What’s not to like about a golden anniversary?September 30th, 2010
What’s not to like about a golden anniversary? Fifty years ago Emmanuel Missionary College became Andrews University, and this campus has never been the same! But what about a ruby anniversary? Did you know that forty years ago next week (which makes it a “ruby” commemoration, for those who keep track) there was a spiritual event on campus (it actually began off campus) that has left this university not quite the same ever since? Two weeks ago in my blog I reported on Beatrice Neall’s recital (“When God Came Down”) of what took place in the now hallowed fall of 1970 here at Andrews. An off-campus spiritual retreat attended by a hundred students, the igniting there of a collective fiery passion to be filled with the Spirit of Jesus, their return to campus after the weekend on fire for change, the Tuesday chapel that turned into an hours-long testimony service, the conversion of students and faculty, the spirit of grace and repentance and a fervor to witness for Christ that spread through the dormitories and cafeteria and classrooms, the subsequent contagion of Andrew’s revival at AUC and CUC and Oakwood and SMC—all of it began forty years ago October 8.
Was it genuine, for real? A few Wednesday evenings ago I was reading to our House of Prayer worshipers portions of Bea Neall’s history of that revival, and during our testimony time two hands shot up. Turns out that both of them were students at Andrews that fall, and both of them participated in that memorable Tuesday chapel spiritual outbreak. Yes it was genuine, and truly for real—as no doubt some of our alumni here for Homecoming this weekend could attest—the unforgettable 1970 Autumn at Andrews.
But quite frankly, I’m not one for spending a whole lot of time looking back, gratifying as the memories might be. Truth is we’re a new generation living in essentially a new era marked by socio-political-economic forces vaguely similar but radically different. Which is why we need for God to do “a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19) in our midst—a new revolution, a new revival and reformation. Is it too idealistic, too naïve to ask for such from God? Hardly!
A century ago the one who picked out this farmland to be Battle Creek College’s new site beside the St. Joseph River penned: “A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work. . . . A revival need be expected only in answer to prayer” (1SM 121, emphasis supplied).
Only in answer to prayer? Then wouldn’t it be right to invite alumni and students to band together in this shared “urgent” prayer? Of course, strategic plans and capital/faculty development and student recruitment are essential to a growing, thriving university community. But living on the edge as we are, it surely has occurred to more than a few of us that without fervent prayer for the unleashing of the Spirit of Christ deep within our collective heart and soul we are destined to live with the bar “raised low,” at a time when all of Heaven pleads for the bar to be raised higher and higher and higher still. “I have heard all about you, LORD, and I am filled with awe by the amazing things you have done. In this time of our deep need, begin again to help us, as you did in years gone by. Show us your power to save us” (Habakkuk 3:2 NLT).
It’s a funny-named hometown.September 28th, 2010
It’s a funny-named hometown. But could it be we’re all from there—that little berg with its lonely water tower? Known for miles around, the water tower was fed by an aqueduct from hot springs a few miles away. Naturally, the water started out piping hot, but by the time it spilled into the water tower it was lukewarm. So it’s no surprise that when the risen Christ sends a communiqué to the church in that town of Laodecia, he seizes the city’s trademark lukewarm water to shape his appeal to all of us. “I wish you’d make up your mind—be hot for Me or be cold toward Me—but don’t give me this tepid, half-hearted lukewarm commitment stuff. It’s enough to gag you!” Or as he put it in Revelation 3, “‘Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth’” (Revelation 3:16). Yuck!
But hold on! In this campus-wide season of 40 Days of Prayer, I was especially blessed by Dennis Smith’s reading this week for Day 22. Watch what he does. Linking Jesus’ invitation to the Christians in Laodecia—“‘Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends’” (v 20 NLT)—with I John 3:24’s observation—“And we know he [Christ] lives in us because the Holy Spirit lives in us”—Smith concludes that the divine solution for my and our lukewarm apathy is to be baptized by the Holy Spirit. “What will the baptism of the Holy Spirit do for a lukewarm Christian? The infilling of God’s Spirit will bring revival to the recipient, and revival is the only answer to Laodecia’s [lukewarm] problem. . . . Only by revival will the church come to a spiritual condition such that God can use her in a mighty way as a means of delivering men and women from the powers of darkness” (40 Days p 76, emphasis supplied).
We need that revival! It’s the only cure for our church and campus. No wonder a century ago these words were written: “A revival of true godliness among us [piping hot commitment to God] is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work” (1SM 121, emphasis supplied). For that very reason on September 1 we began 40 Days of Prayer at Andrews and Pioneer—earnestly asking God to pour out his Spirit upon us individually as well as institutionally. Won’t you join us? We’ve handed out 2,000 40 Days books, because there are many, many of the young and the not so young who are convicted that our deepest need around here is for the outpouring of the Spirit of Christ among us. So today at the foot of the cross, let us plead:
Baptize us anew with power from on high,
With love, O refresh us! Dear Savior, draw nigh.
We humbly beseech Thee, Lord Jesus, we pray,
With love and the Spirit baptize us today.
—W. A. Ogden
What if God repeated himself every forty years?September 15th, 2010
What if God repeated himself every forty years? Then this university campus would be poised on the brink of a mighty spiritual revival! Last week Martin Kim, one of our graduate students, passed along a fascinating story by Beatrice Neal entitled “When God Came Down” (published in the Fall, 2004, edition of Adventists Affirm). In this article Neal, a religion professor at Union College at the time, has carefully pieced together an historical examination of the revival that spread across numerous Christian college campuses in 1970. It began at Asbury Methodist College (Wilmore, Kentucky) in February, 1970. A small group of students had been praying for revival on that campus. Unexpectedly at a 10 a.m. chapel service, a spirit of confession and repentance swept over the gathered student body. “A long line of students came forward to pray and give their testimonies. With tears they acknowledged cheating, theft, prejudice, and jealousy. Some went to individuals in the congregation to ask forgiveness and make restitution. Old enmities were melted with the fervent love of God.” The service continued on into the afternoon leaving the cafeteria empty. “Classes were suspended for the rest of the day.” Prayer and Bible study groups sprang up around the college. College students went to the seminary chapel and testified to the seminarians of their experience. Soon “all classes were officially canceled for the rest of the week,” as seminarians joined undergraduates in “getting right with God and seeking His will.”
The revival spread from Asbury to campuses across the nation. And that fall, 1970, Andrews University was a recipient of God’s reviving power. It began at a Campus Ministry retreat at nearby Camp Michiana October 8-11. Three guest preachers were invited—E. L Minchin, “a beloved youth revivalist;” Mike Stevenson, General Conference Youth Leader; and H. M. S. Richards, Jr, Voice of Prophecy speaker. From early morning to late at night around the camp fire students gathered, asking God “‘to open them up, clean them out, and fill them with His Holy Spirit.’” After a communion service and “a prolonged testimony meeting,” the campus chaplain, Gordon Paxton, and the students with the guest preachers discussed how to share the peace they had found and “‘slosh it over the campus.’” ‘
In 1970 Andrews University was experiencing the “student rebellion” and “wide-scale drug use” that had swept across U.S. campuses. The Student Movement reported “polarization among faculty and student groups.” It was that reality that the “afire for God” retreat students returned to that October Sunday. On Tuesday Chaplain Paxton felt impressed to turn the chapel service over to the students from the retreat who “filled the platform and witnessed to what God had done for them. Then they invited others to come forward.” And with that “a spontaneous testimony service” broke out that continued there at chapel through the lunch hour. At 1:30 150 students were still lined up at the microphone to testify! “Many accepted Christ on the spot.” And when chapel finally disbanded, students moved across campus sharing their testimonies. Some called home, asking their parents’ forgiveness. “They sang praise songs in the cafeteria line and stood up and testified during meals.” The following Sabbath “90% of the Pioneer Memorial Church congregation stood” as Mike Stevenson invited them to surrender their lives to God. Normally the Andrews bookstore sold 300 Bibles annually. In five weeks time 1300 Bibles were ordered. “Thousands more were to follow. ‘What’s going on at Andrews?’ the publishers wanted to know.” A few weeks later God used Morris Venden’s Week of Prayer to fan the flames.
But the revival wasn’t contained on this campus. “Succeeding issues of the Student Movement were full of accounts of student evangelism” in churches throughout Michiana, and to campuses at Mt Vernon Academy (Ohio), Oakwood College (Alabama), Atlantic Union College (Massachusetts), and Columbia Union College (Maryland). Neal’s article chronicles the phenomenal spread of Andrews University students’ witness for Christ up and down the eastern seaboard. Soon General Conference president, Robert Pierson, responded to the student revival in an editorial in the Review and Herald: “May the Holy Spirit revive us all—on campus and off campus!”
When I finished Beatrice Neal’s eleven-page report, I had two reactions. The first was fervent praise to God for such a remarkably divine outpouring of the Spirit upon this campus that I love. I am certain that forty years later we still benefit from the afterglow of that mighty revival. My second reaction was a prayer, Habakkuk’s prayer. For could there be a more timely prayer to be praying—even as we now are immersed in our 40 Days of Prayer on this same campus forty years later? I earnestly invite you to join me in praying this prayer every day until God repeats himself in our midst and we, too, are set ablaze for Christ: “I have heard all about you, LORD, and I am filled with awe by the amazing things you have done. In this time of our deep need, begin again to help us, as you did in years gone by. Show us your power to save us” (Habakkuk 3:2 NLT).
Love Your EnemiesSeptember 11th, 2010
“Minister to burn Quran.” The media have been tracking this story about terry Jones, evangelical pastor of the fifty-member Dove World Outreach Center (Gainesville, Florida), who is threatening to burn copies of the Quran this Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Protests from the White house, the State Department and General David Petraeus (Commander of US forces in Afghanistan) notwithstanding, Jones appears to be determined to proceed with the public burning—though he indicated this week to the Associated Press that he “still praying” about his decision. An interfaith coalition of Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish and Muslim leaders has condemned the plan as “a violation of American values and the Bible” (SBTribune 9-8-10).
It’s sad, isn’t it? No matter how deeply held our convictions about our personal or collective Christian faith, how would the public destruction of the holy book of Islam (one of the world’s three monotheistic religions, along with Christianity and Judaism) possibly advance our own faith in any circle, let alone among Muslims? Did Jesus call for the burning of the Roman Empire’s pagan “holy book” scrolls as an object lesson of his teachings’ superiority? Hardly. Instead he taught his followers, “‘Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you’” (Matthew 5:44).
Did you catch that? “Pray” for those you wish to win to Christ. For that reason our new 40 days of Prayer season here on campus and in this congregation is focused, not only on seeking a greater infilling of the Spirit of Jesus for ourselves, but also on praying for those who need to know the Savior—five people you know who, if Christ were to return tonight, wouldn’t be ready—five men, women, young adults, teenagers, children (your list may quickly grow beyond five) whose salvation you are earnestly seeking. What’s the strategy? Pray. For in that daily season of praying your heart and mine will be prompted by the Spirit with creative ways we can reach out to those we pray for—an email, a phone call, a visit, an I’ve-been-thinking-of- you-and-praying-for-you card, a favorite recipe, a helping hand—the list is endless. But it all must begin with prayer, “For this is the only method by which you can reach hearts. It is not your work, but the work of Christ who is by your side, that impresses hearts” (quoted in 40 Days: Prayers and Devotions to Prepare for the Second Coming p 9).
The ninth anniversary of September 11 will come and go. But, what must not come and go is Jesus’ Spirit of interceding prayer. Pray, pray, pray. For surely through his praying children, the Creator of us all can invade every land and every religion with the shining truth about Himself. And that’s one fiery passion we can all share.
Is there another earth in the universe?September 6th, 2010
Is there another earth in the universe? Last Tuesday at an international conference in France, scientists reported the discovery of a star or sun—HD 10180—one hundred light years or 587 trillion miles away (not exactly our next door neighbor, to be sure). But what was fascinating was their announcement that this sun is orbited by at least seven planets—most of which are 13 to 25 times the mass of our home planet Earth. However, one of those planets is only 1.4 times our size—making it the smallest planet ever spotted outside our own solar system. “The really nice thing about finding systems like this is that it shows that there are many more out there,” observes Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution for Science (SBTribune 8-25-40). In fact astronomers now believe there is growing evidence that our universe is “full of planets”—and that a number of them could be similar to our own. Very interesting.
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it, whether any of those planets are “peopled” by intelligent (OK, OK—but you know what I mean) beings like us? Could it be that if there were a Hubble-like telescope powerful enough to take close-up aerial photographs of one such planet, we would see communities of habitations spread around that terrestrial ball? Could inhabited planets be scattered through hundreds or even millions of galaxies?
The Bible is strangely silent about such a possibility. The Book of Job describes the “sons of God” (“heavenly beings” NRSV) gathering before God in council and at the creation of Earth (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7). Would such intelligent beings include more than the angels who inhabit God’s home kingdom? Scripture doesn’t say. But would it be that unusual for the Creator of the universe, depicted in the Bible as a parental God of relentless love, to have created numerous orders of intelligent life throughout his vast domain? Hardly.
What is apparently unique and unusual for God’s earth children is that we are the only planet to join the satanic rebellion against the Throne. Thus we are the only order of intelligent life the two gift-weapons for the duration of the cosmic war that now engulfs this planet: the gift of prayer (our 24/7 ability to be in instantaneous personal communication with God) and the gift of prophecy (God’s periodic communication with his earth children through divinely-selected men or women entrusted with direct messages from him to us). Two vital gifts critical for God’s earth children to master.
Not because he is 587 trillion miles away. But because we can hear the tread of an approaching God “even at the doors” (Matthew 24:33). For that reason we embark on twin journeys this season: a journey into prayer (“40 Days of Prayer”)—and a journey into the gift of prophecy (our new pulpit series, “The Gift”). And in all candor, I am praying earnestly that you’ll join me in both journeys. Never mind the other planets. It’s our home planet God must save. And we must help him. Which is why he needs you right now.