Sifting, church. A great sifting is taking place in our ranks. Destructive ideologies are infiltrating the church. Culturally reinforced Christianity is, for the most part, a thing of the past. (Which I’m actually kinda okay with. It’s about time that the only people in the church are the ones who actually believed what the Bible teaches and are willing to count the cost of being a Christ-follower.)

And while I’ve lived through worse years (2018, for example) I must say that 2020 has been the most… ehhhhhh… bizarre year I’ve ever experienced. It’s like something out of a dystopian novel. It does indeed remind me of the birth pains described in Matthew 24:8 — weird things keep happening in waves, closer and closer, like contractions in childbirth.

For years, people have predicted that times like these, they were a’comin’. Volumes were written in preparation for the coming apostasy. Mama Bears, we are no longer preparing for what “is coming”; it’s here, it is game day. There is no moral majority (except for in a few hold-out areas). True believers, by large, are officially a spiritual minority.Middle ground is no longer an option; that time has passed, and we squandered it by learning to live our best lives now, wash our faces, and stop apologizing. #revival #persecution Click To Tweet

We don’t want to be alarmists, Mama Bears, but it is good to pay attention to the times and interpret them accordingly (Matthew 16:3). That being said, I suspect the American church is on the cusp of either great revival or great persecution (and probably both). Middle ground is no longer an option; that time has passed, and we squandered it by learning to live our best lives now, wash our faces, and stop apologizing. We have forgotten the lessons of the persecuted church. But that which we have forgotten will become very real, very fast.Persecution has a way of separating the sheep from the goats. The sheep experience revival and the goats… well… they probably are living their best lives now. #revival #persecution Click To Tweet

The next two blog posts will be dedicated to how we should prepare for both revival and persecution. If we are about to enter the next great revival, how can we personally prepare for it? And on the flip side, if we are about to enter great persecution, how do we prepare for that? Let’s start on the optimistic side and discuss how we prepare for revival.

1. Know what revival is and isn’t

What do we mean by revival? Without trying to be too formulaic about it, 2 Chronicles 7:14 is a great passage with a general principle: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” There are some who object to the overuse of this verse as if it were being treated as a magical incantation for revival. And while I understand the point they’re trying to make (no, we’re not Israel, and no, we don’t live in a theocracy), I’d also like to point out that the Bible never depicts an entire nation crying out in repentence and God being like, “Too late, suckas.”

Revival is not, as some might think, characterized by a large group of people getting more and more emotionally charged, as if for revival to be real, one has to feeeeeeel more and more about Jesus.

It’s true that when a person’s heart turns to God, they can experience strong emotions. I don’t deny that. But it is easy for us to mistake feelings of revival for actual revival. I don’t care how many miracles claims there are, how many people speak in tongues, or how many holy tingles a person gets during worship. These are not the foundations of revival. Can they happen during a revival? Absolutely. But don’t forget that Matthew 24:24 warns us that false prophets will bring these same signs and wonders to woo us away.

Repentance, love, prayer, and a unity of believers around the essential truths are the hallmarks of revival.

Unity for the sake of unity without separating from falsehood? Not revival. That is the definition of spiritual compromise.

Peace without repentance? Also not revival. You can pay a pharmacist for that.Allllll the feels, without conviction and repentance? That's not revival. You can pay a pharmacist for that. #revival #repentance Click To Tweet

2. Getting the logs out of our own dang eyes

I am seeing a lot of people trying to solve the world’s problems by pointing out what everyone else needs to do. “We need to all rage against [fill in the blank].” Or, on the flip side, “We need to all blindly support [fill in the blank].”

Yes, we should be the change we want to see. But let’s get real: there’s a lot of people who merely post about the change they want to see, and then sit back, smugly patting themselves on the back.

Revival does not happen by pointing out the world’s sins. Revival is the culmination of a group coming together — collectively — and realizing their own sin — individually. Revival does not happen by pointing out the world’s sins. Revival is the culmination of a group coming together — collectively — and realizing their own sin — individually. #revival #repentance Click To Tweet

So let me ask you, how grieved are you over your own sin? Do you struggle with gossip? Judgmentalism? Consumerism? Pride? Sex outside of marriage? Or do you merely want to talk about the “biggies” (you know, the real sins, the one’s you don’t struggle with)?

3. Committing to prayer

Our spiritual lives will only be as deep as our prayer lives. If you really want to prepare for revival, be committed to prayer. I can say (with some embarrassment) that I did not understand the power of prayer until we wrote the first mama bear book. I cannot even begin to explain all the weird stuff that happened during that process. As we embark on our second book, I can tell you for certain that I am not making the same mistake again. (Side note: if you are interested in some specifics for which to pray for us, email and title your email “General Prayer Needs.”)

The thing about prayer is that we cannot declare to God what we want and then demand that He deliver the goods in order to save His own name. That is not how we are to approach the maker of the universe. Rather, we humbly submit our requests to Him, and then let God be God. And don’t be afraid to humbly submit your requests over and over like the persistent widow! Jesus really dug her spunk. I think that’s a practical example of what it looks like to labor in prayer (Colossians 4:12).Our spiritual lives will only go as deep as our prayer lives. The battle for revival is a spiritual battle and prayer breaks down spiritual strongholds. #revival #prayer Click To Tweet

We can ask for specific things, like “Lord, please save my brother” or “God, please heal my grandmother.” Those are what I might call “quantifiable prayers.” Either it happens or it doesn’t. But I think the real spiritual battle takes place when we pray about strongholds, which are not quantifiable. Here are a few I pray regularly:

  • Lord, please reveal lies in our culture that are against your Word.
  • Lord, please let your love be evident through me.
  • Lord, please protect the leaders in my church against sexual temptation.
  • Lord, if there is a stronghold in my heart, please reveal it to me, and bring people alongside me that will help expose it, in grace and without embarrassment.
  • Lord, please help me be faithful in treating my body as the temple with what I eat and drink and how I exercise.
  • Lord, please teach me how to faithful with my finances.
  • Lord, please teach me how to love and serve my husband better.
  • (Or for papa bears, Lord, please show me ways I can cultivate my wife and love her as you loved the church.)

The battle for our hearts is inherently a spiritual battle, and spiritual obstacles are removed through prayer. Prayer breaks down strongholds in the spiritual realm so that God’s truth can gain an even stronger foothold. It’s not wrong to pray for specific things. But if we are merely praying to see immediate, tangible, and quantifiable results, then we miss the larger purpose of prayer.

4. Push into the pain…. But it’s also okay to unplug

Staying informed is a double-edged sword. We are called to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16). This means that we cannot bury our heads in the sand when it comes to current events. But neither should we obsessively follow the news until we are paralyzed with fear. Be aware that people usually fall into an error of excess on both sides. Borrowing from my homeboy Plato, know thyself, mama bear. Whichever extreme you fall into, maybe seek to balance it out.

I have personally learned that I need to expose myself to just enough of the world’s grief that I can identify the spiritual battle. A healthy amount of grief and righteous anger moves me to prayer and action. That’s a good thing. HOWEVER, when I fixate too much on the evils in the world, I go past healthy grief and move toward unhealthy despair and anger. That is a destructive place to live.

If you are tempted to avoid all things unpleasant, I encourage you to maybe take a peek over your hedge of protection. There is a lot of pain in our world, and we need to allow ourselves to enter the pain every so often if we want to participate in God’s healing our land.

If you are the other extreme — you can barely function because of the anxiety caused by all the chaos — then please feel full permission to go off social media for a time. To turn off the TV. To ignore the news. If you find yourself headed toward despair or anger, take that as a sign to sign off. Return to the Word and be renewed, and then you’ll be able to face the world again. (But sign up for the Mama Bear email list so that you don’t miss anything while you’re gone.😛)

Revival ultimately begins in our own hearts

If we are waiting for revival to break out in the world before it has broken out in our own hearts, we’ll be waiting for quite a while. True repentance and the radical freedom that comes through forgiveness paves the way for grace and love toward our neighbors in their sin. Why? Because when we realize how much we’ve been forgiven, it is much easier to forgive. When we realize how long the Lord has had patience on our sin while He was shaping and molding us, we can extend the grace and mercy for the Lord to work in other’s hearts on His time table, as well. Love, grace, a renewed commitment to holiness out of gratitude towards God — it’s contagious, y’all. And that is revival.Love, grace, a renewed commitment to holiness out of gratitude towards God — it’s contagious, y’all. #revival #repentance Click To Tweet

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