revival (7)

In the Year Billy Graham Died...

After Billy Graham died at age 99, many people wondered who could ever replace him. In some ways, the answer might be no one – for Graham was a unique minister of the gospel and ambassador for Christ. Like Queen Esther, he was anointed to speak to kings, presidents, prime ministers, and the entire culture “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

But there’s another answer that might surprise you. When looking for Billy Graham’s replacement, you need look no further than your mirror. Believe it or not, YOU have a wonderful chance to be Billy Graham’s successor.

Alright, I’m not implying that you’ll necessarily have a worldwide ministry or share the gospel in huge stadiums. And it’s highly unlikely you’ll have opportunities to pray with every President in your lifetime.

However, there’s Scriptural evidence that you can expect something powerful to occur in your life this year – the year when Billy Graham died.

Let Me Explain…

One day the prophet Isaiah had a stunning vision of the Lord: In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple” (Isaiah 6:1). The passage goes on to describe a heavenly scene where angelic creatures continually cry out to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (vs. 2-3).

Notice what it says about WHEN this vision occurred: “In the year that King Uzziah died…” Uzziah had been a good king, the type of king people put their trust and confidence in. We certainly need godly leaders like him today, in both the political and ministry spheres of influence.

However, there’s a downside to good leadership! When a nation, a movement, or a church has a strong, godly leader, we tend to put our hopes in that leader instead of in the Lord. Meanwhile, we tend to absolve ourselves of personal responsibilities, assuming the leader will take care of bringing about the needed changes in our society or our church.

Some evangelical Christians did this when Ronald Reagan was President, becoming complacent in our prayers and activism, because he seemed to represent our values. In the same way, many in the African-American community left it to Barack Obama to deal with race relations in our nation and assumed he would bring about transformation in inner-city neighborhoods.

The psalmist warned about our tendency to overly rely upon our human leaders: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (Psalm 118:8-9 NLT).

When a good leader like King Uzziah dies, we’re presented with an opportunity. If we’ve allowed them to eclipse our vision of God, we need to repent. In Isaiah’s case, he wasn’t able to clearly see the King of the universe until the earthly king was removed. But Uzziah’s death provided an opportunity to experience a heavenly encounter with the Lord, which resulted in a new commission.

Perhaps you find yourself in need of a fresh encounter with God today. Maybe you’re bored by your substandard Christian life, crying out to the Lord for new instructions. Like Isaiah, you’re ready to say once again, “Here am I! Send me” (v. 8).

A New Lease on Life

Isaiah’s story, and the death of Billy Graham, illustrate why your new lease on life may be much closer than you think.

Billy Graham faithfully served God throughout his life, but now he’s gone. No longer can we put our trust in him to take the gospel to the nations or speak to the world’s political leaders.

But events like Mr. Graham’s passing give us an opportunity. It’s a chance to once again see the Lord high and lifted up, and also an opportunity to rediscover our own calling.

The principle shown in Isaiah 6 is found in a number of other Bible passages as well:

  • Joshua’s commission: “After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lordspoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: ‘Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them – the children of Israel’” (Joshua 1:1-2). After many years of being mentored by Moses, now Joshua’s revered mentor was dead. Unable to rely on Moses anymore, it was time for Joshua to “arise” and “go” – the same commission God is giving to us today.  


  • A double portion: Since the prophet Elijah was a great hero in Biblical history, it could have seemed a great tragedy when his ministry ended. However, his protégé Elisha received a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit, and ultimately performed twice as many miracles (2 Kings 2:1-15). I’ve been blessed to experience many spiritual movements during my lifetime: the evangelical movement, Jesus movement, charismatic movement, prophetic movement, apostolic movement, church growth movement, and many others. I’m thank for what God has done in the past, but could it be that He’s preparing a new move of the Holy Spirit – a spiritual tidal wave that will dwarf everything we’ve seen in previous decades and even centuries?


  • Greater works: Before the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus made an astounding statement to His disciples: “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father” (John 14:12 NLT). Although some commentators try to explain away Jesus’ words, His message actually fits in perfectly with the “greater works” pattern throughout the Bible: Joshua was called to take the Israelites further than Moses was able to do; Elisha had double the effectiveness of his mentor Elijah; the New Covenant was far more glorious than the Old Covenant; and the new temple had glory surpassing the previous one (Haggai 2:9).

A Great Time to Be Alive

Moses is gone. Elijah is gone. Uzziah is gone. Billy Graham is gone. And Jesus physically ascended from earth to be seated at the Father’s right hand in heaven.

At this strategic time in history, will we discard anything that has eclipsed our vision of the Lord? Will we heed His commission to arise and go? Will we allow Him to stretch our faith to do greater works than we’ve ever seen before?

When great human leaders like Billy Graham are taken away, we have a fantastic opportunity to see God do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within US (Ephesians 3:20 NIV).

An exciting future awaits when you gain a fresh glimpse of the Lord and your personal commission to change the world.

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Are You Ready for a Fresh Gust?

Have you ever been in a sailboat when it seemed there was absolutely no breeze? While experienced sailors somehow can catch the wind when there is no wind, amateurs like me often find ourselves dead in the water, going nowhere.

Sailing is such an apt metaphor for life. Winds come and go, blowing from one direction or another. But no matter what winds we encounter, we must resolutely set our sail and rudder toward our desired destination.

Yet this is a mystery in some ways. Even Solomon, known for his great wisdom, admitted he didn’t understand how ships can stay on course, even amid adverse winds (Proverbs 30:18-19).

So here’s a question to ask: Which way are the winds blowing in your life today? Are you experiencing pleasant breezes or fierce, unrelenting windstorms? Or perhaps you find yourself wearily praying for a “second wind” or a gust to help you get unstuck from your present doldrums.

From time to time, we all need a fresh gust of wind. Whether in our family, our finances, our ministry, or our career, things get pretty stale if no wind is blowing.  

Although I’ve tended to shy away from sharing “prophetic” impressions in my blogs, recently I sensed God speaking to me through the metaphor of sailing. Even though the past few months have been fantastic in many ways, I sense that they’ve just gotten me ready for what’s ahead.

As I was praying about these things, I felt that God was saying quite distinctly, “Get ready for a gust in August!” I took that as very good news. I’ve never liked to drift listlessly in the water, so it was great to hear that a new blast of wind was on the way!

However, I’ve also experienced times in my life when God sent a fresh gust of His Spirit and I wasn’t prepared. A strong breeze does a sailboat no good if the sail isn’t ready and the rudder isn’t set. Even worse, it can capsize the boat if the sailor isn't paying attention!

Will God truly send “a gust” in Au-gust? We will find out soon! But one thing is for sure: It’s best to be ready.

Sailboats are a lot like eagles, for both rely heavily on wind currents to supply their propulsion. We’re promised in Isaiah 40:31, “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

The message here for eagles, sailboats, or Christians is clear: Continually needing new strength and inspiration, we must wait expectantly for God to send a new gust of His divine wind. And based on Isaiah’s promise, we can expect a gust of God’s Spirit anytime, and any month, we’re willing to wait for it.

So now’s the time to prepare our hearts to be ready when it comes! 

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As every student of history knows, America was in crisis in 1863. Despite Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves in January of that year, the Civil War raged on, with no end in sight.

Today America is in crisis again, even though the symptoms aren’t yet as obvious. And while presidential candidates promise to “make America great again,” they offer solutions that fail to recognize what made America great in the first place. Their faulty premise is that greatness will return if we have better trade deals, more jobs, a more equitable tax structure, or a stronger military.

We can argue about whether such things are an improvement. But none of them will make America great again.

In stark contrast to what is being promised today, on March 30, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a presidential proclamation “Appointing a Day of National Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer.” Calling the nation to repentance and a spiritual awakening, he pointed to our need for God’s grace and favor. In support of this, he paraphrased Psalm 33:12, saying, “Those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord”:

Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord…

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness…

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or follower of some other political philosophy, I hope you will grasp the power of Lincoln’s message. We need more than better politicians or better policies. We need a spiritual awakening that begins with you and me.  

In addition to Abraham Lincoln’s diagnosis of our need for national repentance and revival, the words of nineteenth-century historian Alexis de Tocqueville are amazingly prophetic today: “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Forgive us, Lord.

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Resurrecting the Dead Things in Your Life

One of the Bible’s most incredible statements is that the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead now lives in us (Romans 8:11). Why then do I meet so many people who have dead areas in their lives, still awaiting Christ’s resurrection life?

I’m convinced that just about everyone has some aspect of their life in need of a resurrection. Dead hopes and dreams. Dead careers. Dead marriages. Dead relationships with parents, kids, or siblings. Or perhaps physical ailments in need of a touch from the resurrected Christ.

Can you relate to this? Is there some area of your life that has become stagnant, dry, or even dead? If so, some powerful lessons to be learned from Ezekiel’s stunning vision of God resurrecting the “dry bones” of the nation of Israel (Ezekiel 37).

As the vision began, Ezekiel found himself “in the midst of a valley” (v. 1). Isn’t it interesting that some of our greatest revelations from God come when we’re in a valley of some kind? We all crave mountaintop experiences, of course, but more often our biggest breakthroughs occur when we’re down in some valley or pit.

In this valley, Ezekiel didn’t just see one dead object. The valley was full of bones,” body parts that once had been alive, but now were dead. In the same way, when we find ourselves sitting in a hopeless place, it’s hard to see signs of life anywhere. Death seems to have a cascading effect, spreading almost like cancer. Perhaps it started with a job loss, but then it turned into marital disharmony, depression, or addiction.

Surrounded by death and dryness on every side, the prophet is asked a very important question: “Can these bones live?” (v. 3) When an area of your life has seemingly died, this is a question you will have to confront. Is there any hope? Is it still possible for resurrection to come?

The temptation, of course, is simply to say, “It’s over. Once something has died, there’s no hope it will ever return to life.” Despite being a man of faith, even Ezekiel had little confidence this story was going to have a happy ending. Instead of boldly proclaiming that the dry bones would surely live, all he can muster is the lame response, “O Lord God, You know” (v. 3).

At this point in the story, God gets Ezekiel involved in the recovery plan, instructing him to “prophesy to these bones” and tell them to “hear the word of the Lord” (v. 4). If you’re ever going to experience the resurrection of a dead area of your life, it’s unlikely God will allow you to remain a passive bystander. No, He will give you an assignment, something you can do to spark the turnaround.  

Ezekiel is told to speak to the troublesome circumstances, commanding them to heed God’s Word. That’s a pretty good starting place for us as well. We need to start speaking words of life and hope to the dead things in our life, telling them to line up with the Word of God.

When Ezekiel obeyed the Lord and prophesied, “there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling” (v. 7). It can be a scary thing when our dead things begin to rattle, shake, and make noises! But this is often what happens when God begins to restore dead things to life. Rather than bring us fear, these should be signs of hope.

Next, “the bones came together, bone to bone” (v. 7). There’s power in agreement and relationship (Matthew 18:19-20). God’s plan is to bring us together, but if the devil can keep us separated and isolated, our dryness and defeat will continue unabated.

Finally, the Spirit of God breathed on these dead bones, bringing them back to life. The Israelites had said, “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost” (v. 11), but the Lord brought them resurrection and pointed them to a hope-filled future.

Notice that this is not a self-help story. Dead bones don’t come back to life by trying harder. Something supernatural needs to happen in order to bring dead things back to life.

This great story is about resurrection and hope, but it’s also about purpose. Although the bones had been lifeless and nonfunctional for a long time before, they “stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army” (v. 10). You see, it’s not just about God resurrecting your hopes and dreams so you can have a happier life. It’s about rising up to fulfill your purpose in His mighty army.

Can you hear the Spirit beginning to breathe on you today? It’s not too late for a resurrection!


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When Your Life Grows Stale

I wasn’t prepared for what God spoke to me as I prayed with a friend recently. It was just a single word, with no explanation given or needed.


I wish I could tell you that this word from God was meant for my friend. But I knew it was an arrow pointed directly at me.

Everyone knows what staleness is like. The cracker or potato chip that once was crisp and tasty is now bland and tasteless, somewhat like eating cardboard.

Ordinarily people simply throw things away that have become stale. “This product is past the expiration date,” they say, “so I’m just going to toss it.”

Dictionaries give lots of interesting descriptions of staleness: dry, hardened, flat, musty, stagnant, boring, tedious, or having lost novelty, interest, or freshness.

Have you ever become stale in some area of your life? Perhaps stale in your relationship with the Lord, your marriage, your career, or your ministry?

Unless the proper precautions are taken, things that once were tasty and appealing can become unpalatable and disgusting as time goes by.

Surely I’m not the only one this has ever happened to.

Thanks to The Message paraphrase, I have a Biblical reference on the subject of staleness. Jesus told the Christians in Laodicea:

“I know you inside and out...You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant (Revelation 3:15-16).

What a sad condition these believers found themselves in. Jesus said they were lukewarm, neither cold nor hot. They were existing at room temperature—pretty much like a corpse!

And when we become lukewarm, we inevitably end up stale and stagnant as well. Life loses its zest, and everything begins to taste like a stale potato chip.

Sometimes stale potato chips, crackers, or nuts can regain freshness when you put them in the oven for a while. In the same way, God has ways to make stale things fresh again. He can bring revival to your spiritual life and new vitality to your marriage or job.

One day every bit of our staleness will be remedied by the one who says, “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). But the good news is that we don’t need to wait until Jesus returns to experience “newness of life” (Romans 6:4, 7:6).

Don’t give up. You haven’t reached your expiration date yet. Today can be the day when your life starts becoming crisp and tasty once again.

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12 Tips for Powerful Prayer Meetings

Sadly, church prayer meetings in the U.S. have largely gone the way of the dinosaur. Even when a church attempts to rouse God’s people to gather and pray, the results are often disappointing, both in attendance and in results. However, God wants the church to become “a house of prayer for all nations,” and these 12 tips can make your prayer meetings exciting!

  1.  “We” trumps “I.” Jesus instructed us to pray “OUR Father…” (Matthew 6:9). Ordinarily, things are getting off-track if there is too much use of the word “I” in corporate prayer.
  2. God-centered rather than problem-centered. The Lord’s Prayer, the prayers in Acts and Paul’s epistles, and the other prayers in the Bible sometimes addressed current problems (e.g., the prayer in Acts 4:23-31 regarding persecution). However, the overwhelming them is always God’s power, glory, and sovereignty (e.g., “Hallowed be Your name” and Ephesians 1, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion”).
  3. Brief trumps long. The Pharisees were known for their lengthy prayers, but Jesus encouraged His disciples not to put their trust in long prayers or “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7, Matthew 23:14). Compare the longwinded prayers of the prophets of Baal with the simple, short, and powerful prayer of Elijah (1 Kings 18:22-39).
  4. Focused prayers trump shatter-shot prayers. Too often, people’s prayers are unfocused, covering too many topics and petitions all at once. If we want to have our prayers answered, it’s much better eliminate “fluff” and unnecessary rabbit trails. Specific prayers bring specific answers.
  5. Prayers filled with faith and victory will always trump prayers marked by doubt and defeat. Nothing will bring discouragement to a prayer meeting faster than people who are praying prayers of unbelief.
  6. United prayers trump individualism. Corporate prayer is only powerful when the prayers are offered in one accord (Matthew 18:19-20, Psalm 133, Acts 2:1-2). This is undercut if people’s prayers cannot receive an “Amen” from the rest of the participants. When Jesus described the power unleashed through prayers of agreement, the Greek word for “agree” is symphōneō, from which we get the English word “symphony.”
  7. Spirit-led prayers trump human concerns. Understandably, prayer meetings often attract people who have “burdens” to pray about, whether the burdens are for themselves or for others. But unless these human concerns become motivated by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-30), they will end up just being filled with well-meaning “flesh.”
  8. It’s often helpful to mix elements such as worship and Scripture into prayer meetings. We see this approach in Colossians 3:16-17: God’s Word and “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” etc. Our prayers should not be based on wishful thinking but on God’s promises in His Word. This is not meant to endorse longwinded preaching during our prayer meetings, but rather prayers that are Scripturally based (e.g., Ephesians 1:15-23, 3:14-21).
  9. Prayer meetings should be times of HEARING from God and not just SPEAKING to God. The principle in James 1:19 applies, being “quick to listen and slow to speak” (or pray). This means it’s OK to have times of silence and listening, not feeling it necessary to fill the entire time with speaking/praying. This means waiting on God, not just speaking to Him.
  10. Prayer meetings usually work best when there is a balance between human leadership and free-flowing group involvement. If the hand of human leadership is too strong, people will be intimidated from listening to God or participating. But if there is no leadership at all, the prayers will often go off on tangents and become unfocused. This doesn’t mean the leadership has to be from just one person, but it’s helpful if people know who is “in charge” of sensing God’s direction in the meeting. People who are intercessors or prophetic sometimes distrust structure and time constraints, but the Bible provides numerous examples of God instituting structure before He performed miracles (e.g., breaking up the people into groups before feeding them loaves and fish). However, if there is going to be structure as to the format, time limitations, etc., they should be clearly communicated in advance (e.g., Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 14 about the use of spiritual gifts in public meetings).
  11. Since repentance and revival are objectives of corporate prayer meetings, the elements of 2 Chronicles 7:14 should be kept in mind: humbling ourselves, seeking God’s face, turning from our wicked ways), listening, receiving forgiveness and forgiving anyone who has wronged us.
  12. Just as in our individual prayer lives, it’s helpful to keep an informal record of some of the prayer requests offered, and then the answers received. Keeping track of some of the testimonies will build faith in God’s faithfulness and in the power of prayer.


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Equipping Giant Killers

I recently had the great privilege of speaking to a group of 80 giant killers. They don’t all realize they are giant killers, but they truly are.

Before I spoke, God spoke to me very distinctly: “This will be the most important message you’ve ever given!”

“Wow, Lord,” I replied. “So this will be the BEST message I’ve ever preached?”

“No, Jim! I didn’t say that,” He replied. “I said the most important message—there’s a difference.”

He explained that it would be my most important message because some of the most important people would be in the room—people who were hungry to hear the Word of God and change the world for Christ.

This is not a “church” group. They’re just a bunch of young people who meet in someone’s basement every Saturday night. People start arriving at 7:30 p.m., and the hosts have to kick everyone out at around midnight.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that revival is starting to break out. Lives are being changed. People are being set free from drugs and other addictions. There are testimonies of physical healings and of demons being cast out.

I hope my message to these giant killers was an encouragement, but I KNOW the group was a great encouragement to me. In fact, I think it’s given me a new vision for my life. Instead of knocking my head against the wall trying to change my fellow Baby Boomers, I want to find ways to pour my life into the coming generations.

There’s a Biblical principle here. We all know the Bible story about how David killed the Philistine giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17), yet that’s not where the story ends.

You see, there were more Philistine giants down the road, and they surfaced many years later. However, by this time, David was “weak and exhausted” (2 Samuel 21:15)—just like many of us Baby Boomers may be feeling today.

Things were looking bleak when one of these giants cornered David and was about to kill him. The old slingshot apparently wasn’t available anymore.

But never fear—God was raising up a new generation of giant killers. One of David’s young protégés, named Abishai, came to his rescue and killed the giant. No problem.

After that, David’s men told him he needed to remain in a support role, no longer on the frontlines of giant-killing. So, while the enemy giants continued to rise up against Israel, the young giant killers continued to rise up as well. Although none of them gained the fame of David, people like Sibbecai, Elhanan, and Jonathan killed their giants too.

What about you? Perhaps, like David, you’re feeling a little too old to slay giants like you used to. Yet I have good news: God can still use you to help raise up the new generation of giant killers.

Do you see how exciting this can be? When Goliath taunted the people of God, only David was available to slay him. But toward the end of David’s life, there were multiple giant killers ready for service. So, Baby Boomers, get ready for your new role—equipping giant killers for the thrilling work ahead (Ephesians 4:11-12).

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