Allen Jackson - Back To The Future - Part 1
Hey, it's an honor to be with you again. We're walking through this study on "When Revival Comes," and I would suggest to you that God is moving in the earth. Whether we call it an awakening, a renewal, a revival, the language really isn't as concerning to me as the reality of what God is doing. I wanna participate with him. There's a line that Elijah used at the end of God's judgment when he was in the midst of this confrontation with Ahab and Jezebel, and it culminates in the confrontation on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal. But when they're done with that, Elijah said, "I hear the sound of a heavy rain. Go tell the king I hear the rain coming".
Well, if I had one message for you today, I hear the sound of the rain of the Spirit of God. It isn't that evil has been abolished, our challenges have totally just disappeared, but in the midst of all of those things, God is moving in the most remarkable ways from rulings with our Supreme Court, to a new future for our children. The Spirit of God is moving. I hear the sound of a heavy rain. I wanna be involved in what God is doing, and I know you do too. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but most of all, open your heart.
God is moving in some unprecedented ways throughout the earth. I wanted to borrow a line from 1 Kings. It's something that Elijah had to say to King Ahab, but he said that he could hear the sound of a heavy rain, and if you asked me for my best analysis of what's in front of us, it has nothing to do with the season of the year in Middle Tennessee. "I hear the sound of a heavy rain approaching". God is doing something. I don't know that I've ever been more excited, more hopeful, more aware of the conflict. I've never seen the adversaries of the kingdom of God more emboldened, more determined, more threatening. On the other hand, I've never had a greater anticipation of the moving of the Spirit of God. I believe there's an abundance of rain before us.
In 1 Kings 18, it's verse 41: "Elijah said to Ahab", the most wicked king in Israelite history, Ahab is the gold standard for wickedness. If you're gonna make the book, that's not the way you wanna make it. And Elijah is a prophet of God, and he says to Ahab, "Go eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain". Now, you need the backstory. It hasn't rained in three years. In fact, this is the concluding scene to a multiyear struggle. Multiyear struggle. Sound familiar? Don't give in to tragedy fatigue. I know it's a temptation. I'm tired too, but don't give into it. The greatest part and, the most effective part of your workout is that last bit when everything's tired and fatigued, and there's some deficit. If you'll push through, it's where you gain new strength. You don't gain real strength until you exercise to the point of fatigue. Isn't that good news?
So God is strengthening his people. He's strengthening his church. He's preparing us for a new season when greater strength is going to be required. It's gonna be uncomfortable. This is the concluding scene to a struggle that's been taking place for years. God's people have been hunted. They've been hiding in caves. They've being fed in secret. It's been a bit of time, it's been a lean time, a threatening time, a challenging time, and, finally, Elijah says, "Enough. On Mount Carmel, we will meet, and we will resolve this". You know the story. Fire falls from heaven, and now Elijah says, "The drought is over," and I don't believe it's just a drought of physical rain. I don't believe it's just a drought of poverty that has come to an agrarian culture. I believe it's a spiritual drought. He said, "The drought is over. I hear the rain coming. I hear the rain coming," he says.
In Psalm 65, in verse 9, says, "You care for the land and you water it. You enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it". There's a very unique relationship between the people of the land of Israel and water. The most precious resource in the Middle East is not oil. It's water. The wars of the Middle East have been historically fought over water, not petroleum rights. In the land of Israel, there are no permanent water sources of any significance. In Egypt, there's the Nile, and to the north, there is the Euphrates that provide these remarkable, stable sources of water and the cultures that have flourished around those, but those things are absent in the land of Israel.
Now, you know, the Jordan River, but if you've never seen it, let me help you. The Jordan River is really a creek. It just has a really good PR team. It's pretty disappointing when you see it. It's not the Mississippi. It's not even Stones River. And so there is no sustainable water source for the nation. They are completely dependent upon rainfall, and it only rains a few short months out of the year, from the middle of April until the middle of October. It doesn't rain at all except in the most unusual of circumstances, but what God has promised to the inhabitants of the land, he promised them that land, and then he promised them an abundance of rain as a part of his provision for them.
We just read it in Psalm 65, "You care for the land, and you water it. You enrich it abundantly". Rainfall means enrichment, and God promises that as a part of his provision for the people. Well, obedience is our response to God's promise. You can't choose rebellion against God and then expect God's consistent provision. So the rain or its absence is something of a litmus test for the obedience of the people. It's true throughout Scripture, and it's continued into the modern state of Israel. Water has continued to be the most limiting factor for them. And something remarkable has happened in the land of Israel.
In recent years, God gave them the wisdom, the insight, the revelation, whatever was necessary. They have put on-line a series of desalination plants along the Mediterranean Coast, and for the first time in the history of modern Israel and ancient Israel, they have an abundance of water. They have more water than they know what to do with. Since the birth of the modern state of Israel until the desalination plants were put online, the Sea of Galilee, it's a freshwater lake, was the national water reserve, and you could tell how the nation was doing, how much rainfall had been coming, by the level of the Sea of Galilee, and for two decades, it has been at historic lows.
I can report to you the Sea of Galilee is brimming to overflowing. It's the fullest I've seen it in decades. They are pumping water from the sea of Galilee to enrich the aquifers of the land of Israel. Tens of millions of gallons are being pumped on a regular basis to enrich the groundwater supplies in Israel because they have such an abundance of water coming from the Mediterranean. God has blessed them in the most remarkable ways. They have entirely, and they're very intentional with how they use their water. They are making the desert bloom. They are prospering in a way they've never imagined. Not only do they have abundance of water, but there's been an absence of oil, oil all over the Middle East, and it's never been identified in Israel, but they have found abundant natural gas resources just off their coast.
The Israelis are going to show the world entirely new ways to utilize natural gas. The blessings of God are changing their profile. They're not less dependent upon him. It's the blessings of God coming to them in the most unexpected, the most remarkable ways. Look in Joel chapter 3, in verse 17. It's the fulfillment of this prophetic passage. "You will know that I, the Lord your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill". Zion is the most comprehensive term in Scripture for the people of God. "You will know that I dwell in the midst of my people, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy. Never again will foreigners invade her. In that day, the mountains will drip with new wine, and the hills will flow with milk, and all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the Lord's house and will water the valley of acacias".
If you take those statements that are made there, they describe a series of outcomes that are all made possible by an abundance of water, and it's so apparent when you drive through the land of Israel. They have an abundance of water. I smile. They had a storm on the Sea of Galilee a few weeks ago that did quite a bit of destruction to the hotels and the restaurants around the shore of the lake because there was so much water that, when there was a storm, they weren't prepared for it. God's just showin' off.
Well, what about our world? These two things are happening in parallel on the earth, God fulfilling his promises to the Jewish people and the purification of his church. When you see God moving in dramatic ways in one arena, you should be looking for his dramatic movement in the other. Now, they're not without challenges. I had a good Israeli friend. We were having a visit with some coffee, and he said, "It's inevitable that the Iranians have nuclear weapons". He said, "The world has dithered too long. Your nation has assured it". He said, "We are prepared for that in spite of all the efforts we have made to hinder it, to slow it down". And he said, "We believe them. They've said, as soon as they have the capability, they will use them in an attempt to destroy our nation". He said, "We live with that awareness".
The greatest threat to the modern state of Israel, at this point in time, is Iran. You should understand that. So, when you hear our nation doing anything we can do to bolster, strengthen, affirm Iran, understand we are doing that to the detriment of Israel. But he said, "We're not frightened. God has kept us, and we trust him with our future". So, in our world, again, I would come back to Elijah's statement, "I hear the sound of abundant rain". Acts chapter 2, is really the day that the church went public. Jesus went back to heaven in Acts chapter 1. It's the ascension, but in Acts chapter 2, the city of Jerusalem is stirred. The Spirit of God is poured out in fulfillment to a promise Jesus has made, and Peter stands up to explain what's happening to the crowd, and he quotes from the prophet Joel.
It's Acts 2:17, "In the last days, God said, 'I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I'll pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I'll show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below.'" If I had to distill that a bit, it's a promise of the moving of God's Spirit. In the same way that, when Elijah said, "I hear the sound of an abundance of rain," it was more than the drought being over. It was a new freedom for the people of God. There's a new king coming. Ahab's gonna be replaced. Elijah said, "I'm the only one left," and God said, "No, no, son, there 7.000 more just like you".
Nice pity party. Stand up. It's too easy for us to descend into a little pity party. "Woe is me. I'm tired. It's harder than I want it to be. The opposition's too persistent". There's a promise of a moving of God's Spirit, and the outcomes that are described, the outcomes that Peter is promising, the outcomings that Joel had described that the Spirit of God told us were ahead of us was that there would be new insight, new sight for us. He said, "Your sons and your daughters, your young men will see visions". There's gonna be new sight, new insight. We'll be looking at familiar things, but we will see them in new ways. He said there would be a new awareness, a new perspective, wondrous expressions of God's involvement. Can you see them?
I've been encouraging you for weeks and months not to focus on the negative and the destruction and the heaviness but to purposefully turn your attention, your thoughts and your heart and your awareness to what God is doing. Can you see it? If you asked me for an analysis prior to the pandemic, the best description I could have for American Christendom is that we were a church asleep, and "asleep" is not evil. It's a natural state of being, but you don't wanna remain perpetually asleep. That's called a coma, and in Scripture, it says, "A son that sleeps during the harvest is a disgrace".
So there's a time for sleep, and there's a time to be awake and alert. When you're asleep, you're unaware, you're unconcerned, and you're uninvolved. I think it's a pretty good description of the church for decades. We've huddled in our buildings, and we have talked about first century social customs, but we didn't wanna talk about 21st century implications of the gospel. We're uncomfortable with that. We're not even sure current events should have a discussion within the church. Folks, what good is our faith if it doesn't impact current events? We've cared so much about the social customs of the fifth century B.C. or the first century A.D., but we haven't really been overly concerned about how to let our faith impact the 21st century, and God is awakening us to an awareness of an assignment.
Much of the fog of deception that had settled over his people seems to be clearing at least to some extent. We're far more aware of what's being taught in our schools than we were just a few short years ago. We're paying attention. We have a voice now. We care about it. We really weren't that concerned before. We've recognized that some of the institutions that we have held in highest esteem that have been the most revered amongst us have become politicized to the point of dysfunction. I believe, once we recognize it, we can see it change because we can begin to pray and call on God and ask for his mercy. We can see the Justice Department once again be a place that dispenses justice or the FBI that is a place of integrity or the CDC some place that follows science.
Our churches were unprepared for this season. We worry. It's our awkward truth, and I've spent my life in the church. I'm not throwing stones, but truth was just often too uncomfortable for us. In our semiconscious state, we didn't even notice while propaganda and censorship had flourished all around us. We thought we had freedom of speech until we didn't. We seemed shocked and appalled when somebody dared to say in public that the media wasn't unfair. We said they spoke too harshly. Now we're awakened to the reality that the media has abandoned neutrality. They've taken sides and put their finger heavily on the scales of public opinion. It's not their job. I wonder, when we awaken from our slumber to this land of economic fantasy where we can spend far beyond our ability to pay and act as if there's no consequence.
Somewhere, deep within us, we know that's not true. Most of us ignored Dave Ramsey and took our credit cards to places they shouldn't go, and then we spent a long time painfully walking that back. Do you think it's different on a national scale? We awakened from our slumber to recognize the degree to which lawlessness had flourished around us. We are teetering on the precipice of a total collapse of the rule of law. Now, the wonderful thing about a good diagnosis is it means you can have a better future. Absent a diagnosis, you'll continue on a destructive path until your life is completely decimated. And, as we awaken, it's important to pay attention to that.
See, the good news with a diagnosis that's uncomfortable, the best news in one of those diagnoses is that there's a response that will bring you renewed health. And I'm telling you, as dark as that awareness may be, there is a promise of much greater life. "I hear the sound of an abundance of rain". I see a new hunger and a thirsting for God unlike anything in my lifetime in the ministry. Most of my journey through ministry, people wanted to talk about biblical things, not experience them. They certainly didn't wanna pray for one another or with one another. They were happy to do a seminar on prayer, but they didn't wanna practice. That's changed.
There's a greater awareness of true and false than any time in my life. We're no longer content to maintain the status quo. There's a respect and a reverence for God growing amongst us. We wanna separate ourselves from ungodliness. We're not willing any longer to wink casually at immorality, fornication and adultery, and all sorts of sexual immorality. We're increasingly having the courage to say, "That's really not a good thing". We have tolerated those in the church for far too long, thinking we could, kind of, casually say, "Oh, I'm sorry. It would all be good". It's not. There's a consequence that comes with ungodliness. There's new trust emerging, and God is our source.
Did you know God still provides manna and water? Hallelujah. If God shakes the earth and shakes the systems around us, his faithfulness will still describe our future. It's "In God We Trust," not the dollar. That's why we put that on the dollar. The supernatural is becoming more natural with every passing day, it seems to me. The pandemic did not annihilate entire populations as it threatened to do. Thank God. There's new attention on biblical understanding of marriage and family within the church amongst God's people. That's really good to know. Those were God's ideas. He instituted them. We shouldn't be apologizing. We shouldn't be embarrassed by that. The same one that created the earth and everything that's in it said, "This is the way for human beings to flourish. You have a message to deliver to the world".
We're witnesses to God's grace, in these last few days, in unthinkable ways, new protections for our children, reasserting our privileges to pray in public. It's amazing to see what God is doing. It's almost impossible to keep up with it. It truly is. Don't be discouraged. Don't be frightened. We have problems, ya think, but we have solutions if we have the courage to turn on the lights. We have real responses. We have the tools we need. They're available to us to pursue God, to cooperate with him, and to be his ambassadors. We have access to his Word. We can gather in public to worship him and to praise him. You can gather with godly people and talk about what he's doing. You can pray for one another. You can use your voice in the marketplace and in the corporate setting.
We're free! We're free to serve the King! Choose God in your life. Be different from your friends who are secularists. Don't be angry with them. The problem, folks, isn't through the windows of the church. The problem is in the hearts of those that have gathered in the churches, but God is awakening us. Pray with your children no matter what age they are. "Well, I didn't pray with them when they were young. They'll think I'm crazy". They already do. "I know there's a lot of confusion in the world. Could I have a prayer with you before we hang up the phone"? Don't wait for 'em to say, "Yes". Just do, "Let's pray". "God, thank you for my kids. I'm sorry I didn't pray with 'em more, but bless 'em today in Jesus's name, amen". Don't wait for a response. "Have a great day. Gotta go," boom.
I want folks to think I'm just nuts for the Lord. What are you striving for? I'm telling you, the systems of the world are being shaken, and the shaking is going to intensify. Talk about your faith with your friends. If it brings realignment to your relationships, you'll be in a healthier place. If you've brought people close to you that are intolerant of Jesus of Nazareth, you've made some mistakes. You don't have to be angry or condemn 'em, but start to share with them the things that matter to you, and if it brings realignment, I trust the seeds that are planted in the conversations will bring them back to the kingdom, but stop compromising your integrity and calling it evangelism. That's deception. Being wicked is not the way to win the wicked.
Oh, come on, I read the literature. Take your faith to work in the way you do your job and the way you treat the people with whom you work. Take your faith to work. Don't hide it. Don't deny it. Folks, the veneer of that has been peeled away. The marketplace is no longer void of ideology. We just have to decide which worldview is going to dominate the marketplace. Take your faith with you. "Well, there could be consequences". No kidding. Paul still went to Jerusalem, but he made it to Rome, and you and I are gonna have to be willing. It could cost me a promotion. It could. It could cost me a business deal. It could. It could cost me market share. That's true.
Stand for the truth anyway. Take your faith to work. Take your faith to play. Don't play in ways that dishonor the Lord. Don't make idols out of your hobbies. There's nothin' wrong with recreation or rest or renewal, but don't make idols. Don't spend more time and money in pursuing your carnal satisfaction than you do in pursuing the Lord. That's deception. It's okay to do all of those things, but the way we lived a few years ago is not going to sustain us in the season that we've entered into. "I hear the sound of an abundance of rain," and God is preparing a people in a new way. I wanna be a part of them. I wanna be a part of them, and I believe you do too.
When the Spirit of God begins to move, one of the most important things we can do is to continue to say, "Yes," to him, no hesitation, no reluctance. We're all in. Let's pray.
Heavenly Father, yes, yes, to you. We wanna cooperate in obedience and faithfulness and steadfastness to serve your purposes, in Jesus's name, amen.