The Road–Preparing for a Move of the Spirit

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Building God’s Highway through Your Desert

Isaiah 40:3 NIV

 “…make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God…”

The story of civilization is the story of roads.

It seems we were created to move, to explore as individuals or to migrate as groups.  “Here” wasn’t where we wanted to be, so we felt we had to go “there.” Before they made our roads, our ancestors used what was already there: animal paths, rivers, mountain passes. Even today our modern highways lie atop roads made by beasts of the forests and fields. Our contemporary commerce still floats downstream on the ancient, still strong currents or fights these timeless river roads upstream with noise and smoke. We make the roads we want to make, bringing down mountains and filling in depressions to make them easier to travel.  We grade rugged roadbeds to make them smoother and straighten out dangerous curves to make them safer, all to ease our wanderlust, to slake our inborn thirst for life drawn from some illusive stream somewhere else.

Perhaps this restlessness is the fallen image of God in us.  It is clear in the Scriptures that God is a God of motion.  The Spirit wants to move.  When the brooding Dove of Heaven viewed the formless void of pre-creation:

  • elements disorganized,
  • forces randomly wasting their energies, and
  • the absence of day and night to give order,

the Spirit moved.  Darkness retreated and order came to be, all in response to the move of God.

Still today, the Spirit wants to move.  He wants to push back the darkness and bring in the light. He wants to organize time to our benefit. He wants to quicken our hearts with a deep love for others. He wants to counter the disease of death with the gift of life. He wants to trumpet the Jesus story from every rooftop.  He wants to see the church rise in spiritual power that cannot be denied, with truth that cannot be disputed, and with peace that cannot be duplicated.

The Spirit is moving today.

In just over a century, Pentecostal Christianity in all its forms has become a world force in the universal church.  Today the most pervasive moves of the Spirit are in what we call Third World countries.  It seems the poor are more available to the Spirit than those awash in the formless void of modernity.  We need the Brooding Dove to move on our wasteland. The ancient prophesy of Joel, repeated with great significance by Peter at Pentecost, is of a universal outpouring of the Spirit, a move of the Spirit like none before.  This revelation of the Glory of the Lord must come to “civilized” nations as well as “developing” ones.  The Spirit wants to move in the West, as well as in the 10/40 corridor where poverty rules and oppression squelches freedom.  In nations where the church has been driven underground with only the scriptures as their guide, the fullness of the Spirit is moving as the Word is preached in secret and with the promised signs following.

The Spirit wants to move today, in us and in our churches.  The Lord longs to pour His spirit upon all, west as well as east, the poor as well as those who live in ease, those who lead as well as those who are led, those with man’s knowledge beyond measure and those with none at all.  This is the promise. Review it again:

Acts 2:16-21 KJV

But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Pentecostals know that the Book Acts describes only the beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy.  Joel spoke of two rains, the former and the latter, one at the planting and one at the harvest.  James, the Lord’s brother, echoed Joel’s prediction as a dual promise related to the return of Jesus:

James 5:7-8 KJV

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

 

The Holy Spirit has been given to the church in all His fullness just as He has taken up residence in the hearts of those who have been saved.  This is the empowerment of both the believer and of the church in preparation for the coming of the Lord.   Since He has not yet come, the Spirit remains in each of us and in the church, and the Spirit wants to move—to move us!

Like those American settlers who made roads running east to west out of the trails of animals and Native Americans, we have been given the task of making a road for the Lord through this modern/postmodern wilderness in which we find ourselves. We must, as did our forebears, build upon the ancient spiritual paths laid out in the Word of God.  We must hear once again the challenge of Isaiah and John:

Luke 3:2-6 NKJV

…the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”

The parallels are striking. 

John was calling for a nation to prepare the way of the Lord for the coming of Jesus; so must we! He called for a season of repentance in deeds as well as in gesture, in hearts as well as in community.  Only true holiness can initiate this preparation for it is more than method, more than philosophy, and more than a show.  To prepare the way of the Lord, leaders and lay people alike must forsake position for unity, hierarchy for humility, and personal goals for the will of God.

All of this in preparation to build a road; not just any road, but the Highway of the Lord through our wilderness, the gleaming thoroughfare of grace through our desert.  Like modern highway builders who construct today’s roads on ancient paths, so must we.  The heart of man has not changed and neither has the heart of God.  The transit between these two hearts is still the ancient one: humility, repentance, hunger for righteousness on our part and majesty, grace, and, love abundant on God’s part.  This is the highway where shame is replaced by honor, fear by faith, and despair by the call of God to greatness.

God has chosen worship, the interaction of the human with the divine, to be the manifestation of this Highway.  There is little wonder our worship services are the focal point of both the Spirit’s desire to move among us, and the enemy’s desire to divide us into warring camps.   Getting worship right is the need of the hour.  We have a Highway for God to build and until we do, the Spirit will not move among us in His fullness.  We may have a trickle, but the outpouring will happen somewhere else. If we build Him personal paths, that is where He will move.  If we build Him a crooked, rough, mountainous road, He will find another set of builders and travel the road they build for Him.  If this sounds too poetic and image-driven let me get more specific, continuing the imagery of Isaiah.

  • There are hindering mountains in the Spirit’s path; we must bring them down.
  • There are dangerous depressions in the way, deep valleys of ignorance and apathy that we must fill with truth and passion.
  • There are crooked curves where we intentionally turn away from the revealed, undisputed Word of God. The Spirit will not transit through us when our ways depart from God’s ways.
  • There are loose boulders, random idiocies, we have collected and strewn in the roadbed that hinder the smooth transit of the Spirit. These we must remove to make this road as smooth as Grace itself.

This is the construction job before us.

  • There are hindering constructs we must dismantle.
  • There are treasured artifacts of history that we must assign to the nearest museum.
  • There are assumptions, never the product of Scripture, that we must erase from our practical theologies.
  • There are rooms of revealed truth we have never entered.

We must be as bold as my Grandfather, Rev. John Phifer, and his generation in the first decades of the 20th Century.  They followed the Word and forsook the partial Gospel of their various denominations to pursue the Full Gospel for they found their experience of the Spirit explicitly revealed in the Word of God.  We must not act as if our Pentecostal Creed was closed in 1916.  On the contrary, we must hear what the Spirit is saying to the church as well as what He has said. In this we follow Paul’s instruction:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-21 NKJV

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good.

 

This I have tried to do in my 50+ year study of Scripture and it is still my pursuit today.  I am so respectful of my Classical Pentecostal heritage and I see it in a specific way.  The best way for me to be true to my grandfather’s generation and that of my father’s is to “quench not the spirit” with unscriptural traditions.  To embrace the prophetic voice of the Spirit as He leads me directly by the Word, testing all things by that Word and holding fast to those things that past this stringent test.

By this standard, I present in this collection what I have found in the Word.  There is a plan for worship renewal in the very words of Isaiah and John: We must build a Highway for God through our wilderness.  It will not be the same for each of us.  The Lord knows how to travel into your church, your town, your sphere of influence.  He does not call upon you to build someone else’s road!  He has called you to the place you occupy and He will lead you there!  He has not called us to be replicators but originators.  Revivals cannot be copied; each one is a sovereign move of God. While we are praying and waiting on God for revival, let us begin the processes of renewal: praying more and praying better, reforming worship by the Scriptures, and finding the will of God for each of one of us and doing His will with the fire of the Spirit in our hearts.

There are principles that all plans will include and these I will try to share.  The application will be yours to make.

Isaiah 40:3-5 NKJV

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Your Wilderness

It may not be flattering to refer to your community as a wilderness, but it is a truth that must be faced. Until the People of God rise up to oppose them, the forces of darkness pervade your community.  We are the Army of God called to proclaim His praise to the spiritual wickedness in high places.

Ephesians 3:10-12 NKJV

…to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.

Public worship is spiritual warfare! 

When your congregation worships in Spirit and in Truth they resist the powers of darkness and we know that when resisted, the enemy forces must flee!  That’s how important the road you build is to your community.

There are hurting people looking for a healer, confused people looking for the truth, and devasted people looking for some way to rebuild their lives.  They need Jesus.  The don’t need our songs or our singers, our tech or I talent, they need Jesus.  We don’t need to be a mega church; the smallest congregations can have the presence of Jesus in abundance. The truth is this: When we worship Him, Jesus walks through our house of worship.  He is the Healer people need, the Truth they seek, and He is the Re-builder of ruined lives.

It is time to build Him the road He wants to travel from the Throne of God and of the Lamb in the heavenly Zion, through the wilderness of your community, and into the sanctuary of your house of worship.  The revelation of His glory is the reward.  This is a promise.

Isaiah 40:5 NKJV

The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

For your FREE PDF copy of “THE ROAD, Building God’s Highway through Your Wilderness,” send an email to: DrStevePhifer@Gmail.com

Semper Reformanda!

Dr. Stephen Phifer

The Road--Preparing for a Move of the Spirit

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