Book Review – Refresh: The Road to Revival

Last Monday we finished a 9-week study on Michael Catt’s Refresh: The Road to Revival. It took us a little longer than 9 weeks due to some cruddy winter weather; and although, we started out with a pretty large group, most of the time it was just the fiancé and me. (Which, actually turned out to be a blessing, because it taught us how to study the Word together. 😉 )

From the moment I picked up the book in my local Life Way store, I knew that it was a Refresh imagestudy that I really wanted to do. I don’t want to give away too much information, but I want you to have enough, so you’ll want to go and pick up the study for yourself. The introduction is as follows:

There is a path to revival worn throughout the pages of Scripture and the annals of church history. Churches across America are realizing that we need a fresh touch from God. The principles contained in this study will help your church focus on the essential elements of revival.

What are those essential elements, you ask? Desperation, surrender and persistence.

Weeks 1-3 focus on the importance of desperation and brokenness before God. Weeks 4-6 focus on repentance and surrender. And weeks 7-8 focus on prayer and persistence.

I’m telling you, guys, I highly recommend you pick up this study. And don’t let it be just “another study,” instead, be desperate, be surrendered, and be persistent. Let God change your heart and your perspective, and earnestly seek Him and His will; and not just during the study, but allow your entire life to reflect an attitude of brokenness, humility, and desire for the things of God.

Who knows! Perhaps we will see revival in our churches, cities, and nations much sooner than we think.

Take care and God bless!

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Unplug – part 2

Back in December I wrote a post about learning to unplug. In that post I was focused on unplugging from technology, but today, I want to focus more on scheduling quiet time for privately studying the Word, prayer, and worship.

Today, upon reviewing past journal entries during my personal quiet time, I noticed a pattern, and from this pattern, God reminded me of something very important.

First, I realized that every few months I schedule these days—often mornings—of quiet solitude and prayer, out of necessity. I find that I’m forced to schedule such days because I’m exhausted, depressed, and unmotivated. I don’t want to get out of bed, I don’t want to go to work, and I don’t want to be around people. I become short-tempered, refuse to answer my phone, and I don’t want to talk to anybody. I’ve finally come to the realization that if I just scheduled these quiet times more often, I wouldn’t have to take an entire day off from work to rest.

I study the Word, I pray, and I attend church and bible studies regularly, but these quiet moments are worth so much more to me because I’m not rushed, there’s no one around to interrupt me, and I’m focused on only one thing—pouring my heart out to God and listening for His voice. My prayers during these times resemble a conversation one would have with an intimate counselor or closest friend. These are the moments in which I confide my deepest fears and struggles, ask clarifying questions, and seek direction. And I hear His voice!

These moments are so precious to me. He comforts me, covers me with peace, reassures and corrects me, and points the way. And so I question, why don’t I schedule these moments every evening, when I come home from work? Why don’t I release everything over to Him and let Him renew and refresh me, every day?

The truth is, life is hectic. It’s busy and stressful and we’re often consumed by the next activity, the next meeting or party, or the next thing on our to-do list. We’re easily distracted and focused on so many other things that we often neglect the most important thing. More important than the relationships with the people around us, more important than our job, more important than whatever we have planned to do, is the relationship we have with our heavenly Father. I don’t know about you, but I can’t do life alone; I need His presence with me wherever I go and in whatever I do. It’s time we stop pretending we can get by without Him! If we think that we can get by on a few crumbs we receive on Sunday mornings, or Wednesday nights, or the scraps we pick up elsewhere, we’re sadly mistaken. It’s what we do in our personal time to deepen our relationship with Christ that satisfies, strengthens, and changes us.

Second, as I realized that this is what I needed to do, God reminded me that it’s what we all need to do. Whether we have a secular job or work in a ministry setting, God desires these quiet moments with each of us to remind us Who He is, to recharge and refresh us, and to change our perspective about our lives in terms of His kingdom. God wants to do amazing things in and through us for the glory of His Name, and if we’re distracted by our desire and plans, we can’t see the bigger picture and what His desires and plans are. If we’re exhausted and stressed out because of our over commitments, traditions, and lifestyle, then when God calls us to do something, are we willing to be used with joyful heart? Or are we too tired? Too grumpy? Too distracted by all the other things on our to-do list?

To conclude, I recommend we all take a good, hard look at what our current commitments and lifestyle looks like, and make a purposeful stance to schedule absolute alone time with our heavenly Father. If this means heading to our car for an hour, hiding in our prayer closet, locking our bedroom or bathroom door, or heading to a secluded spot in a park, so be it. We need this time with God, our Father, as much as we need food or water, and honestly, many of us are slowly dying of hunger and dehydration. Let’s stop making excuses, and give God the very best of our lives, time, and resources, instead of the leftovers.

As Michael Catt says in his study, Refresh: The Road to Revival, “What we bring to God is a reflection of what we think of Him.” What are our lives reflecting?

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for His Name’s sake.

~ Psalm 23:1-3, ESV

Actions are Louder than Words

IMG_3454January 22, 2016 was the March for Life event in Washington, D.C. A group of friends and I planned to participate, however, due to the expected amount of snowfall in the area we decided not to risk traveling in the snow and getting stuck anywhere.

In a previous post I mentioned that this would be the year for action. This is the year where I stop talking about doing things and actually step outside my comfort zone and DO them. March for Life was meant to be the first of this year’s actions and I was prepared to share that with you, however, it appears it will have to wait another year.

If you’ve read my testimony you would understand why March for Life was something I really wanted to be a part of. Every year I say I want to go, but only this year did I mark it on my calendar, take the day off from work, put money on my Metro pass, and gather a group of like-minded friends who were willing to make the trip up north with me. We even waited until the very last minute to cancel because we were so committed to participating in this event.

But honestly, our passion shouldn’t end here.

Not only should we be ready for whatever else is occurring this year, we should be ready to reach out to the people we come into contact with every day! Our local pregnancy center hosts events practically every month (ex. April 21st is their Empowering Life Gala) and I’m sure we all know someone in our lives—a single mom, an unwed mother, a pregnant teen, etc.—who could benefit from just having someone walk with them through life.

During our Monday night Bible study we were discussing Mark 9, when Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with Him to the mountain top and is transfigured before them. When they came down from the mountain they found the remaining disciples arguing with a crowd over their inability to cast out a demon from a man’s son. In reference to this, the author of our study, Michael Catt, made the statement: “Disciples aren’t made to live on mountaintops. We are made for valleys.” Which, in turn, reminded me of saying that goes, “He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good.”

How often we forget that when we talk about things such as abortion, orphans, or adoption, we’re talking about real people with real struggles. It’s great to talk about change and to take action regarding the big picture, but what the smaller picture; what about the actual people? We can’t stay high on the mountain top with our beliefs and opinions, and not reach out to the people in the valley. As it is now, if a woman becomes pregnant and decides to abort, people become angry because she’s taking a life. If a woman becomes pregnant and decides to give the child up for adoption, people become angry because she’s not keeping her child. And if a woman becomes pregnant and decides to keep the child, people shun her for having a child out of wedlock. This isn’t how we’re meant to show Christ’s love!

We must remember that we all make mistakes and we can encourage right choices, but most importantly, we can be there for that woman in her pain, her fear, her shame, and confusion (because believe me, these are often emotions she’ll struggle with). She may think it’s impossible to bring a child into this world, and we’re meant to show her that it’s not; it may be difficult, but it’s not impossible.

God has called us to action, to live in the valleys, to walk side-by-side with the lost, hurting, and broken, and to direct them to the Mountain of Christ. In every situation may our actions speak louder than words.

How desperate are we…really?

Monday nights we host a Bible study at our local Starbucks. It’s a nine-week study on Michael Catt’s Refresh, which focuses on three areas of our spiritual journey: desperation, surrender, and persistence. So far, we’ve only been focusing on what it means to be desperate.

The power of desperation is something the world cannot comprehend. In a world where strength is lauded, we see that broken people have unexpected power with God. ~Michael Catt, Refresh

Tonight, as we finished up and I began making my way home, I started thinking about Psalm 119. I think it’s the longest psalm, so I’ll just highlight some of the verses that came to mind…

  • Oh, how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long (verse 27, NLT).
  • How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey (verse 103, NLT).
  • Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path (verse 105, NLT).
  • Your laws are wonderful. No wonder I obey them (verse 129, NLT)!
  • I pant with expectation, longing for your commands (verse 131, NLT).
  • I rejoice in your word like one who discovers a great treasure (verse 162, NLT).

If you’ve read this chapter, you know that the author is talking about the Word of God; the Law of the Old Testament. But it got me thinking, is this how we feel about the Word of God? Do we pant with expectation and longing for the Word? Do we rejoice as we study the Word, as if we’ve found a great treasure in every verse read? Are we excited by it? Are we desperate for it?

The Word of God is how we get to know God, intimately. It’s how we learn His character, how we learn to understand His heart, and it’s through His Word that we are challenged and transformed into His image. If we claim to be desperate for God, but won’t open a Bible, then are we really desperate for Him? If we claim to be desperate for Him but won’t turn off our television or computer, or we won’t put down our cell phones long enough to spend quality time with Him, then are we really desperate for Him?

Some may be thinking, “But I just can’t. I can’t find the time. I can’t understand the Word. I can’t get excited about the Bible.” These are excuses. I believe that we use the word can’t way too liberally. The word can’t states an impossibility; that we’re mentally or physically incapable of learning, studying, reading, praying. That’s obviously not the case if you’re reading this. The truth is, anything we truly WANT to do, we’ll make time for. We have the freedom to choose how we spend our time–yes, the Holy Spirit can, and often does, prompt us–but we, alone, are responsible for our choices. We can choose to study the Bible. We can choose to spend time in prayer, and ask God to give us a hunger for His Word and to help us understand it. We can choose to worship Him and show Him how truly thankful we are for His grace and mercy. We can choose to be obedient and allow Him to direct our paths and write our story. But we can also make the choice not to. The question is do we really want to?

Desperation for God comes when we recognize that we’re nothing without Him; for without Him we have no hope, no future, no purpose. Desperation for God comes when our heart is overwhelmed and overflowing with gratitude for all He’s done, all He’s doing, and all He’s promised to do! When we’re truly desperate to know God, to have fellowship with Him in an intimate way, we’re not going to let anything come between us and Him. We’re not going to give Him the leftovers of our day, we’re going to give Him the first fruits! We’re not going to find time for Him, we’re going to schedule time for Him; because otherwise all the other things in our busy lives will push Him out.

So, I ask again…how desperate are we…really?