2016: The Year of Restoration!

2016 is the year of restoration. It sounds preposterous, given current world circumstances. Maybe it sounds preposterous given personal circumstances too. Storms are rising. Satan loves to stir up storms, personal and world-sized. 

Acts 19 is one of my favorite examples of this. Paul comes to Ephesus preaching the gospel and a huge revival breaks out. People are abandoning their pagan and occult practices and burning their books on witchcraft and satanism. It’s a miracle and quite the outpouring of the Holy Spirit! And what happens? Satan stirs up a storm. He stirs up a storm so crazy that the whole town turns out and shouts for hours “Great is the god of Artimus!” They haul Paul into jail, charges are filed, threats are thrown…it just keeps sounding worse and worse. But then an interesting thing happens. The town clerk reports that none of this is enforceable and dismisses the town. At the end of the day, they are all sent home and Paul goes on to continue preaching.

Satan uses storms to rage. He rages but he knows he has no credible authority. Though threatened and suffering, Paul calmly waits out the storm and in the end, he goes on doing what God has ordained him to do because Paul knows GOD has all the authority.

When storms rise, the church has an amazing opportunity to rise with it. We can turn our eyes on Jesus, our Captain, and learn how to rise above the storm or we can look at the storm and get caught up or worse, buried in it. I’ve often wondered what happened to the church between Azusa Street and the self-centered 80’s and 90’s. How did we get so off track? I think it goes back to this storm principle.

The Azusa Street Revival started in 1906. Some reports say it went as long as 1915. In Europe, the Welsh Revival started in 1904. Prior to these two great moves of God, there were the Great Awakenings in the 1800’s in both Europe and America. World War 1 started in 1914 and then 20 years later, World War 2 was upon us. Interesting timing. It reminds me of Acts 19. Satan saw an outpouring of God’s love on the earth and stirred up a storm against it.  He has raged on that storm for almost 100 years.

Prior to WW1 and WW2, The Great Awakenings and Azusa Street Revival had opened up a powerful connection with God. People began to see Him as personal and loving and the Bible as alive and powerful, not just rules to follow. WW1, and subsequently WW2, shook all that. The resulting depressions were like pouring salt on the wounds. Perhaps in the hearts and minds of the western church a doubt crept out of the trauma and shock and began to cement itself in their hearts. What kind of God would have allowed such a horrific thing to happen? As they began to question whether God really cared based on circumstances, the people shrunk back from Him and began to relate and operate from a “safe place.”

When we operate a computer in “safe mode” so much is inaccessible. We can operate on the general system but we can’t access all the options available to us to use the system to the fullest. There is less power, less access, less availability, and less ability in safe mode. Even an expert can only do so much in safe mode. 

Likewise, when we operate in safe mode with God, we cut off our access to so much of who He is. We experience less power, less availability of the things of His Kingdom, and less ability to operate in the fullness of His plan. When whole people groups shrink back from God, as I believe the Western world did after the world wars and depressions, we find a church that cannot enter into the fullness of their God. We create traditions and “laws” that are safe and seem to follow His teachings, but have no true power. We cut ourselves off from the heart and the Spirit of our core relationship with God and have to work with the reduced level of connection, access and ability. Subsequently, our results are basic, reduced, elementary and much less effective. This may explain how the church in America went from an Azusa street awakening to the self-protective and self-centered 80’s and 90’s.

The last 4 years have taught me that when satan stirs up a storm, the Lord desires His people to turn to Him, not away from Him, and learn how to rise up over the storm as opposed to hiding from it. When I look over church history, it appears the church did not do that. Instead, it seems we went into safe mode.

I don’t think it was anything anyone meant to do. In fact, it is a common reaction to trauma. I have personally experienced it in my life several times. When we face traumatic experiences, we become so overwhelmed we just want safety and we will do whatever it takes to get that sense of safety. We call this PTSD in modern times. It’s not a wrong response, it just happens. But I know from my own experiences, while God completely understands that deep psychological reaction (He made us after all and certainly understands this reaction to trauma), He never intended us to get stuck there or worse, to live out our lives there.

PTSD has a pattern to it. At first, it is just the psychological reaction. The need for safety is of utmost importance as healing cannot come until the person perceives they are “safe”, whatever that means to that person. On a temporary basis, this is all part of the healing process. Once the person has a sense of safety, the ideal situation is they can go through the process of healing from the trauma and relating to their new experiences as separate from the trauma. This takes time and is a very important process that must be thoroughly experienced; denying the trauma, cutting off support or shutting down all stop the process. Having loving, supportive help is also helpful to moving through it and not getting stuck.

But if one stays in that reaction too long, cannot find a “safe” place, shuts down in denial and/or cannot accept loving support, they can get stuck. They begin to create new ways of being that accommodate the reaction. One goes from simply reacting to trauma to making the trauma and the trauma-reaction part of who they are. At that point, self-centeredness takes a prominent place and the need for “safety”, whatever that represents, becomes the most important thing to that person. Life becomes measured by what is perceived as safe and self-protection becomes the main focus. It’s a vicious cycle that perpetuates itself.

I can see how the church fell into a need for safety following not just one horrific world war but two. However, there is an element to God’s plan that is higher than just psychological. God, having created us, can do much more than help us move on after trauma. He can heal the deep, life-threatening wounds to the psyche that trauma brings and even re-create places that were blown apart by devastating blows. He gives understanding of things that are incomprehensible and a peace that goes to core of the pain. He assures us with His Presence when we think we cannot make it another step and restores us to strength when we think we may never recover. He then teaches us to not just survive but to conquer and triumph in victory over the storm that creates such trauma. But we can only receive what we believe.

Our perception of God is what determines our understanding of God which determines how we react to what happens around us. He is powerful and Almighty but He is also our loving Father. When we see God in that loving Father role, then we know that no matter what we face, He will help us. When we see God as less than that loving Father, we reduce Him to a powerful entity in the sky that must be appeased. A child who goes through a traumatic experience will run to a loving father but away from one she perceives as unloving. I believe this is where the western church found herself in the early 1900’s after two wars and a depression. Instead of running to God, the church pulled away.  Having a wrong understanding of God brought them to the perception that He wasn’t as good as they thought He was. Having decided God wasn’t protecting them very well, they made their own “safe” place.

God has been misunderstood long enough. He desires His Bride to know Him in truth in a time that is growing more dangerous and traumatic by the moment. This time we cannot pull back to a safe place and lock our doors. The current storms have invaded our carefully constructed “safe” places. Our only choices are to succumb to evil or look to God. And when we look to Him as He really is we find He is not just an all-powerful entity that sits above us ruling the cosmos from a distance. He is our LOVING FATHER. Some of us don’t have a clear concept of a loving father but He is more than willing to show us when we ask. As an Almighty God and a loving Father, He has the power to heal and the love that forgives and restores us into His way, which is beyond any supposed safe place we could construct for ourselves.

The reality is we are in a constant epic conflict with the forces of evil and it is our Father’s goal to teach us how to be strong and effective in that conflict. He is good and He loves us deeply. He is also God, the Most High, and as His children we are targets of His arch-enemy who hates Him just as deeply as He loves us. We will suffer trials and hardships, just as Jesus suffered in His role in the conflict, but just as the Father brought Jesus out a conqueror, so He will bring us out the same. He has all power and authority and as His children, He gives us the same. Knowing He is for us and loves us is what brings us through the trauma to healing and back to strength again. It’s the same path Jesus traveled and He promised He would help us through it by sending us the Holy Spirit. In this time of great upheaval and chaos, He will draw us to Himself, love us to strength and teach us how to rise above the storm with Him. Though satan rages, we have nothing to fear, our Father is with us!

Yes, 2016 is a year of restoration.  The restoration of a Father to His children, a Husband to His Bride and a Captain to His army! Come, Church and be restored!