2019 has been dubbed by several prominent Christian leaders as “A Year to Plow.” To plow the spiritual soil of our hearts is an essential precursor to revival*, and many people, including myself, believe we are on the brink of revival in this nation. We must both plow and sow in order to reap a harvest!
Agriculturally speaking, new growth does not come until the soil is turned over and worked from its solid, impacted state into rich and fertile ground. Only then is it ready to receive the seeds that will produce a harvest.
When applied to our hearts, the plowing process can be painful. Our heart’s “default” state, which may be very comfortable, is actually deadly to spiritual growth. We need to be broken.
The Holy Spirit brings to the surface unhealed issues, past grievances, and sensitive areas we have been protecting in the darkness. He knows that in order for us to reap a harvest, we must be free of the bitter roots, stones of judgment, and debris which clutter our hearts.
Simply put, an uncultivated heart - just like unplowed land - will not yield the fruits of renewal or revival.
While plowing is necessary, it forces us to confront things we’d rather not see. As I meditated on plowing, revival, and harvest this week, a dear friend and reader of His Inscriptions alerted me to a news event that illustrated these concepts powerfully.
Confronted with History
In a suburb of Houston, Texas a few months ago, the remains of 95 African-American bodies - 94 men and 1 woman - were unearthed when a backhoe operator saw a human bone sticking out of the ground. A new technical school was to be built, but overnight, a standard construction project by the Fort Bend School District in Sugar Land turned into an archaeological site.
Further digging revealed the unmarked graves of those who toiled, sometimes to the death, in a state-run prison farm for local plantations between 1878-1911. The area is adjacent to a larger cemetery where more bodies of slaves have already been buried.
What does this have to do with revival?
Ministries in Texas have been praying for revival, just as we have. The Lord exposed - through plowing - a century-old wound that needed to be dealt with both practically (by giving the bodies a proper burial) and spiritually (repentance for yet another incidence of the oppression of African Americans in our nation).
Sugar Land is just one of many similar mass gravesites discovered around our nation. (Others have been found in New York, Maryland, Georgia, and Philadelphia.) Scientists who study or “read” the bones of these slaves and prison workers find “inscriptions” of unimaginable stress and torture.
Unearthing our history, whether by accident or intentionally, forces us to confront deeper, often unhealed issues concerning the mistreatment of fellow human beings. Although it’s easier to look away, we need to deal as honestly with issues of injustice as we do with issues of the heart.
Speaking Life into the Future
When God brought Ezekiel to the Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37), He caused the prophet to “pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley... indeed they were very dry.” (37:2)
The Jews in Ezekiel’s time saw this devastation and cried, “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!” (37:11).
But because Ezekiel listened for the prophetic words of God concerning their situation, he heard God say: “Prophesy… breathe on these slain, that they may live.” (Ezekiel 37:9)
Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones reveals God’s heart for revival. No bones are too dry, no spirits are so dead that they cannot be awakened, renewed, and revived by the Spirit of God! This hope should be at the forefront of our minds as we pray and seek God for revival today.
Desperate Situations Are Ripe for Revival!
Individually and nationally, we are full of “dry bones.” The massive quantity of bones and the stench of death itself can easily deter us from dealing with them.
Abortion, slavery, the mistreatment of Native Americans, and human trafficking have stained us collectively. Unforgiveness, rebellion, a lack of genuine love and an emphasis on cheap grace have kept us from experiencing personal revival. We cannot have the power of God without obeying God. True revival is preceded by repentance, and repentance requires that we face the deeper issues we have buried.
We must, as the Lord reveals in 2 Chronicles 7:14, humble ourselves and pray and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways to see healing in our hearts and our land.
Hope for the Future
The year of plowing is bringing up, for many of us, areas where we need to repent, rededicate, forgive, and consecrate.
Sadly, once saved, we do not always continue to invest the time and energy we need to pursue holiness or healing, whether for ourselves or our land. Discipline, humility, and holiness are not popular topics in the pulpit! As a result, we lack the power that comes from purity.
The bones of the Texas prisoners and captives who were buried in obscurity are now being washed, cleaned, and honored with a proper burial. Isn’t it time we did the same for ourselves spiritually?
Grace and holiness, love and truth, justice and mercy seem opposed but do coexist in God’s Kingdom, each with vital roles to play. God is still looking for a holy people.
God is asking His church today: “Can these bones live?”
Those who believe in revival commit to the plowing and then join in the prophesying!
When we allow the Holy Spirit to excavate our past, we then proclaim the Word of God into our present and see the Lord of the Harvest redeem our future.
It is my fervent hope that our desire for revival in this nation will increase. There are far too many examples of pain and suffering like what was unearthed in Texas.
We can take steps towards peace, to ensure these atrocities never happen again. But my greatest hope is that we will have the humility to pursue personal renewal as well. Both steps will cost us something.
We don’t seek revival to earn the favor of God; rather, we are following God’s leading as He calls us to surrender not just pieces of ourselves, but everything. We die, but we live again in Him. And the more we consecrate to Him, the easier it is for the world to see Jesus.
*Whether you call it “revival” (an Old Testament term) or “awakening” (which corresponds more closely to the New Testament understanding), the ideas of renewal, returning to your first love, being “on fire” for Jesus, or seeing the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit exist throughout the Bible. Here, I use the term “revival” for simplicity. It is meant to embrace the ideas of both an unbeliever’s initial choice for salvation and a believer’s renewal from spiritual deadness or dullness. I understand that there are theological complexities involved with the use of different words, and I intentionally choose to leave semantics to the theologians!
In speaking of revival, Charles Finney quotes Hosea 10:12: “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes and showers his righteousness on you.” Finney notes that Christians should clear the ground of their hearts, renew their minds to God’s word, and bear fruit for God. He says, “Sometimes our hearts are rough and dry, and everything we do is in vain. Our hearts cannot bear fruit and receive God’s word unless they are broken and loose. That’s what the prophet thinks when he says ‘plow your ground’”(Finney, 2006, 41).
*Dutch Sheets & Chuck Pierce: ”A Time to Plow” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deHjGVx5mro
*To read the New York Times article on the discovery of the Texas graves, click here. https://goo.gl/DoZ8Q4
*Washington Post Article: https://goo.gl/yr2vwP
*Want to learn more? Connect Here with the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit organization working to call attention to American racial issues.
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© Deborah Perkins / www.HisInscriptions.com. Photo Credits: Cover and End photo by Michael Podger of Unsplash.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.