Shepherds

Shepherds

It’s Sunday, time for another installment in my life’s story.

As Light Fellowship continued to develop, we gave more and more of the leadership over to the Turks. At one point we wanted them to select a leader and an assistant from among the five potential leaders. We called the leader a “shepherd” rather than pastor or elder, for these young men were not ready for such a weighty role, and this immediately became clear.

They were very reluctant to choose a shepherd from among themselves, and asked if we would continue our leadership while giving them more training.

My teammates and I agreed; they and the Turks then decided that I would be the “direct leader” for six weeks. In this way I could model for them how to lead the fellowship and how to navigate the difficulties that arose.

Even after the six weeks, they were unwilling to choose two leaders from among themselves, so we agreed to choose the leaders for them.

I was ready to pick Freedom, until one of my teammates pointed out to me that he was dating an unbeliever, thereby disqualifying himself biblically. I was so close to the situation that I hadn’t realized that I wasn’t being biblical in my choice. So we picked Robert as the shepherd and Carl as his assistant.

As time went on, there was attrition in our little group. As mentioned, we lost two to the Catholics and then Freedom married and went to Germany. Robert and Sam remained the stable ones, with Robert being chosen as the first official elder.

As this leadership developed, Barbara and I withdrew to give them room to operate without looking (over their shoulders) TO US for approval. Later we withdrew entirely from the fellowship when we went on furlough.

In the summer of 2005 while we were in the States, the pastor in my home church in Connecticut, challenged me to begin praying for revival, both for myself and for the church. I took up his challenge and added this to my prayer list.

The word “revival,” brings to mind exciting times of growth and expansion: changed lives, better relationships, spiritual passion, people coming to the Lord, church growth.

However, as I began to pray about revival and to look at instances in Scripture, it began to dawn on me that revival was more about the revelation of sin, repentance and making things right with God, with myself and with others. This was not an experience that was warm and fuzzy, exciting or pleasant. But it was good, powerful and transforming.

In Isaiah 6:1-8 is a description of a personal revival. All the elements are laid out for us to see: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’ At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.”

Revival begins with a deeper revelation of God’s holiness. Seeing more of His purity, His greatness, His glory, His immensity brings a whole new shift in our perspective. We see this in Isaiah’s response, as he is brought to his knees:

“’Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.’”

Seeing more of God’s holiness results in becoming more aware of our own sinfulness. The light of His presence shines brightly to expose the darkness of sin in our old nature: in our thoughts, our motives, our actions.

This new clarity brings to the heart and mind not just a mild response: “Sure I’m a sinner,” but a deep realization of the horribleness of our rebellion against a holy God. We begin to grasp the terror of being a sinful person in the presence of the GOD Almighty who will judge our sin.

So revival also has to do with having God expose our sins in powerful, overwhelming ways to bring us down on our faces before Him. Such awareness of God’s holiness will “undo” us—tearing away the natural, faulty perception we have of ourselves and moving us further into the realm of spiritual Truth.

But this is not the end; there is one more step in the process of personal revival:
 “Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’ ”

This third aspect of revival is the process of grasping on both a deeper and higher level how much we are forgiven. The exposure of how horrific our sin actually is, means we can more clearly see the greatness of God’s forgiveness.

Such full forgiveness flies in the face of all logic, all legal understanding, all human thought and emotion. God has every right to condemn us—we are his enemies because of our sin. Yet, He chooses to redeem and forgive us at great personal cost.

In a revival, the revelation of God’s holiness and our sinfulness enables us to grasp these great truths emotionally as well as intellectually. In the midst of this deeper understanding of how much we are loved and forgiven, we are “redone,” transformed to be a more useful instrument in God’s hand. We can see this in Isaiah’s response to God’s call.

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’
And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’ ”

Revival brings a deeper surrender, a greater usefulness, an increased spiritual stamina. Isaiah’s revival helped him join God and move through a whole lifetime of great difficulties and trials.

I believe that this was just the beginning for him; I believe that Isaiah had an ongoing revival, starting with this initial encounter with God.

I also believe that God intends that for each of us, to have a life of ongoing revival as we cultivate our relationship with Him and nurture our first love for Jesus. And so it’s been in my life, an ongoing upward trajectory as God carries me onward in our relationship!

Picture of us in the bookstore where Light Fellowship met; it is from about the time of the above events.

 

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