Have you ever heard of the Azusa Street Revival? This was a revival around the turn of the century that originated in Los Angeles. A man by the name of Frank Bartleman wrote a book on it. There was a huge outpouring of the Holy Spirit and many churches who did not have the Holy Spirit benefited from it. Unfortunately though, the spark created only a small fire that ended up dwindling. I don’t really know how long the Azusa Street revival is said to have lasted, but Frank gives his own account of the reasons for the fall. He speaks very strongly of the human desire to lead and compartmentalize things instead of simply allowing God to lead. How much this same spirit still exists today! However, as individuals, he encourages us to ‘keep away from temptation ground and aggressively walk in obedience.’
What a balance! I remember when my brother first became a Christian. He had a pretty awesome conversion and being drawn to save his family’s life, he approached us in the fire when we weren’t even aware there were flames. Truthfully, I approached his head strong approach with sarcasm. After all, I was the good kid. Who was he to tell me I was going to hell? Today, he’s a pastor. As for me, God has a funny way of bringing things full circle. God honored my brothers intentions and it was he that sent me the video that compelled me to repent. My little sister, she came to Christ before me too. Of course, me being the older wiser sister, I was pretty concerned about her full Pentecostal conversion .. holiness standards and all. She wasn’t so much in your face, but her stark difference from being one of us to suddenly being so different constantly created this ‘irk’ within me that also created a constant tension between us. And once again, God’s sense of humor put me through the very same Pentecostal experience with my own conversion.
Of course, it was only after my own conversion that I understood that perhaps the tension I felt from them was God convicting my spirit that I needed to make some changes. I would have to say that some of the tension was also created by these two young Christians learning how to walk the line. These are revelations that only come, however, once you yourself are learning to walk the line. Five years later, we are all each very strong Christians. Admittedly, there are some things that each of us don’t agree on. It was important that we each had our moments to ‘bring the other to truth.’ We did. Each of us. But still, we’ve come to a place where the unspoken tension still lies. I can’t really speak for them, because I don’t know what’s in their mind, but as for me, I know that I’ve put our differences in the hands of God. I know my siblings. I know that they love God. I can see the fruits of God’s labor in their lives. I can see growth and that God is moving them at their pace .. which is quite dramatically different from my own. As the older sibling of us 3, I look on at them like a mother hen. I’m proud to see them working for Jesus. And yet, they were the ones who came to Christ first. However, I trust God. I can love them, pray for them, encourage them, and trust that any differences that lie between us have to be handled by God.
Until you are really IN this, these revelations are merely sticks goading you forward making you scream in resistance at each move. We as Christians want to deny the struggle and say ‘screw it! It’s not worth it!’ But once you’re on the line, you realize, there is no just escaping. It’s either you move forward toward Christ and the Cross or you move backward toward hell. It’s a balance that I’m certainly still learning. I’m just now learning that the distractions that constantly goad me are the very things that get me back to the line. Hard to appreciate when you’re bleeding, but with each step forward, I find the line gets a little easier to follow.
Frank had it right. It really is a matter of walking in aggressive obedience towards Christ. Sometimes that means we are going to step on toes. Sometimes those toes bite back and teach us a thing or two about the importance of approach, intention, and God’s timing. Once again, it’s only once you are really IN this that you understand the need for mercy and grace. Not a single one of us on this earth can claim to know all there is know about God. We are all still learning to walk the line.
I figure I’m somewhere between ignoring the laughs and jeers of the crowd below me and moving forward where I see others successfully walking in obedience. I agree with Frank. I can’t do much about the church at large. But in my circle of influence, I am choosing to first, obey God. Second, I am choosing to love my neighbor. Like my siblings, there is a time to stand and share truth, but as Frank states, there is a time for putting aside our differences and letting God do the leading and trust that He will take care of the differences. I know it looks like a mess, but somehow, I just know in my heart of hearts, Jesus is going to make this big massive mess into something really beautiful. In the meantime, I’m going to keep my focus on where it should be, the line He has me walking.
Jesus is coming back. SOON!