The late pastor and Bible expositor Harry Ironside once said, “When God is going to do some great thing, He moves the hearts of people to pray. He stirs them up to pray in view of what He is about to do so that they might be prepared for it.” Well, this was certainly true in the life of Jeremiah Lanphier. You say, “Ron, who is the world is Jeremiah Lanphier?” Well, on September 23rd, 1857…yes, 1857…Lanphier began hosting a prayer gathering at the Old Dutch North Church located on Fulton Street in New York City. The 88-year-old church had fallen on some hard times. In fact, America was experiencing some hard times back in the mid-1800s, hard economic times. Families moved away from that place in lower Manhattan, and they went looking for better economic times. That section of lower Manhattan that was once thriving with businesses was now a place for drifters and laborers and immigrants who kind of drifted here and drifted there, again, making it hard for a church to remain vibrant. Many churches packed up and closed their doors. But not the Old Dutch North Church on Fulton Street. In fact, the trustees there said, “We’re going to stay. And we’re going to do what we can to minister to the people where they are.” And they brought in Jeremiah Lanphier to serve as a missionary. They paid him $1000 a year to pastor those people, to reach out to those people, to visit those people and to share the gospel. Lanphier got the idea that maybe some of the businesses that remained and maybe some of those drifters that drifted in and out might be interested in a weekly prayer gathering from 12:00 noon to maybe 1:00. Just a weekly gathering. He shared the idea with the trustees. They thought it was a good idea. And so, Jeremiah Lanphier began advertising this weekly prayer gathering.
And on the first day of the prayer gathering, Lanphier got there to the Old Dutch North Church at 12:00 noon, and he sat there all by himself for about 30 minutes. Nobody showed up. He prayed just himself and waited, prayed some more and waited. And just as he was packing up his belongings, he heard some footsteps in the stairwell. One person showed up at 12:30. A few minutes later, a couple more people showed up. And minutes later, two or three others. On that first prayer gathering, six people shared with Jeremiah Lanphier. And they decided they would get together the next week. They brought a few more people with them, and the week after that they brought a few other people with them. Six months later…are you ready for this? Six months later, 10,000 people were gathering at the Old Dutch North Church in lower Manhattan and in other places throughout New York City. And prayer gatherings had now begun to spring up across the United States and into Canada. And so began what is known as the Fulton Street Revival of 1857. What an incredible time when God moved and revived His people, starting with one man who decided to pray.
Friends, we’re in a series of messages called “Revive Our Hearts.” We’re in a challenging time right now, are we not? A challenging time because of this virus that has shown up…this invisible enemy as some people call it…that has paused the entire world. And now it has caused widespread economic damage. And we are here, and we’re crying out to God. I thank the Lord for all of the medical experts and our leaders in government who are doing everything they can to stamp out the virus and to revive our economy. I praise God for them. I pray for them. I thank God for them. But, friends, more than an economic revival and even a health revival, we need a spiritual revival in this country and, really, across the world. And I am praying and even saying during this time…and this was the motivation for the series of messages, “Revive Our Hearts” from Isaiah 40…that perhaps this could be a time. When we’re all staying at home and shuttered up and paused, this could be a time, an important time for self-examination and for deep reflection. A time where we invite God, yes, to revive our hearts. Spiritual revival begins with God’s people and in God’s church. And it could lead to the spiritual awakening of unbelievers, not only in our country but also around the world.
So “Revive Our Hearts.” This is week two of a five-week series from Isaiah 40. And before we get back to Isaiah 40, let’s return to our working definition of revival. We said last week that revival, which is always the sovereign work of God, invariably happens when genuine confession and repentance follow the conviction of sin brought about by the Holy Spirit. And that brings us back to Isaiah 40. And let’s go back to verse 1 again.
Last week we just covered two verses. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” Last week, if you remember, we talked about how this section of the book of Isaiah envisions a time from Isaiah’s standpoint that was future. It was prophecy to him. But it’s a time that is history to us. That time in Israel’s history when she was under captivity under the strong arm of the Babylonians. Her Babylonian captivity that lasted for 70 years. And Isaiah 40 begins the time when, in prophecy, Isaiah envisioned them being near the end of their captivity. They were coming out of their captivity, and God is wooing them back to Him. And we talked about seven motivations, seven reasons we might come back to God. Why would we even think about doing that? We dared to even ask the question, what’s in it for us? I won’t review all of the seven things, but they’re there in verses 1-2.
Now as the text goes on to verses 3-4, we move from some motivations that would encourage us to move toward our Lord to the responsibilities that we have should revival come. Yes, revival is always the sovereign work of God. But what is our part in all of that? What is our responsibility? Verse 3 says, “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.’” I love the imagery here. One source of my research said this is a picture of something that happened in the ancient culture. It’s been a custom for centuries for eastern monarchs who are traveling through their domain to send men before them to prepare their way by removing stones and leveling rough places, filling up hollows, cleaning up trash and litter, and generally making the road pleasant and easy for the distinguished travelers and their guests. This is the vivid imagery that Isaiah writes about here.
A voice cries, and it’s a loud voice just like it was a loud voice that cried out to Israel, “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare is ended.” This loud crying voice now says, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” This is a cry. This is an invitation for us and for the Israelites in their time to get ready for revival. Get ready for revival. Yes, revival is the sovereign work of God. It always it. We cannot cajole or manipulate God to bring revival to us personally or to our church or from sea to shining sea. We cannot manipulate those circumstances in any way. But we do have a responsibility to get ready for revival. In the context here, to prepare the way of the Lord.
And furthermore…and I love this imagery…to build a highway for our God. Because in ancient times an eastern monarch would come, and they would travel through their domain. And they would send out, as it were, kind of an advance team, maybe a construction crew to pick up the boulders, to fill in the low places, to make the road upon which the king would travel as smooth and as inviting as possible. It took a lot of hard work to do that. I think also of the president and first lady, who are always traveling diplomatically around the world. Each of them what they call an advance team. The president has an advance team that goes out ahead of him. The first lady, when she travels, has an advance team that goes out ahead of her.
My wife Cathryn has a friend that she has known since her grade school days. Cathryn and Kim have been friends for all their life. And Kim actually worked on the advance team the White House for the First Lady Laura Bush. And one day I remember Cathryn got a call from Kim. And Kim says, “Hey, I’m in St. Petersburg.” And Cathryn says, “Well, what are you doing in Florida?” And Kim said, “No, silly, St. Petersburg, Russia. The first lady will be here in a few days, and we’re preparing for her arrival.”
And that’s sort of the idea here. “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord.’” Imagine having to build a highway for the king, or in this case a highway for our God through the rough places and the high places and the low places and the wilderness places. This is the picture that we have here in Isaiah 40.
But what does this mean for us spiritually? How do we do this? How do we get ready for revival? What is our part in preparing a way for the Lord and building this superhighway for our God? Well, Isaiah said, “Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.’” Let’s talk about not seven motivations for revival…we talked about that last week…but now four responsibilities that you and I have to get ready for revival, to prepare the way of the Lord, and yes, to build a highway for our God.
Number one, lift up the low places. Isaiah says it this way- “Every valley shall be lifted up.” Now, again, I want you to imagine you’re on this advance team, a construction crew, as it were. And you’re going ahead of the king. And you’ve come to a place in the road that is either a very large valley, or it could just be a low place, some potholes or whatever. But either way, your job is to lift up those low places and even it out with the road that is built up to this point. I can get the picture. I understand the construction of all of this and how this happens. But what does it mean to us spiritually to lift up the low places? And how do we do that? I’m talking about the low places in your life and in my life, the low places to which we go. Can I ask the question this way- how low will you go, and how low have you gone into sin? You see, if we’re going to get ready for revival, if we’re going to prepare the way of the Lord, if we’re going to build a highway for our God, the first thing we’ve got to do in our own lives personally is lift up the low places, the low places to which we go.
The writer of Hebrews talks about that sin that so easily entangles us. The old translation says, “that besetting sin.” That sin that is both a snare to you and a stench to the Lord. That low place to which you go more often than you care to admit. How low will you go into sin? How low have you gone into sin as you prepare for a revival, as you prepare the way of the Lord, as you build a highway for our God, you and I have a responsibility to lift up the low places.
Now, even as I say that, you may be thinking about a particular area in your life where you struggle, a particular sin struggle. But at the risk of maybe playing the role of the Holy Spirit and bringing some areas of conviction to the surface in your life, let me suggest a list. A list that includes low places like pride, lust, anger, laziness, gluttony, envy, or greed. Seven choices there. Take your pick. They are commonly referred to as the seven deadly sins. We might call them seven low places to which we go. Is there one of them that is that sin that does so easily entangle you and ensnare you? More often than you would like to admit, you go to that low place.
I think what Isaiah is trying to say through this vivid imagery is, again, we get ready for revival. We prepare the way of the Lord. We build this highway for our God by individually and, yes, even corporately lifting up the low places. Daring to go into those low places and say, “No more.”
Now, how do we do that? Well, we do it through confession. Yes, confession. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, then he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confession is when I agree with God about His evaluation of my behavior. He calls it sin. It has offended His holiness. When I confess and verbalize that to Him, then I’m in agreement with Him. If we confess our sins, if we go into those low places and, with transparency before God, say, “God, I’m tired of going to the low places. And I’m confessing. I don’t want to live in the low places anymore. I want to lift up the low places. And my first step in that is to confess this before You. And I’m asking You to forgive me of my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness.” I love this promise from 1 John 1:9 because it promises that if we confess our sins, if we come clean before God, if we stop playing hide-and-seek with Him but just confess in a moment of transparency—“Here is where I am. Here is where I’ve been for maybe months, but I’m coming clean before you, God,”—He will not only forgive us of our sins, but He will cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Because, see, there are areas of our life that are not rightly related to God, and you know exactly what they are. And I know exactly what they are in my life. And it may be easy. It may be easy to pick up one of these seven deadly sins, these low places, and say, “Yeah, that’s the one I’m confessing.” But the Lord knows about other areas of our life that are not rightly related to Him, that maybe we’re not even aware of. And we get a full spring cleaning, as it were, when we lift up the low places through confession.
James 5:6 also tells us to confess our sins to one another. That’s an interesting through, isn’t it? I don’t think James has in mind a Catholic priest and a confessional, although nothing wrong with that. But he’s talking about something more organic. He’s talking about maybe an accountability partner. That could be a pastor or a priest or some spiritual leader to whom you confess. But confessing our sins to one another. Sometimes a sin is so deeply rooted in us that we need to go to somebody. We go to the Lord, but we need to go to somebody else and confess that sin and establish an accountability relationship. I encourage you to do that. Now, as I encourage you to do that, I encourage you to be careful with it. Choose somebody you can trust. Choose somebody that’s not going to judge you immediately when you fail, and you stumble, and you fall. Choose somebody that’s not going to tweet about your besetting sin or that snare or that sin that does so easily entangle you. Choose somebody who understands confidentiality and trust and who can hold you accountable and pray for you and nurture you spiritually during this time.
We’re talking about getting ready for revival, friends. We’re talking about preparing the way of the Lord. We’re talking about building a highway for our God. We’re talking about our responsibility in the sovereign work of God to bring revival. And the first thing we do is we lift up the low places.
Secondly, you bring low the high places. Back to Isaiah 40. Isaiah said, “Every mountain and hill be made low.” Imagine again you’re on this advance team, this construction team. And you’re out there in the wilderness, and you’ve come to an impasse. You’ve come to a high mountain or a hill. And the question is, do you go through it? Do you go over it? Do you go around it? And you’re trying (0:19:00.0) to build a smooth highway for the king who is coming. How do you deal with these high places?
Now, again, in the context here, what does this mean spiritually for us? We understand the physical imagery that Isaiah is putting forth here, but what does this mean spiritually for us? In the Old Testament, the high places were often a reference to the pagan worship sites, those idolatrous shrines that were built all over the nation of Israel and all over the promised land. When the people of Israel went in to possess the promised land that God had given to them, they were to take down the high places and worship the one, true God. “Don’t be tempted to worship other gods,” He said. “Worship Me and Me alone.” And that involved tearing down those high, prideful, idolatrous shrines that were all over the country.
You may remember when (0:20:00.1) Solomon became king following his father David. Solomon built the temple. And the temple is sometimes referred to as a high places because Jerusalem sits at a high elevation. And sometimes a reference to the high place in the Old Testament was a reference to a place where the one true God was worshipped. But more often than not, it was a reference to all of those idolatrous shrines. Solomon built the temple, but he also made a lot of mistakes. He had 3000 wives and concubines and intermarried with other nations and brought into his house other religions. And Solomon, while he built the temple, he also built some high places to keep his wives happy. And he would go to those places and worship with his wives.
I think this is a picture of us tearing down those idolatrous shrines that we have built in our lives. Preparing the way of the Lord, if I could say it this way, and building a highway for our God requires the ruthless destruction of any form of idolatry in our lives. We’re lifting up the low places through confession. We’re bringing low the high places through repentance. You say, “Pastor, what is an idol?” Well, an idol is anything we lift to a higher place in our life than God Almighty. Let me say that again. An idol is anything we lift to a higher place in our lives than God Almighty. Friend, do you have any idols in your life?
Isaiah’s reference to the mountains and hills that must be made low might also refer to pride, the lifting up of one’s own self and status. Let’s hold our place in Isaiah 40 and go to Isaiah 2. Isaiah 2:17-18. Listen to this, “And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. And the idols shall utterly pass away.” Did you see how Isaiah early on in his book makes a connection between pride and idolatry. It’s possible you can make an idol of yourself and your status. Have you done that? Well, as surely as lightning strikes in Texas, God will humble the proud. Pride goes before a fall, the scripture says, and it hinders the work of God’s grace in our lives. Therefore, friends, if we want the Lord to come with fresh wind and a fresh anointing in our lives, we must bring low the high, prideful places in our life.
I like the encouragement found in Romans 12:3. It says, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” Lift up the low places. That’s confession. We bring low the high places. That happens by repentance. Now, I know the word repentance can sound like an old archaic word, especially in our high-tech, modern era. But don’t forget that Jesus began His ministry, as did John the Baptist, by saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Neither Jesus nor John was afraid to call people to repentance. And this is a time for self-reflection and self-examination and a time for confession and repentance. It’s a time to get ready for a revival. It’s a time to prepare the way of the Lord, to build this highway for our God by lifting up the low places, bringing low the high places, confession and repentance. Repentance, friends, is a change in the way we think that leads to a 180-degree change in our direction and behavior. In a military sense, it’s called an about-face- to turn made so as to face the opposite direction. Is there any sin, any idol that you’re facing right now, and God is asking you to make an about-face? To bring down that high place, to bring it low, to destroy the high place you’ve created in your life and do an about-face.
I love how the apostle Paul encouraged and applauded the Thessalonians for how they repented. He says, “They turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” Friend, does that need to happen in your life today? Again, we’re getting ready for revival. We have all the motivation we need. Seven motivations we talked about last week to come back to God, to come back to our spiritual home. Now we have some responsibility in this sovereign work that God is doing to lift up the low places through confession, to bring low the high places through repentance, and thirdly, to straighten out the crooked places.
Go back to Isaiah 40. Isaiah, in this imagery, talks about “the uneven ground shall be made level.” Interesting picture here. Friend, do you have any uneven places in your life? Dare I say even some crooked places that need to be straightened out? My mind quickly goes to the Gospels and to a guy named Zacchaeus that Jesus met. Remember Zacchaeus? You might have met him first time in children’s church. “Zacchaeus was a wee little man; yes, a wee little man was he.” Zacchaeus was short. He was vertically challenged, we say. He was the Danny DeVito and the Spud Webb of the 1st century. By the way, Danny DeVito is a Hollywood actor that’s about this tall, and Spud Webb, he used to play in the NBA. He was 5’8” or thereabouts and could dunk the basketball better and more dramatically than some 7-footers. I digress. But Zacchaeus, this wee little man, was also a tax collector. This wee little man was a crooked, corrupt tax collector in his business dealings, in his personal finances. They didn’t get any more corrupt than Zacchaeus the tax collector. That’s why the people despised the Roman tax collectors.
But one day Jesus came to Zacchaeus’s town. And wee little Zacchaeus couldn’t see up over the crowd. So, do you remember what he did? He climbed up into a sycamore tree, and he had the perfect view. And as Jesus was walking through the town, He looked up, and He saw Zacchaeus. And He says, “Zacchaeus, come on down from that tree. I need a place to stay tonight, and I think your house would be the perfect place for me to stay.” Well, you can only imagine how upset the people were, especially the religious leaders, that a rabbi, a holy man like Jesus, would fraternize with somebody like Zacchaeus, this crooked, corrupt tax collector who had ripped off so many people. Let’s go to Luke 19 where the story is.
Zacchaeus had a different response. He was moved by the generosity of Jesus and the gesture Jesus had made to him. Luke 19:8, Zacchaeus says, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” Now, let’s just stop right here. When Zacchaeus, this crooked, corrupt tax collector, had an encounter with Jesus and he met Jesus Christ, it changed his life. Zacchaeus was convicted of his sin. And he says, “You know, I can no longer be a selfish ripoff artist like I am.” It changed the way he conducted his business practices. He changed the way he dealt with his finances. He says, “Half of my goods I know give to the poor.” He became a generous giver. Up until this time, what a selfish, money-grubbing guy he was. And he says, “If I have defrauded anyone of anything, I’m goingn to restore it fourfold.” I picture Zacchaeus going into his business records and into his file, and one by one going through every person he had ripped off financially, but then figuring out a way to give back to them what they deserve times four. And can you imagine the faces on the people as Zacchaeus knocks on the door and shows up with a tax rebate. “Are you kidding me? Is this really Zacchaeus? What are you doing? Who is this Zacchaeus? We don’t know this Zacchaeus.” Oh, no, he had met Jesus Christ. He brought about a fourfold restitution to everybody he had ripped off.
Straighten out the crooked places, Isaiah says. Straighten out and clean up those corrupt places. Jesus goes on to say to Zacchaeus and the people, “Today salvation has come to this house, since Zacchaeus also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” The lost.
I also think of John the Baptist. Remember, we can hear the echoes of John the Baptist in Isaiah 40, and actually Isaiah 40 echoing on into the New Testament into the Gospel accounts and into the ministry of John the Baptist. Because John the Baptist said, “I’m that voice of one crying in the wilderness saying prepare the way of the Lord.” And John the Baptist was not afraid to call people to repentance even as he prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus. Luke 3:12, it says, “Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to John, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than you are authorized to do.’” You see, here’s how the tax collectors made their money. Rome expected a certain amount. And Rome always got their amount. The tax collector made his money on the difference between what he actually collected and what Rome required. And that left all kinds of room for exploitation and charging people more than what was reasonable for the tax collector service. John the Baptist says to these tax collectors, “‘Stop. Collect no more than you are authorized to do.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what shall we do?’ And John said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation and be content with your wages.’” Wow, the simple ethics of John the Baptist, who called people to repentance because he was preparing the way of the Lord.
You lift up the low places. That’s confession. You bring low the high places through repentance. You straighten out the crooked places through restitution. Is there anybody you need to go back to and make things right? Maybe it’s a relationship. maybe it’s a business deal. Maybe it’s the way you’ve handled your finances. Is there any restitution you need to bring about in your life as you get ready for revival and prepare the way of the Lord and build this highway for our God?
One more. Fourthly and finally, smooth over the rough places. Go back to Isaiah 40. And he talks about the rough places being made into a plain. Again, the king is coming. The monarch is coming. And the advance team is going out and building this smooth road. They’re taking some of the boulders and casting them aside and filling in the potholes and lifting up the low places and blasting through the high places. Now those rough places in the wilderness need to be smoothed over. Here is the question I’m asking, friend. During this time when you’re shut up in your home, you’ve got a lot of time on your hands. I’m suggesting a time for self-examination and deep personal reflection. Is the Lord bringing to your mind, perhaps, any rough places in your life? I’m talking about, perhaps, character issues that He wants you to work on.
If the low places require confession, and the high places, repentance, and the crooked places, restitution, the rough places require us to invite in the Holy Spirit to continue His work of sanctification in our lives where He is shaping us and molding us into the image of His Son Jesus Christ, so that more of that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control flows through our being. Or as Peter says in 2 Peter 1, “Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue.” Do you need some more virtue today? That Holy Spirit-sanctified character that looks more and more like Jesus Christ every day.
You know what I’ve found over the years? Those rough places in my life and in my character, those are my blind spots. Those are those times when people look at me and say, “Ron, you know…” And I want to go, “Oh, no, no, no.” And I resist that. But we all have blind spots, don’t we? And we all have rough places in our character. We’re not who we once were. We’re not who we will be when we get to heaven and we’re perfected. We’re somewhere along the way in that journey.
And as we’re getting ready for revival, friends, as we’re preparing the way of the Lord, as we’re building a highway for our God, yes, we lift up the low places—that’s through confession—we bring low the high places through repentance, we straighten out the crooked places in our life—maybe there is some restitution that needs to be done—and we smooth over the rough places by inviting the Holy Spirit to do the work that only He can do and sanctifying us and shaping us and molding us into the image of our God. Friend, let’s not miss the opportunity for this. Let’s not be so quick for an economic revival or for a health revival in our country that we miss the spiritual revival that God wants to bring about in our life. He has us where we are, right? Shuttered up in our homes waiting for phase one, phase two, phase three, all of this. Don’t miss the opportunity for self-examination. Don’t miss the opportunity for the work that God wants to do in your life and in my life and in our church and, yes, even in our country. We’re getting ready for revival, for spiritual awakening. We’re preparing the way of the Lord. We’re building a highway for our God. Yes, the revival is the sovereign work of God, but you and I have a responsibility in all of this to do the hard work of confession and repentance and restitution and positioning ourselves for the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. You and I have that responsibility.
But here is what revival boils down to. Let revival begin with me. It starts personally, doesn’t it? In 1857 it started with a guy named Jeremiah Lanphier who had the crazy idea that “I’m going to start praying and laying myself before the Lord.” And look what the Lord did. I’ll make a deal with you. If you do your part, I’ll do my part. I’ll take the time to lift up those low places and bring down the high places and straighten out the crooked places and smooth over the rough places through confession and repentance and restitution and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. And as painful and as difficult as that might be, I’ll do my part if you do your part. And let’s just wait and see what the Lord does in our church, in our city, in our state, in our nation, perhaps even around the world. Listen, a single virus, invisible to the naked eye, paused the world. Is not God able to bring about a worldwide spiritual awakening and revival? Yeah, He sure is. That’s what we’re praying for. But it starts with you, and it start with me.
Earlier in this week I received an email communication from somebody I hadn’t spoken to in I think more than 10 years. This was a guy who had been on my pastoral staff when I was serving another church. And he had since moved from there, and as I knew was serving as a lead pastor, a senior pastor at a church in the Midwest. And I, quite frankly, was surprised to get an email communication from him. And he very quickly took the time to apologize to me. He apologized. He apologized for the way he had treated me as a lead pastor, the way he had interacted with me. This was more than 10 years ago. And apparently the Lord was just doing some things in his life. He said, “I was in the Word yesterday morning, and the Lord just brought you to my attention. And conviction came to my heart that I needed to reach out to you and apologize.” I let that email sit for a couple of days because, quite frankly, what he and a couple of other people did to me was pretty painful. But I responded, and the Lord gave me a gracious way to respond by email. In fact, I know that because the third time we interacted, another response from him, he said, “Thank you for your graciousness.” He went on further to say, “I’m not actually at that church anymore serving as a lead pastor,” and he went on to tell me the story about an inappropriate relationship he had with a woman on his staff. And it led to both of them being fired, and he’s no longer in the ministry. He says, “Actually, I’m working two jobs right now- one at a car repair place, and the second as a barista at Starbucks. But the Lord is good,” he says, “My wife and I through a year-long very difficult time of counseling, we’re back together, and we’re doing well.” But my heart just sank. Here was a very gifted, talented, skilled, equipped, prepared servant of the Lord. And he was no longer in the ministry vocationally.
You want to know why I say this is a time for self-examination and reflection, friends? Because that spins out a hundred different ways. Examine yourself first to see if you are in the faith. Are you truly and genuinely a follower of Jesus Christ or just one of His fans that show up once in a while? Have you been born again? Are you saved? And if you have been, are there any areas of your life that are not rightly related to Him? Now is the time to lift up the low places, to bring down and bring low the high places, to straighten out the crooked places and to smooth over the rough places. Now is the time for confession, repentance, restitution and to beg the Holy Spirit of God to bring about a fresh sanctifying of our character so that we’re more like Christ. That’s the prayer, friend. I’ll do my part if you do your part. Let revival begin with me. Let it begin with us as we prepare the way of the Lord and build this highway for our God. And when He comes…back to Isaiah 40:5, “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” We want the glory of the Lord to come in a fresh way, in a new way. We have all the motivation we need. That’s verses 1-2. Now we have some responsibilities, right, to lift up the low places, bring low the high places, straighten out the crooked places, smooth over the rough places- confession, repentance, restitution, the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Let’s get ready for revival, friends, and beg our God to sovereignly come and revive our hearts.