Author’s note: Please save your pitchfork and torch purchases for the end of the blog. Do not assume what I mean till you read all the way through. Thank you.
The events of this alleged revival movement, sparked in Asbury KY has me highly troubled. Not that I see the spreading of the faith as a bad thing, but because I don’t know WHAT faith is truly being spread. There are lots of movements and “denominations” that claim to be Christian and follow Jesus, but are not even close. I want to believe that Asbury is a legitimate revival, but to use an expression you’ll come to see is highly suspect in my mind lately: “my experience” is teaching me to be extremely cautious if not downright circumspect of these events.
Why has the phrase “my experience” become fairly sullied in my brain? This expression is lashed tightly to another dubious foundation of modern thought in that feelings are supreme. To paraphrase radio host Dr. Laura Schlesinger who tended to have sound advice for people more than not was: “Your feelings change all the time. You feel hot, you feel mad, you feel cold, you feel sad.” They are not dependable, and should not be what you make the final arbiter on important decisions in your life.
Sorry Millennials and Zoomers, you have been lied to in regards to the importance of your feelings having supremacy. You are not the center of the universe. Time and history existed before you were born, despite how you act. Mark Twain said it best:
“The universe doesn’t owe you anything. It was here first.”
Sure, Xers have been lied to as well, but thanks to the neglect of the Boomers who they witnessed their hypocritical transformation from hippie to yuppie. They experienced their parent’s neglect that forced them to grow up as latchkey kids and fend for themselves. They have a significantly higher quotient of apathy and rebellion. This insulates them more from believing anyone in authority out of hand. Not saying Xers were great parents either, because the use of daycares and moms transforming into bulldozers so their children did not suffer an instant’s hardship was an overcorrection in both directions.
But I digress.
Regardless, the universe is objective and our personal subjective understanding does not matter to it. If objective reality hurts our feelings. There is no “my” attached to the word “truth” with any legitimacy. You cannot possess a truth. The truth is. Utterly independent from our very existence. Truth is objective in all things. We have our opinion OF the truth. That’s all we can claim. The faster this fact is grasped the faster we can deal with the disappointment and it will stop hurting so much.
Ultimately, the “My Truth” game is a pagan idea that Christians should not play with. You didn’t realize the concept of “my truth” is a pagan idea? Of course it is! It’s the idea that you can play God or make demands on the universe because your ego is too massive and has gone toxic. “Name It and Claim It” isn’t an accurate interpretation of scripture because God is God and not your genie. Praying is not rubbing His lamp. The Law of Attraction is a mystical belief that has no place in scripture, and if you don’t see mysticism as a sin, you’ve got some bigger problems. See if you can find support for it without playing Naked Crisco Twister with Bible verses. TL:DR – You can’t.
Scripture advises us to build our lives on a foundation of rock. Expressed feelings and experiences are foundations of sand for they do not maintain in a crisis of faith and all things built on it are washed away by the storm. Although we should not ignore experience, it must be bolted… welded to scripture. If the two do not agree, it is your experience that is wrong. Not scripture. The same way your philosophy on gravity does not change gravity, or how it affects other people, or the objective universe at large. Sorry Wile E., gravity is gonna gravity and cares nothing about how you feeeeeeelllllll about it. Sucks I know, but if you try to fly, you best not believe being a nice person aloft against the laws of physics. You’re gonna be street pizza.
Now that we got some ground cleared to work here.
A little back cover blurb level of personal history for you. I was raised Lutheran, had a crisis of faith which shattered it when I was in my late teens. After that I went on what I call a 7 year “Anything but Jesus Tour”. I believed that God existed, but no clue as to what the truth was. I had no foundation to trust and went looking for it everywhere in all religions. What I found was a mess of things but no actual truth.
But God didn’t forsake me, and like a hound of Heaven, he put people in my path to point me back to him. This culminated on one night when I turned on a Bible study TV show a co-worker asked me to check out and decided to challenge God to “prove Himself.” He accepted the challenge and in 30 minutes I knew that I knew that God was the God of the Bible that He professed to be. That left me with the choice to make: Follow or Oppose. I chose to follow as I knew what opposition would ultimately bring.
He then put a woman who was dying the slow death by Sarcoidosis and Neuropathy in my life to act as a mentor. Like Deborah, she was raised up when no men were available/willing to take that task. She had come out of the Jesus People movement of the 1960’s and was on fire for the Lord, but time and life had tempered her wisdom. Unfortunately, I’ve come to understand a lot of what I was looking for was very similar to the Pentacostal/Charismatic quest for an “experience with God”. There’s a lot to be said for that faith in the positive, but unfortunately I have come to realize that is not my path God was putting me on.
Why do I bring up this vitriol and personal history? Because what I’m seeing in this rapidly expanding “fad” of revival is it is not true. I call it a fad because it’s one of the most constant refrains I keep hearing from pulpits of stagnant or dying churches, or in online sermons. What I currently suspect at Asbury is that an artificial environment of seekers has been created. The events of recent years has unmoored their understanding and confidence in all that they previously could trust. Just like I did 30 years or so ago. They’ve realized the whole world is lying to them. From the media, to the interwebs, to their doctors, to their government, to their family or parents, to their friends…. everything. Unfortunately this is a very dangerous situation for the human brain and puts a person into a very suggestable state, ripe for following a charismatic leader unquestioningly to their doom. On a religious framework, you get David Koresh and Jim Jones. On a political scale, you get Chavez and Mao.
The culture is ripe, thanks to the pandemic inspired Mass Formation Psychosis. I worry that Asbury are the pretty lights of “Paradise Island”, and if not true, people will be fooled and turned into jackasses by morning. Pinocchio seems to hold a very prophetic warning in this regard. I’ve watched this kind of ecstatic mania happen in small groups and moderate sized churches where people get all fired up on the emotionalism of the moment, then they start going far afield. Before long those caught up in it “prophesy” all sorts of crazy marvelous things. People give extravagantly for causes they do not analyze. They become “Drunk in the Spirit” to such an extent you couldn’t tell they weren’t drunk on liquor. Honestly, it reminds me of what I witnessed in UFO groups where members start trying to one up each other with stories that begin generating false memories, ultimately leaving no one having a true experience and all of them sounding nuts. In the 90’s with the “seeker sensitive” movement in churches, we got a lot of that. And all it takes is one charlatan to suddenly grift away lots of money and destroy thousands of people’s faith in a short stretch of time.
Just like the spectacle that is a Benny Hinn crusade or a Kenneth Copeland revival, you see desperate people drawn by the fast promises and a psychologically fueled carnival that goes on at these events as the shills are mixed in heavily with the very carefully cultivated crowd of hopeful believers. I’ve experienced these events on smaller scales myself. Including being “healed” of back troubles. The “healing” lasted only a short while… till the ecstasy of the event was over plus or a day or two. Of course I was told that was due to my “lack of faith”. I’m sure that the lepers healed by Jesus didn’t become leprous again if they feared/doubted the healing. God doesn’t work that way from my understanding of Scripture.
(What’s ironic is that the night after I wrote the first draft of this post my church’s Sunday night Bible study played a video of the Strange Fire conference reminding me of all the things that CAN happen at such events.)
Most of these preachers, teachers, healers and prophets who lead such movements use the same techniques that have given us mass formation psychosis and unmoors people mentally so they can be lead easily by men and women with wicked agendas. Even those who profess to be casting out demons in Jesus name are often fools spouting nonsense for power, praise and money.
Am I calling the Asbury Revival just another confidence game? Not necessarily, because I don’t know. However, I am advising caution, because there are two possible things going on. It may be a false revival. People in special circumstances caught up in a strange and artificial moment. A false miracle that Satan has been promised he can do. Whatever is going on there is disconnecting people from their usual perception of the world and their own identity. Whatever that is, I can’t say. What I DO know is that leaves people very open and vulnerable to deception and manipulation.
I’ve done some checking up on the previous 1970’s Asbury Revival that occurred 53 years almost to the day as this new revival. That also makes me suspicious, like watching lightning strike twice. I’m left cautious and wondering. There wasn’t much information of how many people who went through that revival remained Christians or kept sound doctrine, but I do know that where I live now, there was a revival at around the same time that was considered quite legitimate as those who experienced it at that time are still senior saints in their churches with generally what I’d call a faith founded on rock.
Time will be the ultimate judge of this. As videos get shared virally all over the nation of college students and teens being baptized in public fountains, testimonies tearfully shared from the stage and money being literally thrown at people in need, I can’t doubt that the experience is generating a lot of good that God seems to be using for something greater. On the other hand, I listen to some of the testimonies and cringe, hard. I do not see God acting there, I see emotional manipulation by people desperate for a few moments of fame and attention.
For me, having watching the heartbreak of people using ecstatic prophecy to gain a little short term attention and power, I’m so very cautious of these sorts of events. The phrase “God’s telling me…” instantly makes my hair stand up and tighten my pucker and engage my discernment as finely as I can. In my youth I had been deceived by these people. I wanted so much to believe that what I was hearing to be true, and God was talking to me personally through these people. Alas all of them turned out to be liars. This is my concern for the people attending Asbury and the other revivals all over this nation: they’re checking their discernment at the door because “cool event, bro”!
Do I think this is devoid of God and the Holy Spirit? Nope. I know that He is there and He is going to use this for His purposes. Of course that may not be what we think it is. Now we refer back to why experience must be tempered… bolted and welded to Scripture. If the two disagree, your experience, no matter how powerful is wrong. Best start figuring out why.
What worries me the most is those innocents going into the revival because they felt lost and afraid. They are so open and tender, now is the time for God to really plant the seed deep in their hearts. The problem is, just like Jesus’ parable about the seeds, this can be stolen from them. Where is the “aftercare” that needs to exist? Where is the discipleship these newly minted Christians are going to need? I was fortunate that my mentor was dropped in my lap by what I can only call God’s divine sense of humor. These people need sound doctrine to follow and inform the ecstatic frenzy of an artificial environment to help bring them out into the real world whole and remain on fire for the Lord.
So if you’re one of those who attended Asbury or any of the other events and feel like you found God and salvation there, Awesome! I’m so grateful that God chose the event to speak to you in such a way. You are standing on the mountain top and enjoying the view. It is glorious and you should embrace the moment, because sometimes, that memory will be the only thing that gets you through the hard times that will be coming. After all, you now must come down off the mountain into the valley of the world. And that sucks. No seriously. It sucks hard. that is why you need a mentor to disciple you. Someone who does have their foundation on the rock of the word, and wearing the full Armor of God. Pray that God provides you one.
Never forget to keep your discernment about you! These heady times will trick you into believing all men and women are your friends and are desiring the best for you. Discern their fruits. If their actions do not agree with their words, trust their actions. Do not assume all are feeling the same as you. There are wolves dressed as sheep mixed in, looking to devour the unaware and steal your joy of the moment, and the fruits of the spirit that can proceed from you. They are the evil you must watch out for even at the height of joy. Be like Nehemiah, whose men while rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem did so with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other.
God’s glory can come out of such an event. His will is served no matter what the outcome. What I fear the most is that this event is of God, but because the seed sown was choked out by weeds, burned up by the sun or picked off by the birds because there was no one there to tend to its needs. The consequences could lead to an even greater falling away from the church as bad doctrine, mystical beliefs, and heresy might take hold. Those who were called in this revival, if not cultivated in the truth of sound scripture and the Trinity could become the Church’s greatest enemy as they drift off into apostacy.
It is up to we believers, grounded in the faith, standing on Scripture, trusting in Christ with all the faith we can muster, for the glory of God alone to stand in that gap. (Oy! even I grossed myself out with all those forced platitudes, but consider it a discernment pop quiz.)
Till Next time, vaya con Dios!