catholic"(by this I mean that I would never even dream of something from God happening elsewhere) so I refused to go to a non-Catholic conference where Mahesh Chavda was speaking in Columbia. When she came home that night I noticed her sort of fumbling around with the lock as she came in. She came in with some sort of silly grin on her face and was a staggering somewhat. Though she looked drunk I knew her well enough to know that she wouldn't just be drinking so I was interested in what was going on. She couldn't talk very clearly so we decided to go to bed. The lights were not out more than a minute or two when this person beside me in the bed started laughing very loudly. I looked over and hands and feet were in the air and unbelievable laughter coming forth. She at first said, "I'm sorry", but then quickly added "No I'm not", and continued laughing most of the night. How it all happened is another story but after a week or two I began to notice that the low-grade depression was gone. My wife was happy and God was the reason. Well that was in 1995 and though life is still difficult, my wife experienced a foundational change in her life that night. Ongoing Revival has deepened that change. Whatever caused the foundational problems has been removed and what is there now is Jesus Christ. He is her foundation now, completely and entirely. There are no impurities in the cement of His love and what is built now lasts.

Oftentimes we like to package God up and put Him in a little box. Holy laughter is like that. We try to exclude it from the box we have God in. Well guess what, you can't put God in a box. That shouldn't surprise you and usually we all say "O yeah, let's not put God in a box". The problem is we're pretty good at spotting the boxes that other people put God in, but we are rather blind at recognizing our own boxes.

My life and the prayer meetings of long ago (pre-1995) had become little boxes (and I do mean little) that God had to fit into and if God decided that He wanted to do something a little or a lot different there was no room for Him to do it. Revival is "giving God permission to control". If He wants to change the way we do things then let's let Him do it. Sometimes things might get a bit messy but the important thing is that we allow God to control our meetings.

Here is what a boxed in prayer meeting might look like: "Okay Lord, we want two fast songs, then two slow songs, then we want you to give us a prophecy (O yes and please tell us how much You love us and how much You are with us), then we want to share with each other, then we want one more song, then we want to tell you what we want (in great detail, sometimes even with names, ages and addresses). Refreshments follow and we're on our way until the next meeting. See You next week Lord!!!"

O please!! I just can't take any more meetings like that!! That is what revival has done in our lives. Our meetings should be more like, "Lord we want to see Your power, we want to see Your glory, we want to see lives changed right now, tonight Lord, at this meeting. O come Lord, we are so hungry for You, so thirsty for Your touch, so desperate for You. Please come Lord."

At a conference we attended we heard Father Bob Bedard. Interestingly, Charisma also quoted him in one of their issues. "The key is to find out what God is doing and do it with Him, " Bedard says. "The pastor must allow some of the chaos that goes on when God goes to work."

When God moves things sometimes get messy. Remember Peter had to tell the people that the apostles weren't drunk. Things got a little wild when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. On another occasion do you remember the time when those guys interrupted a' prayer meeting with their paralyzed friend. It was a great meeting for a while. The place was packed and the people were spellbound. The preaching and teaching were very anointed, given by Jesus himself. WOW. But then things got a little messy. The friends of the paralyzed man cut a hole in the roof and began lowering the friend through it. They had dirt roofs back then and can you imagine all the dirt and dust falling in on Jesus and all the religious people. They must have been covered with dirt, sticks, dust and debris. Now that was messy!! How about the noise? I bet it was quite distracting. I can hear all the holy people saying, "Don't those people up there know that I can't hear what Jesus is saying? What is wrong with them? Don't they have any common courtesy? What in the world are they doing? They're ruining our prayer meeting!!" If I had been the pastoral leader I would have sent one of our "greeters" outside before they got through the roof and would have tried keep them quiet until the teaching was over. Or, maybe we would have told them to come to the prayer room after the meeting. Anything to keep them from disrupting our nice meeting. Revival is like that. Our meetings are quite tame until the Holy Spirit really shows up. It is interesting how many times Jesus ruined the Pharisee's prayer meetings by doing something that wasn't in the program in the "Order of Worship".. Do you remember how mad they got when Jesus did something.

Screamin' demons, leaping lepers, singing sinners, boy did He upset the status quo.

Joy is always a response to the restoration of our fortunes, setting us free from captivity. There is an old song about joy that goes like this: "When Yahweh brought the captives home to Zion, it seemed like a dream to us as first. Then our mouths were filled with laughter, laughter and on our lips a song. (Psalm 126)" . Joy is a fitting response to what the Lord has done. When He delivers His people they jump and shout and have their mouths filled with laughter.

In paragraph 16 of Toward the Third Millennium the pope speaks about an audible joy, one you can see, one you can hear. I am not sure that he meant laughter here but it does not appear that laughter is excluded:

"16 The term "Jubilee" speaks of joy; not just an inner joy but a jubilation which is manifested outwardly, for the coming of God is also an outward, visible, audible and tangible event, as Saint John makes clear (cf. 1 Jn 1:1). It is thus appropriate that every sign of joy at this coming should have its own outward expression. This will demonstrate that the Church rejoices in salvation. She invites everyone to rejoice, and she tries to create conditions to ensure that the power of salvation may be shared by all."

This has certainly been my experience. The term jubilee means "year of the Lord's favor," a year of the remission of sins and of the punishments due to them, a year of reconciliation between disputing parties, a year of manifold conversion and of sacramental and extra-sacramental penance. (Paragraph 14).

Aren't these things a cause for celebration. The bible talks about hearing the "sounds of joy". Let me ask you this. If you can hear joy, what does it sound like?

God has indeed done wondrous things. He has changed my life. I once was lost and now I am found. I once was blind and now I see. He is changing other people's lives. He is sovereignly pouring our His Holy Spirit on those who hunger and thirst for Him. He is filling the hungry with good things and says to all, let the one who is thirsty come forward and the one who wants it receive the gift of life giving water.

Charles Whitehead a recognized leader of the International Charismatic Renewal in England and in touch frequently with Rome wrote a book called Pentecost is for Living. There is a great chapter entitled Renewal or Revival. I believe this is a prophetic chapter, having been written a year before this current outbreak of the Holy Spirit. Here are a few excerpts.

"I have always understood revival as a sovereign act of God which begins in the church, leading men and women to a conviction of their sinfulness and a desire for repentance and cleansing. This results in a total commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In other words, through the fire of his Holy Spirit, God restores his deep-frozen people to life."

"A church in Revival is characterized by powerful prayer, anointed preaching of the word, and by miraculous events -- signs and wonders."

"One thing is certain, when Revival comes it will thoroughly disturb us too, with all our cozy little charismatic meetings and traditions!"

"I like things to be well organized and I naturally prefer to be in control of myself and of what is going on around me. The trouble with the Holy Spirit is that he blows softly and gently one minute, in unexpected gusts another, and occasionally with the power of a mighty storm. I can't control Him, and I've learned not even to try."

"Have we learned enough of the ways of the Spirit to be open to whatever happens, or are we still hanging on to our own bright ideas?"

"Another thing I've learned about God is that he's faithful -- but unpredictable. He does things in His own way and at his own time. Just when I'm beginning to think I understand a few things about Him, he does something totally new (by which I mean something I would never have considered) and I'm left asking myself why on earth would He do that among those people? "

"Sadly there are still far too many of us who will only acknowledge the work of the Holy Spirit when it takes place with our own carefully defined doctrines and traditions. But surely the past twenty years has shown us that if we try to domesticate the Holy Spirit he will just move on and leave us with yet another graveyard to look after."

" I sometimes think that if the Father withdrew his Holy Spirit most of our church activities would just carry on and we would hardly notice any difference!"

These are just a few of our observations, experiences and reflections on revival.

Michael and Savi Culbertson
More Lord More!!!!!!!

February 9, 2003


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