Revive Us Again

10 December 2007

"Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy."  (Habakkuk 3.2)

"We have heard with our ears, O God; our fathers have told us what You did in their days, in days long ago."  (Psalm 44.1)

"Revive us, and we will call on Your name. Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved."  (Psalm 80.18-19)

"Restore us again, O God our Saviour, and put away Your displeasure toward us. Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger through all generations? Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?"  (Psalm 85.4-6)

How do you end up leaning against a lamp-post, outside the picture theatre, in a country town in New Zealand? Lost? Nothing better to do? Waiting for a bus?

None of the above ... but something infinitely more interesting and exciting! A pilgrimage to the scene of an authentic, local church revival back in the mid-1990s!

In this photo (taken a few days ago) I'm outside the Thames' (on the Coromandel Peninsula) mainstreet, picture theatre, paying a nostalgic visit and recalling the meetings when Heaven itself seemed to have invaded the old cinema's then-decaying interior.

Perhaps my sweetest memory of all, is the little children who Sunday night after Sunday night crowded into the front-row seats to be as close as possible to the "action". Then during the worship, as the presence of the Lord and His anointing intensified, one-by-one, without prompting or human pressure, the children would fall to the floor under the Holy Spirit's power. It was worth going to a meeting just to see these spontaneous and entirely innocent encounters between God Almighty and little kids!

"Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."  (Matthew 19.14)

Folk came to those revival meetings in flash clothes (their "Sunday Best") and work clothes; church shoes and no shoes. I remember at one evening meeting, praying for a fellow who'd come straight from his work in jeans and an old "bush" singlet. God, who is no respecter of persons, did not despise or disdain his attire. The Holy Spirit touched the man, down he fell and away he rolled. He came to rest on the footpath outside. We went on praying for him beneath the stars, observed by tourists out for an after-dinner stroll.

"I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right."  (Acts 10.34-35)

People with no faith, had faith towards God revived in them. People with some faith obtained more, and those with much faith discovered that even they could be revived and granted an increase!

"The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith.' "  (Luke 17.5)

"Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end."  (Isaiah 9.7)

At another meeting, a pastor (with many of his "flock") from another church in the district, stood up and apologised for injury and hurt which had occurred between the two fellowships some years earlier.

Today it amazes me how quickly so many church leaders in New Zealand have "moved on" from the 90s Revival. Some become quite aggressive in their denial that revival ever even occurred here; They actually enjoyed it hugely until it became theologically challenging and/or administratively inconvenient!

It surprises me too, that many who flocked to revival meetings (which took place simultaneously all over the country) flocked off so quickly when they received "the bill", or the excitement seemed to wane.

"If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me."  (Matthew 16.24)

Every time I go past the picture theatre in Thames I feel nostalgic ... I yearn for the return of revival. But such visits and reminiscences don't end in nostalgia. They disturb and provoke me to pray with renewed faith and fervour,

"Lord, I have heard of Your fame; I stand in awe of Your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known...Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? ... Revive us, and we will call on Your name."  Amen. Come, Holy Spirit!

Our Prevenient God

4 September 2007

A few days ago I took Penny for an evening stroll through some winter-dank, inner-city streets of Auckland, to show her what had been an equally dank apartment where I lived back in 1971. The flat and it locale were the launching pad for my monastic "life" during 1972-73. While living in the city I made a one-week visit to the Trappist Southern Star Abbey in the Hawkes Bay where my determination to be a monk intensified. From that flat I corresponded with Father Basil who was then the sub-prior...and later became the community's abbot. He it was who opened the door for me to return, and made possible my eventual entry into the novitiate. (See the article below, "Honour Your fathers".)

On this most recent "pilgrimage" to my old urban hideout, I was surprised (and deeply affected) to see something I had not really observed or appreciated before. The old apartment is only a few steps away from St. Benedict's Street. Benedict of Nursia is the patron saint of monks and the founder of institutional, Western monasticism.

I was profoundly moved by the realisation that during those "olden" days of spiritual and intellectual wrestling ("Should I go?" "Should I stay?") I had often passed by a sign pointing to St. Benedict. On top of that, during my time living in the monastery my novice master was Father Benedict, and I was received into the Church on the feast of St. Benedict!

Big deal. So what?

Well for me, all of this is a tremendous reminder that God's knowledge of us, care for us, and involvement with us always predates our interest in Him. Mind you, not all Christians really love this great truth. They gnash their teeth against the sovereignty of God; preferring to claim for themselves the initiative (and glory!) in all their various dealings with the Lord of heaven and earth.

"O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth. By You I have been sustained from my birth; You are He who took me from my mother's womb."  (Psalm 71.5-6)

"In Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them."  (Psalm 139.16)

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you."  (Jeremiah 1.5)

"You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit."  (John 15.16)

Even the incomparable Anglican divine, John Wesley (of 18th C 1st Great Awakening fame) gloried in the prevenient grace of God. Wesley was a tinder-dry Arminianist, attaching tremendous importance to the will and choices of men in all the comings-and-goings of the whole salvation process. But Wesley was always particularly careful to give even greater credit and weight to God's role; especially His work in and for yet to be regenerated souls!

Perhaps we 21st C, "I've done it my way!",franchise-Christians should be significantly more careful along these lines too!

"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."  (Romans 11.36)

"To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honour and glory and dominion forever and ever."  (Revelation 5.13)

Uncharted Territory

9 June 2007

At the beginning of 2006 Penny and I gave up our home of 9 years, stored all of our worldly possessions, loaded two suitcases in our car and took off. We "hit the road" to obey God and to be more available to Him along whatever lines of service and ministry seemed best to Him. I think we anticipated spending a significant part of the year overseas, returning by the end of last year to "settle down" and set up home again.

Well, here we are ... still out "on the road", a little wiser in some respects, but still feeling inspired to continue to pursue this most interesting and challenging call and lifestyle.

In some respects we feel like travellers whose maps ran out quite a while ago. We're now in uncharted territory ... so far as we are concerned. But, not so far as the Lord is concerned.

"For we walk by faith, not by sight or appearance."  (2 Corinthians 5.7)

"We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."  (2 Corinthians 4.18)

As long as God leads, we will do our best to follow.

The photograph below is of a little-known side-road in New Zealand. Hundreds of cars hurtle past it every day, never seeing its signs. And yet for me it is the junction which leads to one of the most important places in the world. It reminds me that large, flashing, neon signs usually point to nothing more than our gross fascination with superficial novelty ... even concerning matters of the spirit.



More often than not God is happy to test our hearts by disguising His greatest treasures in brown-paper and string parcels. We merrily parrot "all that glitters is not gold", but then tear off like crows in pursuit of every tiny flash and sparkle.

Oftentimes it is the faded sign obscured by overgrown hedges, and the crude, meandering, dirt track which will most surely lead us "home".

"And I will lead the blind in a way that they know not; in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them."  (Isaiah 42.16)

Honour Your Fathers

7 December 2006

"Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you." (Exodus 20.12)

"Honour your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise) that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth." (Ephesians 6.2-3)

The greater part of this year of 06 has for us been concerned with honouring Penny's mother and father. This we have endeavoured to do by supporting them both through her father David's faith-filled suffering and dying with motor neurone disease.

We have also been fortunate this year to be able to get across the Tasman Sea to Sydney twice to spend time with my father and mother as they cope valiantly with all of the challenges and trials which go along with living into your 80s.

We recently (late November) spent a few hours visiting Southern Star Abbey in the central Hawkes Bay, which was my home in the early 70s. On this occasion (we last visited in mid February) I spent quite a time at the cemetery. Most of my closest friends from those days are now with the Lord; their bodies are "sleeping" at Kopua...waiting for the Lord's return, the last trumpet and the Day of Resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15)


While standing in the graveyard in the profound peace which saturates the monastery, I thanked God and honoured the fathers He gave me back then. I thanked the Lord for:


  • Father Basil, who took the time when I first visited in 1971 to find out why I was there; he later made it possible for me to return and eventually live in the novitiate.
  • Brother Martin, who kept me supplied with fresh fruit and some extra food during the months when I lived by myself in a wattle shed out in the back of the abbey's apple orchard.
  • Father Benedict, the novice master who seemed to toil 24/7 to help me try to be a monk.
  • Father Maurus, the real hermit who always managed to appear as if he had absolutely nothing else to do but talk to me, who was then a verbose, spiritual infant.

The list could go on. I honour these men for being good fathers, and thank God for putting them in my way.

"I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me." (1 Corinthians 4.14-16)

Travelling by Whale

16 September 2006

"You’re looking for proof, but you’re looking for the wrong kind. All you want is something to titillate your curiosity, satisfy your lust for miracles. The only proof you’re going to get is what looks like the absence of proof: Jonah evidence. Like Jonah, three days and nights in the fish’s belly, the Son of Man will be gone three days and nights in the deep grave." (Matthew 12.39-40)

I have been thinking quite a lot lately about this phenomenon, of both the Lord Jesus and the prophet Jonah disappearing...dead and buried, so far as the world was concerned.

And yet, while hidden in their cocoons of death (from which they both escaped!) salvation was wrought. The unwilling and thus useless prophet was rendered willing and useful...albeit sloshing around in the pungent gastric juices of a whale.

"For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man builds upon the foundation..." (1 Corinthians 3.11-12)

The Lord (unobserved by human eye) sealed our salvation in Heaven (Zechariah 3), preached the Gospel in hell and there issued history’s first altar call. (1 Peter 3.18-20 and 4.6)

At the beginning of this year we made some quite radical alterations to our lifestyle with a view to being more available to the Lord...especially overseas. But here we are, seven months later still firmly anchored in New Zealand. So, what has happened?

We discovered ourselves overtaken and in a sense swallowed up by family responsibilities...helping care for Penny’s parents as her father David passed through an especially painful season of grave illness. It has been our joy and a privilege to be close to them and to help out through this time. But there have been moments when we have both stopped and wondered what happened to us and all of our dreams and plans?

We don’t pretend to know. But of this we are sure; being overtaken and overwhelmed by circumstances beyond our control (be it a whale, illness or even death!) is not the end of the story. Not by a long shot.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8.28)

So, we are trusting the Lord (who rose again on the third day) that in His time this particular "whale" will be steered to the right beach, and there encouraged to spit us out...willing and ready for His next assignment.

Humble Beginnings

15 March 2006

During February we drove to Wellington very slowly; the trip took us 10 days. While in the Capital I preached for my good friend Senior Pastor Seth Fawcet at Hutt Christian Covenant Church. But sometimes the journey can be as interesting as our destination.

On this particular journey we stopped (albeit much too briefly) at my first spiritual home; Kopua Monastery. The Community (which is totally devoted to prayer) lies hidden in rolling countryside about 6 ks on the southern side (and halfway along) the main highway between Napier and Palmerston North. (Its website is listed here.)

From time-to-time I'm aware of people being bemused and even irritated by my love for the monastery, because I only spent 1 of my 56 years there. They miss the point that those people, places and experiences which the Lord Jesus makes foundational in us (our spiritual roots) forever loom larger than life. And that is exactly as He intends it to be. As long as we live, our spiritual foundations forever support and nourish and determine who we are in Him. (That's why discipling new Christians is so crucial !)

"For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man builds upon the foundation..." (1 Corinthians 3.11-12)

Great tragedies occur when gifted Christians (especially leaders) decide to be something other than what God in love planned for them to be. They are often motivated by lust for other men's spiritual success and status.

For me returning to Kopua is always haunting in a good and an uncomfortable way. But when it comes time to leave (to get back on the road), I always go blest having been resettled on my spiritual foundations.

On this visit Penny and I were both blest by a conversation in the Guesthouse with Father _____. When I lived in the monastery (1972-73) he was a monk to be respected; quite formidable. Now all these years later, here he is utterly abandoned to and spent on a life of prayer. In talking to him I was humbled by two things. Father ______ said that he felt he was now really getting focus-ed in a new way on his calling to live to pray. Completely unselfconscious humility. In watching him I felt I was really in the presence of a human being who has become prayer, along the lines of Psalm 109.4, "In return for my love they act as my accusers; But I am prayer."

As we begin this new season, it is salutary to be reminded of the difference between those matters which are merely extremely important, and those which are ultimate.

"Lord, teach us to pray..." (Luke 11.1)

Back on the Road

31 January 2006

Through 13 years of itinerant preaching, I've never quite tuned in to those who romanticise this particular ministry. It just isn't glamorous in any way, shape or form. And yet (perhaps surprisingly after all this time) I believe in this way of serving God and His People as much as ever.

So at the beginning of 2006, we are renewing our determination to be His servants, by going "back on the road again". Just in the past month Penny and I have given up our home of 9 years, packed and stored most of our worldly possessions, and "set sail" with a suitcase each. Our hope is that this move will free us up to a greater abandonment and availability to the and overseas.

We plan to trust Him day-by-day for divine appointments, a roof over our heads, and the wherewithal to live. Making and acting on this decision has by no means been a breeze. Our very ordinary humanity has been stretched by this change. But at a point where it felt as if we might shrink back, these Scriptures have imparted new life and strength,

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and He will show you the right way." (Proverbs 3.5-6)

"Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lie down and rest." (Matthew 8.20)

And because prophetic responsibility is so much more than uttering words, what we are doing might be more than personal obedience. It may be portentious! Sometimes in the Old Testament, prophets' activities spoke volumes...Jeremiah's purchase of real estate, Ezekiel's cooking fuel. Perhaps the assumption that it'll be "business as usual" and that we can have "all this and Heaven too" in the Last Days, is about to be disturbed and shaken by God and history?

"The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into His harvest. Go your ways; behold I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way...and whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, 'The Kingdom of God has come near to you.' " (Luke 10.2-9)

Hoping to see you out there...somewhere.

Running Away

5 October 2005

This year I have devoted myself to trying to run away from Aotearoa-New Zealand. All the books in my study have been packed up in boxes since January, and good friends have been seen scratching their heads over our escape attempts. Certainly I've wondered too at the contrast between my strong desire to flee, and the Lord's apparently greater determination to have me remain here.

In part this desire to go has been fuelled by a growing willingness to live out the rest of my life in full accord with the reiterated Call of Jeremiah 1.5, "I have ordained you a prophet to the nations." Nevertheless, I do submit to our present anchored state, and have been helped by fresh insight from the Prophet Elijah's flight to Horeb. I have often pondered his hasty departure following such an overwhelming victory on top of Mt. Carmel. I could not really understand how this fearless confronter of the compromiser Ahab, and single-handed slayer of hundreds of false prophets, suddenly became "afraid and arose and ran for his life". (1 Kings 19.3) Was he really scared of Jezebel? Did he actually have a nervous breakdown as some commentators suggest?

I don't think so! Verse three is much more fittingly rendered, "and he saw...". What did Elijah "see" that caused him to run for 6 weeks all the way back to the mountain-top birthplace of national Israel? I believe that he saw an incomplete Move of God which, as wonderful as it had been, nevertheless left a spiritual compromiser and Holy Spirit-hating witch governing God's People.

Back on Moses' mountain of epiphany, the prophet obtained a new revelation of Almighty God and a fresh commission to go back home to anoint and thus release the completion of what the Lord had originally begun through him.

I conclude that it is okay to want to run away from a half-finished revival, especially with so much compromise and hostility to the prophetic still squatting on local church "thrones". But it's only okay if we run back into God's heart-depths, with a view to being sent back re-fired to go the whole nine-yards and finish the job.

"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1.6)

So, whether we're at home or far away next year, my heart's desire will continue to be national (and global) revival that satisfies God matter how greatly our human sensibilities and ecclesiastical scruples may be offended.

"And Jehu said, 'Throw her (Jezebel) down.' So they threw her down, and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall and on the horses, and he trampled her underfoot." (2 Kings 9.33)

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