Friday, August 21, 2009

Where is the Fire?

Let me say with all love and respect, do not come to East Africa looking for a revival in your faith. Africa has its own glories, but it has its own challenges and problems even as you do. There are wonderful Christians here in Uganda, but it is important to understand one of the effects of the rapid spread of the gospel here and wherever it occurs.

When the gospel spreads rapidly many are lightly converted who need to be deeply converted; they need to be discipled. In that wonderful emerging Body of Christ those who are lightly converted bring a little bit of the world of their past into the Church as they come through its doors. So do you. There is in this exciting formative period of revival some who have experienced the wondrous anointing of the Holy Spirit and healing and deliverance from demons, and joy follows them. Here like everywhere some come to the Church only for the drums, the singing, or for fellowship, or acceptance, or even seeking personal power over others so that they can feel important; and this is here, just like it is at home where you are.

Even where revival fires burn brightest and the works and gifts of the Holy Spirit are in evidence there is a dynamic that needs to be carefully understood. There is often at the outset of conversion and the personal experience of the anointing of the Holy Spirit a first flush of grace that enlightens the soul. Contemplative Theology has recognized this as “initiatory grace,” a grace that comes at the beginning; it is a precious gift that points towards the end destination of Christian faith and experience, and most often it is temporary. That is why St. Paul exhorts Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” which is in Timothy through the laying on of hands from that great apostle to the gentiles (2 Timothy 1:6).

That initiatory grace will fade and all of us, children of the East African Revival, or children of the tired West, will need to give heed to God’s command through St. Paul. If you have never been warmed by personal faith and surrender to Jesus as Saviour and Lord, you have nothing to fan into flame. You will have to start at the beginning and take the baptismal vows in The Book of Common Prayer very seriously, and very personally; do not let those vows go until Jesus is yours, and you clearly know that you belong to Jesus.

If you have come that far, you have come as far as many of the children of the East African Revival have come. Now is the time to fan that flame into a brightly burning fire. That comes through three things. All three are works shared by you and by the Holy Spirit who is beckoning even this moment to you.

The first is read the Holy Scripture, meditate on it, memorize it, and make the Word and Words of God the very fibre of your own thinking and outlook on life. Read seeking the anointing of the Spirit and the empowerment that comes from God alone. Read intelligently, but read with an open heart. Every word spoken about the Holy Spirit in the Bible is a word from God and it is His intention that you experience it.

Second, pray! It is true that prayer is sometimes more labour that love, but come labour on! Let your thirst for Him, that thirst for His fire, drive you deeper into prayer. “Seek and you will find!”

Third, spend time in fellowship, not tea and cookies, but sharing prayer and the Word of God with God’s other children. And here at last, if you are surrendering your mind and very soul to Holy Scripture; if you are thirsting and praying for the anointing of the Holy Spirit, come fellowship with your brothers and sisters in East Africa and hand in hand with them fan into flame the gift of God that is within you. But remember that it is God’s gift, not the gift of the East African Revival, and while it is a joy to be here, quite frankly you can in all actuality fan that gift into flam on your knees in your own bedroom at home.

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