Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Is your life a miracle? Here are Ray and Anne Ortlund.

Pastor Ortlund: I don’t want a life that’s explainable by personality or by some other . . .

Anne Ortlund: . . . gifts.

Pastor Ortlund: Yes. Maybe be a hot shot or something, but rather by God. That takes a miracle.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, January 3. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, I can’t think of any better way to start a new year on Revive Our Hearts than to talk about revival. The very word revival means to bring back to life. It makes me think of a new beginning, a fresh start, and I know that’s what many of us are hoping for in 2008.

Over the next few days, I want to share with you a series that we aired several years ago. It’s a conversation that I had with Ray and Anne Ortlund. Pastor Ray was my pastor when I was in college and attending the Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, California.

In addition to being a pastor, Ray hosted a daily radio program for many years. He and his wife Anne have written many books. They’ve spoken for years on the subject of revival. Beyond all of that, they have been special friends in my life.

In fact, a little over a year ago when I was facing some challenges in my life and ministry, I went to Southern California and sat down with Ray and Anne and just asked them for some godly wisdom and counsel. I was so grateful for the encouragement they gave me that day. I remember several months later how they wrote to me and said we’ve been praying for you. How are you doing?

Well, several months ago we received the word that Ray, who had pulmonary fibrosis, had gone home to be with the Lord. For those who have known and loved Ray and Anne over the years, this was a joyful thing as we thought about Ray being with the Lord who he loved so dearly, but also a sad thing because we miss him greatly, as I know his wife Anne does.

But you know, the message of revival is something that has been in the heart of this precious couple for many, many years. Anne is continuing to carry that message in her heart. In fact, I received a letter from her just this week in which she said, “I’ve longed more than ever to be used to bring dry, stale Christians to renewal, revival by the Holy Spirit.

So as you listen to this conversation with Ray and Anne Ortlund, remembering that Ray is now in the presence of the Lord, would you let God do a fresh work of revival in your heart? Would you pray for his widow and that God would continue to use her life for as many days as He has her here on this earth?

I am so delighted to be able to introduce to our listeners today two of my very favorite people, Ray and Anne Ortlund. Many of you will know their names. They are best-selling authors. They’ve written many books over the years, both individually and co-authored, but the thing that connected me first to the hearts of this couple is that when I was a college student back in the 70s, Ray Ortlund was my pastor.

Pastor Ortlund: I loved it.

Nancy: I connected to their hearts and our hearts beat alike. We are kindred spirits. I am so thankful for the years that God gave me sitting under your ministry, Pastor Ray, and Anne (Ray’s wife), what a precious woman of God you are. You have discipled and nurtured so many women in their faith, and through your writings and ministry have influenced my life as well. So thank you both for joining us today on Revive Our Hearts.

Anne: Whether we see you or not, Nancy, we just dearly love you and we feel connected because our hearts beat with yours for revival of God’s people. That’s what we’re for. That’s what you’re for.

Nancy: Well, I’ll tell you when I went as a college student to your church, I thought I had died and gone to heaven during those first months.

Pastor Ortlund: That was in Pasadena, California, and I saw you at our church pitching in though you were a student at USC— University of Southern California. You were just straight out for Jesus, and we just loved it.

Nancy: I think what drew me to your hearts was the fact that, as a couple and as providing leadership in that church, your hearts were so passionate for Christ. That’s been 25 years ago. Now I’m connecting to you for the first time in 25 years and seeing that nothing has changed. You still have that passionate heart for Christ.

You’ve talked about this in many of your books. We’re going to be talking about one of those books this week: Lord, Make My Life a Miracle. That really has been your heart-cry hasn’t it?

Pastor Ortlund: That’s been our prayer. I heard that prayer and I said that’s the prayer I want to pray: Lord, make my life a miracle.

Anne: Every listener who’s listening right now could pray the same prayer.

Pastor Ortlund: Yes.

Anne: God is the God of miracles.

Pastor Ortlund: Isn’t it true? I don’t want a life that is explainable by personality or maybe be a hotshot or something, but rather by God. That takes a miracle and revival time and time again.

Nancy: That heart for revival really describes what you’re doing in the kingdom of Christ. You together serve under the title of Renewal Ministries. That is your heartbeat—to call the people of God back to the presence of God to experience what should be the normal, everyday Christian life.

We call that revival or renewal. Yet, I have to say for some of our listeners when we say the word revival, that may conjure up some strange images or impressions. What do we really mean when we talk about spiritual revival or renewal?

Pastor Ortlund: We’re not talking about sawdust trails, although there’s nothing wrong with that. We’re talking about an inward work of God where the Holy Spirit comes in and fills you again with the love of God and worship of God.

Anne: Actually, I’m thinking of Psalm 85:6, Nancy, which shows that this is God’s desire too. This is His heart. The Psalmist says, “Will you not revive us again?” He had talked earlier in that Psalm about how God had done it before to His people—a lot of verbs.

You showed favor. You restored. You forgave. You covered sins. You set aside Your wrath. You turned from Your first anger. Do it again, Lord. Do it again. Do it again. “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you.” Not in revival, but in God Himself.

Nancy: He again suggests that this is something that is not just a one-time experience.

Pastor Ortlund: No. No. It can’t be. With the life of Israel in the Old Testament there were continued times of revival and refreshing and renewal. That’s what we see. This is normal. In fact, we see that the Bible has in it the red line of salvation all the way through it. Salvation by grace through faith. That’s the way God has saved people and is saving people. Then there’s the green line, the green, broad line of revival of God’s saved people. That’s what the . . .

Anne: . . . prophets were full of it, and the Epistles are full of it.

Pastor Ortlund: Yes, in the New Testament.

Anne: They’re written to God’s people saying, "O, come back to Me," says the Lord. "You’ve gotten far away. You’re my children, but come back."

Nancy: Return to your first love is really what the message is in the New Testament.

Anne: Revelation 2 says that.

Pastor Ortlund: That was given to a very, very fine church, a biblical church, a church that was careful about who came and spoke in their pulpits.

Anne: Right, and they were full of good works. They were busy in their church.

Pastor Ortlund: They were starting other churches.

Anne: They’d had fine, upstanding pastors. They’d had Priscilla and Aquilla together. They’d had John the apostle. They’d had Apollos.

Pastor Ortlund: And the apostle Paul . . .

Anne: Himself.

Pastor Ortlund: . . . was the founder of the church. Yet they, in a mere generation . . . If Paul was there say in the 50s and 60s, by the year about 90 to 100, here they were. They had forgotten; they had forsaken. That’s what the word means—to forsake your first love.

Anne: Nancy, Ray and I over and over in our years have seen God restore us and revive us and renew us. I’m sure you’ve had the Lord do that to you, or you wouldn’t have the heart for this radio ministry.

Nancy: I need that continually.

Pastor Ortlund: Oh, we do, too. We who preach about revival, teach about it and urge others toward it, we need it. We’re the first customers, you know. Lord, do it to us.

Nancy: Now, I know you are ministering along these lines in churches, with missionaries, with Christian workers in a lot of different settings. What are you seeing God do in some of these settings? Are you sensing a hunger among God’s people for this kind of moving?

Pastor Ortlund: I don’t think we’re seeing so much as once we did. There was a season of revival that we sensed in universities, colleges (Christian colleges and universities), and in mission groups and that kind of thing. We really don’t see that hunger for it as much as we did.

Nancy: Why do you think that is?

Anne: We’re just going at such a pace. The programs are just overwhelming.

Nancy: A lot of activity.

Anne: So much activity.

Pastor Ortlund: Well, the thing is, too, Nancy, that you go to a church and they kind of want revival on a weekend.

Nancy: If not quicker.

Pastor Ortlund: Yes.

Anne: In the 70s and 80s when we saw a lot of this, people wanted conferences for a week or ten days and two weeks. Now, come for three days or maybe two or maybe one. That’s all we have time for.

Nancy: It’s interesting. I’m a part of ministry which is one of the partners of Revive Our Hearts, a ministry called Life Action Ministries. You’re familiar with it. One of the things we are still doing is holding extended—ten-day to two-week—meetings in local churches for the purpose of setting aside all the programs, all the activity. Everything gets canceled off the church calendar for that two-week period so people can just concentrate on the Lord.

What I love about you, among many things, one of the things I love about you is that your hearts have stayed so tender and fresh. You’re experiencing in your own walks with the Lord ongoing personal revival. It’s not just something you talk about from the past, but something that’s a very present pursuit and reality in your lives. I so appreciate that.

When I was a student, you had just written—and this is some 25 years ago—a book called Lord, Make My Life a Miracle. You wrote that 25 years ago. It was such a blessing to me at the time. I’ve been re-reading it now. I’m so thankful that it is still available and still in print because the message is timeless.

How did you, Ray, as you began to write this book and then, Anne, this has been your message together, where did you come up with the concept, the prayer, Lord, make my life a miracle?

Pastor Ortlund: Well, I read it as a prayer of another person. It just turned me on—the idea that your life ought to be a miracle. I don’t want to have a life that can be explainable by working hard, although I should work hard, or by some special twist of doctrine, although we love theology, but I want to be known as a work of God.

God did it. He pulled it off, not Ray Ortlund. I’d like to have this on a tombstone somewhere: “Ray couldn’t have done that. He’s a bloke. God did that.”

Anne: Ray, I remember when you were getting frustrated that our church was doing all the right things, going through all the right motions. Everybody would talk about this great church, but we knew that there were not enough cries of newborn babies. There were not enough songs at midnight, as the apostles did in jail.

You got together a little group of guys, and you said (I think there were gals there too) "pray with me every week until God comes through for us. We need a new breakthrough into what God wants to do in this church and in our personal lives."

Pastor Ortlund: That was the beginning of our forming the idea of what will bring us to be this kind of a church that’s in the midst of refreshing revival with God? We said, "Okay, what is basic? What’s not cultural or . . ."

Anne: Trendy.

Pastor Ortlund: Yes, we certainly don’t need that. Nor is it generational in any way, but something that’s just plain basic, bedrock truth in all the Bible. First of all, as you go through the whole Scripture, you say, "Christ is first. Our God is first."

If He’s not first in everything we do in our lives as committed Christians or in the church of God, let’s get that stuff out of here. Let’s get going where we’re supposed to be. Take out the fluff. Let’s go hard after God.

Secondly, we must love each other. There has to be a love within the body of Christ because the first commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, remember, and then to love your neighbor as yourself. There ought to be that within the body of Christ where we truly love and care for and honor and respect one another in Christ. There’s too much fighting in churches.

Anne: The third priority: This needy world that needs to know Christ. So it was Christ, the body of Christ, and the world Christ died to save. Those were not your ideas, were they? It was as you were going through the Scriptures and you saw that over and over. John 17, John 15.

Pastor Ortlund: Our pastoral team also focused on this. I said, "Guys, any one of you that’s not in a small group—first of all you have to be in worship. Everyone’s in worship. Let’s be in the front row. Let’s be where we’re living it out before the people of God."

Then everyone’s to be in a small group where they’re sharing their souls, they’re sharing the Word together, they’re praying for each other earnestly. Then all of us must have a ministry. Ministry to neighbors. Ministry to those that are lost. A ministry overseas if God gives you that.

We said, "Start with us. Let’s be that together." We met every week Tuesday morning in our front room, got on our knees together, got into the Word together, not to talk about programs or business, but to go hard after God together. God did something for us, and that’s how it all began.

Nancy: Then the time came when you took this message to your congregation.

Pastor Ortlund: Yes. Yes. I said to them, "Now look. Within the next week, I want you to make a commitment. Fill out this card and start this now. One, that you’re going to seek to put God, or His Son the Lord Jesus, first in everything you do. Christ is going to be first."

Anne: Ray, I remember this was the first Sunday in October. You said between now and next Easter, vow that you will have a quiet time every single day as the proof of priority one.

Pastor Ortlund: Yes. How to act that out. Then secondly, get into a small group and get into the Word. Not a book about the Word, but into the Word itself.

Anne: You gave them one week to find each other in a small group. The next Sunday at 3:00 in the afternoon, they reported together and sat by groups in the church to report that they had done that. They were to last at least through Easter.

Nancy: That was how they were living out that second priority, which is commitment to each other.

Pastor Ortlund: Then to love someone to Jesus between now and Easter and into the fellowship of the church, not just to build up members. We don’t need that, but to love them to Jesus and into fellowship so they get grounded and they get in the family of God.

Nancy: Which was the third priority: A commitment to God’s work in the world. You asked them to fill out these cards and you tell about how you weren’t so sure how they would respond.

Pastor Ortlund: Oh, I thought this is going to be a lead balloon.

Anne: Ray said, "Lord, if there are not 500 that sign, I’m going to leave this church." He was just so discouraged and tired. There were 600, and he stayed another 12 years beyond that.

Nancy: I was blessed to come into the church during that 12-year-period. The thing that struck me when I landed in that church as a 17-year-old college student was that this concept of the three-fold commitment, the three priorities—

  • Christ first (your relationship with Him),
  • Your relationship to the body (your commitment to God’s people),
  • Your commitment to God’s work in the world (your work and witness in the world)

—permeated everything in the life of that church.

That was 25 years ago that I was there, and yet that three-fold commitment has come to express the way I think and function and live. It summarizes a lot, doesn’t it?

Pastor Ortlund: Yes, and they must be in that order, too. Christ must always be first—no competition. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;” and there’s not even a second in that verse you notice, “and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, KJV).

Anne: Nancy, those three priorities are as bottom line and basic today as they were 25 years ago. They were good in the first century. They’re good anyplace in the world today. They’ll be good until Jesus comes. The listeners right now can just open their hearts to loving God, loving His people, loving this needy world, and get right with anybody that they need to make things right with.

Pastor Ortlund: When we say Christ is first and we really mean it, you got a revolution on your hands. What does that mean with your home? The way a lady, a woman, cares for her home, her children, her marriage?

I find that when Christ is first for Anne and me, which we trust He is always, but when we begin to act it out in sincerity with each other, the closer we get to Christ as two, like a pyramid, the closer we get to Christ as individuals, the less there is between us.

Nancy: It starts with a relationship with the Lord, and yet that’s the unseen relationship. We’re talking to a single mom who’s struggling to make ends meet to put food on the table for her three children, and she’s saying, "What does it mean for me? What does it look like for me to say my first priority in life is my relationship with God? I’m trying to survive."

Anne: When she starts reading the Word, she sees over and over how God promises to care for His own. She’ll know that He will put bread on the table as she’s trusting Him, and that’s strengthening her relationship and priorities.

Pastor Ortlund: It sounds hard, doesn’t it? But the only easy way to live is with Christ.

Anne: It’s harder not to.

Pastor Ortlund: Oh, yes. It’s the way to peace and serenity. It’s the way to happiness and joy. It’s the way to life with a capital L.

Anne: It’s the way to be a good wife, the way to be a good mother, the way to be a good neighbor, the way to be God’s woman.

Pastor Ortlund: Christ first. Christ first.

Nancy: When I say the letters PTP, what does that mean?

Pastor Ortlund: It means practice the presence.

Nancy: What does that mean?

Pastor Ortlund: That means live in continual awareness of Jesus. Like right now I want to be aware of Jesus. Again, it’s not about me. It’s about Jesus. More than being aware of we’re on radio. You know, that can be scary, but know we’re in the presence of Jesus.

Anne: Before we began we prayed together and, Nancy, you quoted that verse in the Acts, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Every listener that is aware of that is going to walk through her living room with God and back to her kitchen and . . .

Pastor Ortlund: . . . and to the grocery store.

Anne: Absolutely.

Pastor Ortlund: Yes, it’s living with Christ, in Christ, by Christ, for Christ, through Christ.

Anne: Carpooling, speaking to the neighbor, everything in Christ.

Nancy: How do you develop that consciousness of Christ’s presence in the course of everyday life?

Pastor Ortlund: You’ve got to get tough on yourself. You’ve got to write yourself little notes, and I put them around. Just because I know this experience of living with Christ and practicing the presence doesn’t mean I do it all the time. When I reach for lifting up the phone and I look on the shade of the lamp on my desk, I think, "Lord, bless this phone call"—“Hello.” There’s something very cleansing about that.

Anne: It’s not that we are full of spiritual energy and so we just say, "I’m going to do this and I can do it." It is that we say, “Lord, I’m helpless and weak, and if You will come into me and fill me in a new way, You will make me more aware of Yourself.” It’s His action, not ours.

Pastor Ortlund: Then, “In your presence,” says the Psalmist, “there is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11, ESV). If you want to be happy, live with Christ.

Nancy: Maybe you are looking for happiness, for joy. You may be like many women today living this frazzled, frustrated, frenetic life. I want to say to you that it doesn’t have to be that way. Your circumstances may not change, but you can change in the midst of your circumstances if you will learn to PTP—practice the presence.

What presence? The presence of Christ. He is there. If you’re a child of God, He is in you. He is moving through you. He is around you. You are in Him. God’s desire for your life is that you would walk this day, regardless of your circumstances, in the fullness and the joy of the presence of Christ.

But you've got to be willing to say the number one priority in my life, in my day, in this moment, my number one priority is my relationship with Christ. To know Him, to walk with Him, to love Him, to seek Him, to respond to Him. Even as I’m doing all the other things that I need to be doing in my day, it’s always under the umbrella, the covering, of that number one commitment.

You may just want to stop right where you are right now and say, “Lord, I acknowledge you in this moment, and my deepest heart desire is to put You first, for You to be my life and to be everything to me.” That’s the starting place of developing a life that is unexplainable in human terms. “Lord, make my life a miracle and He will do that if you’ll start by practicing the presence of Christ.

Leslie: We would like to help you practice being in the presence of Christ by encouraging you to study the Word of God. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with Ray and Ann Ortlund about revival.

To help your heart be revived, we’re making available a devotional workbook Nancy wrote called A 30-Day Walk with God in the Psalms. Each day Nancy will help you dig in and better understand one of her favorite Psalms. The study questions will help you ponder each passage, apply it to your situation, and respond in prayer.

We’ll send you A 30-Day Walk with God in the Psalms when you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts. Just visit RevievOurHearts.com and donate there, or you can call us toll-free at 1-800-569-5959.

If you have trouble catching valuable information on these kinds of special offers, I hope you’ll sign up for the Revive Our Hearts Daily Connection. Each week day we’ll email you key quotes from Nancy’s teaching. To explore those quotes further, you can then use the "Quick Links" to read the transcript or listen to the audio.

That email also includes links to all the information I bring you at the end of each day’s program. Sign up for the Revive Our Hearts Daily Connection by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com.

Tomorrow find out why spending time alone with God is so crucial in today’s climate. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.