Well, I continued to pray for revival, and in answer to my pleas, God gave me diarrhea! I was so weak that I spent five days in bed. I didn’t even have the strength to read, so I spent a lot of time in prayer instead.
. During this God-ordered time of sickness, He pointed out nine sins He wanted me to deal with more seriously. I was fighting against some of them, but not whole-heartedly as He desired. Others, like thinking judgmentally of others, I was fully indulging in without restraint. I agreed to join God in dealing with these sins.
One sin was thinking and speaking negative and critical thoughts. This is just part of my nature, and part of how our family is. Most people wouldn’t even class this as a sin, but in God’s eyes it is both selfish and destructive.
For example, when Barbara and I would be driving along, I’d make comments like, “Look at that awful house! Who would ever want to live in something like that?” or “See that woman over there? What an ugly dress she has on! Why would she pick something like that to wear in public?”
Why would I make these unnecessary comments? Because making such pronouncements put me in charge. I was the judge, proclaiming what was right and what was wrong. It made me feel superior and in control. But it was not good.
Even worse, I was critical of many things in our everyday interactions and didn’t hesitate to speak out about them. I criticized how a person did ministry, how someone dealt with his children, how a team meeting went, how others drove, how my wife cooked.
Since my motive was wrong–desiring to make myself the authority–even if my comments were correct, they were usually not received very well. My expressions were selfish, controlling and destructive.
After confessing this sin, I asked God for help in spotting critical and negative thoughts before I spoke them. It was amazing how many of my thoughts fell into this category, and how difficult it was to stop the flow. But with the Lord’s help and guidance, there was progress.
About six months later Barbara said, “You know, you don’t talk to me as much as you used to!”
“You’re right,” I replied, “I’m editing out about 50% of what I used to say!”
Not only did this change make our conversations more pleasant, I found that saying those negative things had been a burden to me, creating a cloud of darkness in my thinking. Now things were lighter, both in the load I carried and in my thought life.
Another substantial sin in my life was having lustful thoughts. Although I fought against this all the time, the Holy Spirit pointed out to me that I continued to notice “too much” about women other than Barbara. Almost on a subconscious level I would note this curve or that move. Not healthy, not wise, not spiritual.
As I prayed about this and sought to flee such thoughts and observations, the Lord taught me to look through women instead of at them. This requires constant vigilance, but is a very freeing practice. It brings glory to God and rest to my soul.
This experience of dealing with specific sins, I found, was just the beginning of a revival, one which is continuing to this day. It is an upward trajectory which brings more freedom, more joy, more light, better relationships and more effectiveness in ministry and in life.
What has become clear to me is that there is a “vivacious cycle” which feeds this revival. It begins with intentionally nurturing my “first love” for Christ.
I do this primarily through my personal worship time each morning. The best way for me is to write down my words of worship as I reflect each morning on a Psalm. I find this to be a transforming power in my spirit as well as my thoughts, will and emotions.
Along with journaling through my worship time is the practice of praising God in and for all things. To give thanks for what God has allowed when I don’t want to do so is an expression of faith in the character of God and a chance to give Him glory. As I do this consistently, I see how He works things out, showing His love, wisdom, power and grace. That stokes the fire of my “first love” even more.
Then, out of the increase of my first love, flows an ongoing revival. Seeing more of the holiness and greatness of God brings into stark relief another of my sins. I can then confess, repent and forsake this sin, and fight more effectively against it.
This is followed by the third factor in this “vivacious cycle”: having a worldview shift. We all have a natural worldview, which clashes in many ways with a biblical world view.
As I worship God, and move ahead in revival, I see more clearly in my Bible reading where my natural thoughts, understanding and desires oppose God’s ways. Then I can reject my wrong thinking and shift over to God’s higher ways of thinking and acting.
This then leads to further worship, which fuels my revival, which leads to more worldview shifting, which leads to….. well, you get the idea.
This is a never-ending process of walking further and further into the freedom Jesus bought for us on the cross. His freedom gives us the ability to choose what is right, to follow Him, to walk in His light.