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Lenten Journey Day 2: "Asbury Revival?"February 23, 2023
By now you may have seen news about an ongoing gathering at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky. At the time I wrote this, this gathering had been going on for 10 days. I am familiar with this small town of Wilmore and I mean small as you have to intentionally go there to get there. You don’t just drive by. I went to seminary across the street at Asbury Theological Seminary. There are students from around the world that attend. Now if you have read my journey, I do not put a lot of wait on my degree nor do I agree with the tradition that I was raised in. Going to seminary was what you were required to do when I became a minister. It was not at seminary that the bible became real to me but later in my journey, but this was still part of my journey. Across the street was Asbury University and I really do not know much about them other than what I have recently read. They do both stem from the Methodist tradition.
I have called this a gathering simply because a revival means massive change. This school also has had gatherings similar to this one. On the Asbury University’s website, they talk about their previous “revivals?” In my earlier days I was much less skeptical about what revivals were compared to now. IN some traditions they announce revivals before they even happen. The website lists eight revivals that took place from 1905 to 2006. “In February 1950 a student testimony led to confessions, victories, and more testimonies. This went on uninterrupted for 118 hours and became the second leading news story nationwide; it is estimated that 50,000 people found a new experience in Christ as a result of this revival and witness teams that went out from it.” In February 1970 “A spirit of powerful revival came upon the congregation. The chapel was filled with rejoicing people. Classes were cancelled for a week during the 144 hours of unbroken revival, but even after classes resumed on February 10, Hughes Auditorium was left open for prayer and testimony.” It is interesting that they all (one started in March) started in February except for the one starting in March. Today, starting again in February, there is another “revival?” This one started very similar to how the others started with confession.
Starting February 8, 2023, this gathering continues with people travelling to Wilmore to find God and to be part of what they think God is doing. One story I thought interesting was a pastor “who pastors a church of 10,000 in Kenya, they’ve planted 268 churches since 2020, he’s authored 8 books, has a PHD and he flew in to experience this.” He wanted to experience this? Now obviously I am skeptical that this is a revival but that is what we are supposed to do. We are told 1 John 4:1 “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Matthew 24:3 “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? 4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.” The end of the age is coming quickly and millions have been deceived. The revivals at Asbury are not like the Toronto Blessing or Brownsville revivals (not revivals by the way) yet similar. They lack the supernatural that these other events had but similarly people drop what they are doing and travel to where they think God is. These do not have to have false prophets standing at the front as people can be deceived by the gathering itself. As I talk about this, bear in mind that our theme is “Prepare to meet your God” and true repentance.
Yes, I am very skeptical to call this a revival and I will tell you why in a moment. First off, I want to say that anytime a person or a group of people seek God that is a good thing, but they need to know who the God is they are seeking so they know if they have found Him. God said Proverbs 8:17 “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.” Notice they were in captivity for 70 years. 2 Chronicles 7:13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” They were in a famine and drought. Seeking God is never wrong but who you think God is and how He acts can be wrong. This was seen at the Toronto Blessing and Brownsville. That was not God, even though people thought they were seeking God and seeing His hand at work. People said they felt the move of the Holy Spirit, but it was satan. 2 Corinthians 11:13 “For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” The Asbury tradition is not charismatic like Toronto Blessing or Brownsville, so the gatherings fall in line with their belief system.
Today people love to worship especially with song, but worshiping with your life and not just your mouth and hands is different. I could not tell if the word of God was front and centre but it looks like it was mostly testimony and confession. It appears there was a lack of preaching of God's word. Mark 7:6 “He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ 8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” Worship is not always the worship we think it is, nor does God appreciate our worship as much as we think He does and God makes that clear. Isaiah said Isaiah 1:14 “Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!” Amos 5:3 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says to Israel: “Your city that marches out a thousand strong will have only a hundred left; your town that marches out a hundred strong will have only ten left. 4 This is what the Lord says to Israel: “Seek me and live; 18 Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light. 19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. 20 Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light— pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness? 21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. 22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
If you want to meet your God, you really need to understand who He is so that you will not be deceived. Jeremiah said, Lamentations 3:48 “Streams of tears flow from my eyes because my people are destroyed.” Hosea tells us Hosea 4:6 “my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.” If the children are seeking God, that is a good thing but they also need the mature to guide them but there is problem especially at seminaries and universities today and for some time now. Isaiah 56:10 “Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge.” I know that is a weird thing to say about those of higher learning but Malachi 2:7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. 8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the Lord Almighty.”
Here is an example of what I mean. I came across an interview with Tucker Carlson who was very gentle when he interviewed the student body president of Asbury University. Tucker Carlson is not really a person you want endorsing anything, just saying. In the interview she tried to explain what was going on. She said to Carlson with millions of viewers watching, that there was a verse from Habakkuk circulating that said, Habakkuk 1:5 “Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” Now on the surface that sounds great, but this is where the mature, a teacher, a leader, a minister around her should say to this young leader, who I am sure wants to meet God with all her heart, that she needed to keep reading to find out what God was saying to Habakkuk. The verse continues and says, Habakkuk 1:6 “I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own. 7 They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor. 8 Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like an eagle swooping to devour; 9 they all come intent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand. 10 They mock kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; by building earthen ramps they capture them. 11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on— guilty people, whose own strength is their god.” Jeremiah 6:22 “This is what the Lord says: “Look, an army is coming from the land of the north; a great nation is being stirred up from the ends of the earth. 23 They are armed with bow and spear; they are cruel and show no mercy. They sound like the roaring sea as they ride on their horses; they come like men in battle formation to attack you, Daughter Zion.” These are just a few verses about the disaster that was coming and then finally Israel and Judah were destroyed. Over and over the people were warned about the doom that was coming. If she understood the magnitude of this verse, there would be a very different worship taking place and a very different repentance. If no one has corrected her, she will not understand who the God is she is looking for.
The name of the University and Seminary is also a problem. Just maybe God has been calling out to Asbury University over the years. They have had these revivals(?) over the years but have they listened. The president of Asbury Seminary made this statement on CNN about this present gathering. “Asbury Theological Seminary President Timothy Tennent cautioned against calling the event a revival, instead preferring the term “Asbury Awakening.” “I think it is wise to see this, at the current phase, as an awakening,” he wrote in a recent blog post. “Only if we see lasting transformation which shakes the comfortable foundations of the church and truly brings us all to a new and deeper place can we look back, in hindsight and say ‘yes, this has been a revival.’” He also said in his blog “But, we must keep our hearts and eyes fixed on Jesus and ask for him to complete the work he has begun so that, over time, there is a lasting transformation in the lives of those who are being touched by God. But, what we are doggedly seeking is not lasting memories, but transformed lives long after the lights go out in Hughes auditorium or Estes Chapel or all other places which are experiencing this work of grace.” After all these so-called awakenings, they (seminary and university) seem to be still asleep. Paul exhorts us to wake up. Romans 13:11 “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” I did notice some talk about the LGBTQ community present and if that is the case, true revival would have seen repentance and healing of those individuals. Revelation 3:1 “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”
The university and seminary are both named after Francis Asbury (1745-1816). Their website says this. “Francis Asbury was born August 20, 1745, in Hamstead Bridge, Staffordshire, England, to Methodist parents. He began preaching at age 18 and traveled to America in 1771. (He was the only Methodist minister to remain in America during the American Revolution.) In 1784 John Wesley called on Asbury and Thomas Coke to establish the Methodist Church in America. Under Asbury’s leadership, the Methodist Church in America grew from 1,200 people to 214,000 members and 700 ordained preachers. Thus, Asbury became known as the “Father of American Methodism.” Thus, they have named their schools after a man. But not only that they have literally idolized the man with an idol. The seminary website says this. “You probably remember the day well — driving into Wilmore for the first time. Coming to a stop at the corner of North Lexington Avenue and College Street, you may have noticed the larger-than-life statue of Bishop Francis Asbury perched atop his horse. The namesake for both Asbury Seminary and Asbury University, Bishop Asbury symbolically faces north, an indication that he was continuously taking the Gospel “out” into the world. Having ridden approximately 300,000 miles on horseback and delivering some 16,500 sermons, Bishop Asbury made an impact not only on American Methodism, but also on early leaders of the United States, including President George Washington.” They have created an idol of a man on a horse. Not only that, there are also idols of John Wesley and Charles Wesley. You can also buy your very own idol at the bookstore. “To honor his legacy, the Asbury Seminary Campus Store is proud to release our fourth “Uniquely Asbury Seminary” product — the Francis Asbury Statuette Keepsake. Every detail from the original has been painstakingly re-created in this collector’s piece that will make a smart addition to your office or study. The Francis Asbury Statuette Keepsake retails for $34.99. For a limited-time, ATS Alums can save $5.00 by using coupon code “FRANCIS.” Shipping is $6.95 for orders less than $49.00, or you can purchase both the Francis Asbury and John Wesley Keepsakes together for a special price of $49.99 (a $10 savings) and get free shipping.” Now of course they will just call them statues, but they are still idolizing man just as their name of the university and seminary portray.
But it doesn’t stop there. The two very large chapels are also named after men. The university chapel is named after John Wesley Hughes. “The 1,500-person capacity Hughes Auditorium was constructed in 1929, when Asbury College’s enrollment was less than half that. It was named in honor of Dr. John Wesley Hughes, the founder and first president of the college.” The seminary chapel is named after the Estes family who donated money to build it. This is common for universities and seminaries to name buildings after donors. The buildings are named after someone who was important to the institution or someone who gave large sums of money. This is wrong. It reminds me of a church I saw one time who had a man’s name on the cornerstone, instead of God’s.
Back to the revival. Nothing was done as far as I could see (if the idols have been taken down that would be great) following the other so-called awakenings. What I would like to see is action. When Paul preached in Acts 19:11 “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” People kept saying this was a massive outpouring of the Holy Spirit but was there the power of the gospel present as we saw with Jesus. Paul continued 13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. 17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” I also noticed some false teachers showing up to jump on the bandwagon. As the Seminary president said, “we see lasting transformation which shakes the comfortable foundations of the church,” then we will know that God was moving. Those who attend should be in protest against idolatry, they should protest naming buildings. As Jeremiah was sent, he was told Jeremiah 1:10 “See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” Israel was told Numbers 33:50 “On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses, 51 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, 52 drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. 53 Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess.” Revival lead to tearing down before building up.
Many at Asbury University are saying God is in this place, the Holy Spirit is moving but is God really. Is it really a revival? God is more than a feeling. God requires us to turn from our wicked ways and return to His Way.. It is not just about tearing down idols or getting rid of man’s names plastered on the buildings, it is also about obeying God’s word and turning from our wicked ways. That would mean tearing down the traditions that they have followed for years and returning to God’s word. Yes, that would be offensive to them. We are not followers of Wesley’s view of God or Calvin’s or …. etc., we are followers of God. True revival will destroy anything man-made. True revival will also have true signs and wonders. No, I am definitely not a charismatic, but I do believe the power of God is available to all who believe. Mark 16:15 “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well. 19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” Hebrews 2:4 “God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” 1 Corinthians 12:7 “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” No, it will look nothing like the Toronto Blessing, it will look like scripture. Matthew 4:23 “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” Mark 6:12 “They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”
When king Josiah found the word of God, and it was read, 2 Kings 22:11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes.” Josiah said 13 “Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.” God then responded 16 ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. 17 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’ 18 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: 19 Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. 20 Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’” You then can read in 2 Kings 23 and all that Josiah did (fulfillment of the prophecy to Jeroboam) He then read the covenant to the people, tore down, removed, desecrated, did away with priests, burned, smashed and cut down, and destroyed all that was evil. 2 Kings 23:25 “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.” Josiah took action. That is revival.
One other thing is you don’t need to go to the building to seek God. Paul said Acts 17:23 “For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” People were standing in line for hours to get into the building to meet God who is not contained by a building. They could have stayed at home, fell on their face and repented.
If I saw this type of repentance, where the man-made was torn down, take place, I would then say this is a revival, but people just gathering non-stop and giving praise, is just a gathering. Yes, seek God with everything you have, but be prepared to give Him everything you have, and be prepared to be tested. These young people have a desire to find God, but I fear that the bible is not what they are looking for, but the experience. But if they are truly looking for the God of the bible, being young is not a hindrance. Josiah was 26 when he began the repairs to the temple, so if these people truly seek God, they will find Him as that is a promise. Scripture lets us know when we do find Him. My question for this revival, is God’s word front and centre or is the experience of the moment front and centre? For these young people my concern is that God’s word is not front and centre as we saw with the student body president. But if the bible is front and centre, there is hope for the young person who desires to know God. Paul told Timothy 1 Timothy 4:1 “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. (This is missing in the church) 15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine (not church doctrine like Methodist or Baptist) closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Instead of letting this gathering go by like all the others, just maybe these young people can show their leaders what needs to be done and get rid of the man-made church. Make sure you are seeking the God of scripture. No scripture, no God, know scripture, know God. Are you prepared to meet the God of scripture? If you are, your response should be like Job’s. Job 42:5 “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”