“Dying for Revival” (2004)


The whole world is dying for revival. And if the whole Church is not dying for revival too, then the world will die. Our friends and neighbours will perish because their trespasses and sins are keeping them from the life and love of God in Jesus Christ. So, what is revival? It has been rather formally and text-bookishly described as, “A work of God which consists of a powerful intensification of the ordinary work of the Holy Spirit (convicting, converting, regenerating) poured out upon large numbers of people at the same time.”

A prominent voice in the 1700’s First Great Awakening Jonathan Edwards, speaking of revival recorded “a great and earnest concern about the great things of religion and the eternal world became universal in all parts of the town, and among persons of all degrees and ages. The noise among the dry bones waxed louder and louder; all other talk but about spiritual and eternal things was soon thrown by.” During the Lewis Awakening in the north of Scotland in the late 1940’s, key-leader Duncan Campbell spoke in terms of whole communities becoming “God-conscious…men moving out of the realm of the common and the natural into the sphere of the supernatural.” And finally according to Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones of Westminster Chapel, London, writing in his book “Authority”, revival is, “The Holy Ghost descending upon a Church or a community or a countryside in power and in might, in an unmistakable manner, breaking men down, and perhaps even casting them physically to the ground. It leads to agonies of repentance and longings for Christ and for peace and salvation…The Spirit of God is shed abroad and comes down in authority and power.”

During the 1990’s God sent a revival to New Zealand. It was variously called the “Toronto Blessing”, “Move of God”, “Brownsville Outpouring”. Each of these was one manifestation and expression of the greater and larger reality; Holy Spirit-driven, nation-shaking, soul-saving, devil-destroying, Church-reforming revival. Many Christians embraced this Heaven-sent “baby” revival; as many did not. And now, because revival is on its way again, the great question is, “Have we learned anything from the 90’s? Will we be ready and willing next time around to receive, own and serve what Heaven sends to our country?” It is hard to imagine more important questions. As much as I loved and lived for the last revival, I do not have the answers, and even less do I have a fixed idea of how God is going visit and be poured out upon us next time.

One thing I am gratefully sure of is that God knows and speaks. Through the 90’s Revival He did speak to me, most especially in dreams. Now I am realizing that what He said was not just for that time; it’s for today and also, perhaps even more importantly, for tomorrow. In July 1999 some of these dreams were published in a booklet entitled “Dreaming of Revival”. Looking back I can say I was then extremely optimistic that the Revival was going to take hold of New Zealand and revival fires were going to burn on and on until every Kiwi was Born-again. That optimism’s since been snuffed out, and for the past two years I have been just plain heart-broken. Through our lack of wisdom and understanding, our neglect, straight out hostility and even hatred, this “baby” Revival was not nurtured to maturity. It “died’ because we the Church were not prepared to die to ourselves – especially our often fiercely held (clung to?) preferences and prejudices - and really live for Him.

In “Dreaming of Revival” I wrote under the date of Sunday, July 26, 1998 that I had dreamt, “A backslidden pregnant woman was chattering away to a friend. Suddenly the baby was born and flew across the room like a bullet being fired from a gun. Neither of the women seemed to notice and the new baby needed to be picked up off the floor, washed and wrapped up to be kept warm.” In my commentary at that time I quoted Ezekiel 16.4, “As for your birth, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water for cleansing; you were not rubbed with salt or even wrapped in cloths.” I went on to confess, “I’m shaken to the core by the force and vividness of this dream. It’s dancing around in my mind as I stand to preach this very morning. The Holy Spirit has already brought His Revival to New Zealand, but we are still standing around discussing and even debating the kind of visitation we consider theologically, culturally and experientially appropriate and acceptable. It’s time to pick up this ‘baby’ now and love and nurture it to full maturity.”

And now, over five years later, what can we say? The “baby” is well and truly dead! Is it too harsh to say that many Christians seem quite unperturbed by this tragedy; in fact some appear to be curiously relieved, even pleased? I really don’t know. But I am quite sure another “baby” revival is on the way. God help us all if we let this one die of carelessness, neglect, indifference or hatred.

Personally I believe there’s much for us to learn from the rather in-your-face images of Ezekiel 16. At the very least we ought to understand that when God sends a revival it first arrives in “infant” form. Through the 90’s I felt many leaders turned their backs on His Visitation because it did seem initially to be “childish”; unformed, unpredictable and sometimes messy. They sulked when God gave them a baby and not an adult. But for those who are prepared to nurture a revival through its demanding childhood and turbulent adolescence there’s the possibility of a mature adulthood; an outpouring which is significantly more than a 9-day wonder and a flash in the pan. I am sure God’s plan is for such sudden and explosive gifts of His Presence and Power to become established and prolonged seasons of harvest for the world and reformation of the Church. Towards the end of his exceptional life the great English apostle of international revival John Wesley observed that he had experienced 40 years of “uninterrupted revival”.

In Ezekiel 16.1-6 we learn that when a baby is born its navel cord needs to be cut. When a revival begins we must take responsibility for it. We need to own it; not in the sense of making it our property or possession as some ministries and movements do. We need to own a baby revival in that we say to God, “We receive and embrace this outpouring as coming from You and from Heaven.” We need to have a mature discernment and the guts to recognize God’s work and run with it immediately. There’s just not the time to wait around before the ecclesiarchs and their denominational stamp-lickers finally get around to climbing down off their various theological fences and making some kind of clear pronouncement one way or the other.

Then the “baby” has to be “washed with water for cleansing”. Plenty of good Bible-based teaching quickly gets rid of the “blood” (the spiritual battles, conflicts and tensions) which is always part and parcel of any birth. Precisely because there will be a sudden upsurge and rush of supernatural activity (visions, prophecies, dreams as well as some unprecedented phenomena) all our meetings must be consistently and repeatedly sluiced with “the washing of water with the word”. (Ephesians 5.26) Also a solid river of Biblical teaching will sweep away the naysayers who love to stomp in over the top of a fresh work with their pathetic little stack of horror stories of deception and derangement.

Rubbing newborns with salt is not a current Western maternity hospital practice. Nevertheless, it speaks to us today so very strongly of an ingredient which is all too often absent from modern Christianity; integrity. In Numbers 18.19 and 2 Chronicles 13.5 salt is a symbol of God’s Covenant, which above all things signals to humankind His eternal and absolute integrity and fidelity. It is clear to me that a move of God is preserved so that it can grow and develop by a commitment on our part to honesty and transparency. God is not helped when His overly fervent servants begin making exaggerated or unsubstantiated claims about what’s happening in revival meetings. And He is clearly hindered by gossips that feast on third-hand tall tales that are in the end little more than spiteful criticism. In this regard leaders have a special responsibility. Sadly it has been my experience on a number of occasions to learn first-hand that when a leader stands against a revival he’ll use any critical information he can lay his tongue on, even when it’s plain for all to see that his informants are at best axe-grinders and at worst liars.

Finally a baby revival needs to be “wrapped in cloths”. There is little doubt in my mind that many potentially awesome outpourings have perished in infancy because they either lacked any kind of covering or were jammed into clothing that was never intended for them. When a revival breaks out in a particular church or place it needs to be clothed in a way that is of God and appropriate to the time and the place. New Zealand is not Canada or the United States. I love what the Holy Spirit is doing in those two nations by way of lighting revival fires. But I love what He’s doing in my own nation even more; in fact to the max! We have so much to learn from each other in other nations. But it is imperative that we learn how to “clothe” Revival at home. Revival fire is transferable; revivals are not.

The baby that Ezekiel sees having been denied the usual comforts of a new arrival was then “thrown out into the open field” because it is hated; there it lies squirming in its blood. It is a very melancholy picture. It is a hard thing to say but there are Born again people who do not in fact love God. They’ve never attempted to progress on from their first Altar Call where they were promised that everything would now be “Okay forever”. They have developed little interest in Him, and are even less concerned with those matters that move Him. They hate revival. It interferes with their lifestyle of God and Heaven and the Church and History orbiting around them. How hard can it be to love God and what He loves? How hard can it be to love and take the very best care possible of a baby revival?

In the following pages I am simply trying to reflect and meditate (not pontificate) on those dreams which while experienced some years ago, came in a time of revival, and still seem to be crying out to us concerning issues of the utmost importance; life or death, Heaven or hell, revival or corruption.

So I begin exploring this dreamscape (trusting in the Holy Spirit as The Interpreter) by taking up where I left off, with the Postscript of “Dreaming of Revival”:

“During this recent preparatory Move of God I have experienced many unanticipated highs and lows. The high of participating in a Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit in its molten, unfolding phase. The low of discovering first-hand how swiftly and skillfully established religion will marginalize, sanitize and politicize a visitation of the Spirit of the Lord.

“Over the past five years I have written about Last Days revival in New Zealand, to obey God and to honour and defend His indigenous work. It’s time overdue for us to grow up and stop idolizing His overseas activity as always somehow being superior. We’ve got to own and honour and cooperate with all the Holy Spirit’s cultivations and plantings in our native soil. The salvation of millions of Kiwis depends on it!”

April 2004