The Change We Asked For and Did Not Expect: Shockwaves of the Spirit in an Upside Down Kingdom
A New Normal Is On The Way
Your adrenaline is rushing. Your heart is pounding. You are one of 18,000 gathered together to seek the face of God. Revival has been in your heart. An awakening has been stirring in your spirit. Before the first strum of a guitar, the crowd cheers in eager anticipation. This is it. This is the moment everyone has been waiting for. Something tells you that this moment will mark you—that you'll never be the same again. The worship is electrifying. The speakers are more than motivating—their messages are transformative. The testimonies are awe-inspiring. You've met face to face with God in this place. This is your "Bethel" and you set up a monument in your heart. You are on fire and ready to change the world. Little do you know that the change you have been waiting for is indeed upon you but it will not look like you thought it would.
The above paragraph describes how I felt after I left the Allstate Arena after the first day of the Jesus Culture Awakening Conference. If the first day was this good—I could hardly wait for the next. Day Two came around quickly. While I waited to hear one of the most powerful evangelists of our day, Reinhard Bonnke, I wondered what God would do through this man of God who has been used to save over 55 million souls in Africa alone, and who moves in such power that even the dead have been known to be resurrected during his meetings. He walked on the stage and began to speak. He spoke more than mere words—they dripped with revelation and sent shockwaves of power throughout the room. The time came for him to pray for us. Eighteen thousand people stood as one and lifted their hands in the air in a posture of receiving. BOOM! It seemed as if everyone in the room simultaneously got hit with the fire of God. Some were laughing—others were crying—others worshipped God with alleluias and shouts of praise. As for me, I cried. I did not cry because I sensed the sweet presence of Holy Spirit. I did not cry due to an overwhelming sense of awe about my Creator. I cried because I had never felt so alone in a crow of thousands of kindred spirits. Had God forgotten about me? Just keep believing—He will show up. I watched the girl next to me shutter and cry as if she were being embraced by Jesus, Himself. Was God mad at me? Was everyone around me faking it—all 17, 999 people?
I went to bed that night with sadness and awoke the next morning with anger. I knew that God was real. I knew that people truly did encounter and experience His manifest presence—I'd done so many times in my own life. No longer did I feel sad and forgotten, but rather angry and punished. But then a devotional I'd once read came to mind. It was about a man who had a dream of three women of faith. Jesus walked up to the first woman and warmly embraced her. He walked up to the second woman and put His hand on her shoulder. But the third woman, though she prayed fervently, Jesus did not approach. He merely stood behind her and looked at her. The man said to Jesus, "The first woman that you embraced must have the greatest faith," to which Jesus responded, "On the contrary—the first woman has the weakest faith and therefore needs extra encouragement. The third woman's faith is most pleasing to me. She knows that I love her and am there whether she feels my touch or not." I was that third woman. God's question to me was, "Are you grounded strongly enough in my love for you that you are confident of my presence in your life regardless of whether you can feel my touch or not?" I thought about my husband. Even though we have only been married for just under a year, I feel secure in his love for me. I do not doubt his faithfulness to me or his love for me just because I don't live in his constant embrace. How much more is God's love secure than that of a man's? I decided to take the advice that Paul shared in the book of Romans about being transformed by taking every thought captive and renewing my mind. Regardless of my feelings and current experience, I could still choose what I would believe, so I chose to believe in the goodness of God's character and of His unconditional love for me, no matter what. Too often we let our feelings and circumstances tell us what to believe about the nature of reality. Jesus is truth and truth is reality, so I chose to instruct my heart in the wisdom of God who is more real and reliable than any fickle feeling or fleeting circumstance could ever be. I recently read a selection from a book called Prophetic Wisdom written by a man that I highly respect by the name of Graham Cooke. I believe he sums up my current experience well:
A key part of God's nature is the fact that he moves in two ways: hiddeness and manifestation. When we come to terms with this truth, we are set free spiritually to ebb and flow with what God is doing. There are times when God reveals himself to us and times when he hides. He has reasons for doing both...for every time of manifestation, there is a season of hiddenness, where God seems to move away from us. When God hides from us, He is trying to draw us into His presence. Manifestation takes place in our reality; hiddenness happens in his. Hiddenness draws us into a new place in the Spirit...People in hiddenness are in a completely different life space than people in manifestation…God had a different lesson for them…They learned how to relate to God for themselves, even when nothing seemed to happen. In short, they learned the true walk of faith.
Well, almost 1,000 words later, this story does not end, just as my week of intense highs and lows did not end with the conference. The shift I was believing for did indeed take place—but it did not look the way I thought it would. My expectation was that I would leave the conference with a Holy Spirit high and a fire blazing so big and bright, that everyone I ran into contact with would be set ablaze with the power and love of God. Instead, I walked into a week of more unexpected circumstances. Even if I had not been paying attention, there would have been no way for me to miss the message that God was revealing to me. Missing the message would be like smacking into a wall at every corner I turn and not realizing I'd hit a wall. Where I'd envisioned getting ready for a "run" season, God has been calling me to rest; where I'd envisioned diving into ministry and the next level of serving, God has called me to take some steps back; where I'd envisioned a fresh enthusiasm for life rising up within me, God has been revealing just how much I depend on His grace for every aspect of life, as I all of a sudden feel ill-equipped to do anything by my own strength (not that we should be empowered by our own strength anyway, but how often to we start the race with Holy Spirit power and somewhere along the way start tapping in to our own energy reserves?)
God seems to be highlighting things I already knew—but things that I need to know and do! God keeps speaking to me about putting faith into action, not straying off the narrow path to the left or to the right, and about building firm foundations and being strongly anchored in Him. I thought that I was already firmly rooted and established, but He has allowed some shaking in my life in the past few weeks since the conference to reveal to me the areas that I thought were secure and really are not. And then I remembered that about a month ago, God gave me this picture of me sitting in a house, snacking on munchies and watching movies, when an unexpected strong wind came. God said, "Your house is not stable—it is built on the sand. You need to relocate!" I looked around at the house and it seemed quite secure to me. I looked out the window and saw nothing but clear skies and beautiful, sunny weather. But still I heard the whisper of the Holy Spirit admonishing me to leave the house and rebuild on a more firm foundation. I can say that since the conference, God has indeed allowed enough of a shaking in my life to show me the areas in which there were some cracks in my foundation. I put everything on the altar of sacrifice, even what seems comfortable and secure, and asked God to give me wisdom, as He's promised to give in James 1.
And He's made it quite clear that now is not a time for distraction or to be slow to obey. At the conference, we called out to God and asked Him to revive our land and His people. He not only heard our cry, but He has responded. I believe that in response to our prayers, worship, and hunger for awakening, shock waves of change are on their way, and the first round is already here. I imagine it like a sound wave—something that you can not see coming, but can experience the effects of when it reaches your ear. I don't believe we have the capacity to see and understand all that is coming, but if we pay attention to what God is saying right now, I believe He is positioning us to be ready for the series of waves that are on their way. Now is the time for decision-making and bottom lines. Now is the time for choices. I believe that the stances we take right now will ready us to be in alignment with God's Kingdom, or the Kingdom of the World that belongs to the Prince of this World. Two opposing Kingdoms are traveling at faster and faster speeds in opposite directions, and it is only a matter of time before they clash and all of creation will be impacted. Don't wait for things to get back to "normal." We are on the verge of entering the season of the "new normal."