In seventh grade I was assigned a project, for which I had little interest, by my science teacher. She gave me two pages of instructions detailing how I was to complete a project on soil erosion. Equipped with a Polaroid instant camera I trekked about a half-mile deep into the woods behind our neighborhood, and walked along the banks of a small pond that we swam in during the summer months. I took my pictures of various forms of soil erosion and went back home, opened our family copy of Encyclopedia Britannica, and proceeded to plagiarize to the best of my ability what I found on the pages of those musty volumes of academic knowledge. Almost none of what I researched and reported stuck with me. Nothing except for one lone feature of the science project: for some reason, I was never able to forget what I learned about sediment.
When soil erodes near a body of water, it gravitates to the lowest possible place and eventually comes to rest there. This soil remains as matter that settles to the bottom; it is sometimes referred to as dregs, but the more specific name for this material is sediment. Sediment will remain exactly where it is until the time that some stronger force, usually some form of water movement or current, stirs it up again. Yet when that stronger force subsides, and is no longer impacting the previously settled soil, the sediment will once again sink back to lowest possible point. Over time, deep layers of sediment form, and it can become so entrenched that the currents that previously were able to stir it up can no longer impact the sediment. It will remain where it is, immobilized under its own layered weight until some much stronger force comes against it to move it once again. When I think of that science project from over thirty-five years ago, I am seeing a spiritual parallel today.
Our church and missions base are not quite halfway through a 40-day fast. God is clarifying some things for me as my ability to hear Him is sharpened. I can hear Him saying that the Church in America (especially the Bible Belt) is pictured in this description above concerning sedimentary layers. Dare I point out that you and I are subject to potentially living with sedimentary hearts? When we begin the journey of faith, the beauty of the Kingdom finds us, and we live in a season of being spiritually stirred. Jesus becomes very real to us. Our eyes are opened to eternal beauties. We merge our wills with the purposes of Heaven and we taste of the glorious fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit. We experience love, joy, peace, patience and so forth. The Word of God animates our lives and we find ourselves bored with this world and, instead, hungering after Jesus Christ. Yet is it not also true that these potent seasons can begin to subside? Some form of inner-erosion begins to take place and, very slowly, almost imperceptibly, the waves of life begin to chip away at our elevated spiritual state of being. We become submerged in duties, demands and disappointments. Freshness of heart flees from us and we are left with little more than religious routines that typically take place once a week on Sundays for most Christians. What once thrilled us and baited our hearts can become an intrusion when we begin to experience heart-erosion. Then we can drift – we feel earthy. We find ourselves being pulled downward and ultimately arriving at the bottom of something we once walked on top of. Thinned-out or completely gone are love, joy, peace, patience and so forth. Our Christian experience feels like sediment and the layers begin to build. Over unchecked time, we no longer find ourselves stirred but, regrettably, stilled and settled. More than likely, you have gone in and out of this type of experience at times as you have continued your journey with Jesus. What must happen to bring us back up from the dregs?
“Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem.” – Ezra 1:5
God will stir us again. He will not leave us in spiritually sedimentary lives. He has not made us to live in the settled muck of mundane pursuits. Holy Spirit will send irresistible currents and churnings to rouse us up from the lower layers of living. As He did in the days of Ezra, He will graciously, sovereignly move in the hearts of a remnant who will be His tools to awake the rest of His people. Yes, God ordains times of stirring and we do well to learn to recognize those times when He sends them. We are in such a time right now. Everywhere I am going, the children of God are speaking of the rumblings of an awakening. When I listen to podcasts from preachers I have never met, they are using the same Kingdom language that I also am using to describe “what the Spirit says to the Church” in this current season. I believe that we are living in a divine moment right now wherein the Father is directing us toward something that will serve to awaken His people. Christians and church leaders must courageously examine what we are doing in our generation and why we are doing it. Ministry trends are abounding, and they are being passed off as genuine moves of of the Spirit, only to end with a gasp from man instead of glory for God. No better than passing trends are the pitiful traditions that infect our churches today. Mindless circles of yesteryear’s activities are being perpetuated today under the illusion of some guaranteed blessing from on high being attached to them. To assume that God is obligated to bless today what He blessed yesterday is the essence of traditional religion. If man’s existing policies in a local church, a denomination or a movement contradict or impede God’s eternal purposes, changes must be made. We are not to pray about it, which often serves as a cover for feckless indecision – we are to decisively act upon it, which serves as evidence that our allegiance is to the King and His kingdom rather than any lesser loyalty. This courage and commitment is at the core of Reformation, and the American church stands in great need of one in the present hour. Another awakening awaits us on the other side of bold and brave leaders doing what is right before God, as they refuse to bow to the fear of man. Where are these men and women today? Where are the prophets in our generation? Are you among those whom God Almighty is stirring in your generation? If not, then is He seeking to lead you by those who are stirred by Him? When these men and women arise in our midst, we will see the ushering in of unprecedented Kingdom power in the American church. Whom God has determined to stir up, let none of us seek to settle down. The move of God in this generation will be sovereignly initiated by Him, but it must be enthusiastically stewarded by us. Perish the thought that we would settle as sediment – we have been called to soar as saints.