High Places

Mention the name “High Place” and God reaches into His vocabulary and uses a word that expresses His most severe moral disgust – “abomination.” Mentioned over a 100 times in the Bible, the high places were originally centers for Canaanite idol worship. Located on mountain tops or elevated pieces of ground (hence the name high place), some of the most detestable things imaginable took place in the worship of false gods. Even before the children of Israel crossed the Jordan into Canaan, Moses commanded them to demolish all the Canaanite high places … “or they shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell” (Numbers 33:52, 55). Yet despite Joshua’s passionate destruction of such places, these pagan worship centers continued to plague the nation of Israel (Judges 2:12-13, 17; 1 Kings 14:22-24).
Tragically, it was Israel’s leaders who allowed worship on the high places to continue. King Solomon actually built high places for gods such as Ashtoreth, Milcom, and Chemosh (1 Kings 11:6-7). King Jeroboam established high places in Bethel and Dan so the northern tribes would not travel to Jerusalem to worship the true God (1 Kings 12:25-33). In their time each leader in Israel and Judah had to decide what he would do with the high places. When a good King would come to power, he would rid the land of idols and demolish the high places (II Kings 18:4; 23:4-20). Evil Kings, like Ahaz and Manasseh, would give full support to the high places and even offer sacrifices on them (II Kings 16:4; 21:1-3).
Over time the scriptural record notes that even among the good Kings “the high places were not taken away” (I Kings 15:14; 22:43; II Kings 12:3; 14:4; 15:4; 35). The surrounding cultural pressure to be like the other nations was so strong that most of Israel just “winked” at the remaining high places. Eventually, these high places became so entrenched in Israel’s culture that they seemed normal. They were so common, so ordinary, so much in keeping with the way things were, that even the best of Kings did not think to remove them. So the old high places that were an abomination to God became the “new norm” for the nation Israel.
Is there a lesson here for today’s Church? Have we accepted things into our lives (the way we behave and think) and into our culture (the values that we embrace) that at one time were considered an abomination to God? Are there issues we have grown so weary of opposing that we have simply yielded to the surrounding culture and subtly accepted them as the “new norm”? I believe the answer is yes and I believe these things are our “high places”.

“Sensuality” is one of our High Places
If we could transport Christians from the past into our present day, I think the thing that would surprise them most is how much at home we are and how tolerant we have become with the pervasive sensuality of our culture. Sexual perversion is not new to the Church. To be certain the church has always had to fight against sexual sin. It is on every list of vices in the Bible. It heads the list of things the Apostle Paul says are not fitting for a Christian. Yet today, mainline denominations are on the fast-track of accepting, even celebrating, homosexuality, same sex marriage and all other manner of sexual perversion. Even though most evangelical Christians still oppose these more blatant sins, they are far too accepting and tolerant of the sexual crudeness, vulgarity and carelessness of today’s world. Even worse, many entertain themselves with movies, television programing and novels that celebrate homosexuality, marital infidelity, fornication and nudity while often mocking purity and abstinence. This has become so common, so ordinary, so much in keeping with the way things are, that many Christians have ceased to cry against it. This has become the new norm!
One of the most visible indicators of the churches acceptance of this “new norm” is the immodest dress of America’s Christians. Actually the two are tied closely together. Whenever a sense of modesty is lacking, human sexually becomes fatally trivialized. And when human sexuality is reduced to consumer merchandise, the display of the body becomes the main billboard to advertise its sexual value. Even though the problem of immodest attire is widely acknowledged, few church leaders (men or women) offer guidance and biblical instruction. Their fear of becoming legalistic or offensive keeps them silent while the voice of a fallen world has no such inhibitions. This is one of our high places.

“Spiritual Mediocrity” is another High Place
With the proliferation of electronic media the average Christian has available to him more preaching and teaching – more information about the Bible and Christian living than ever before in the history of the world. We are clearly the most informed Christians that have ever lived! Yet one leading American pastor was forced to ask himself, “Why is today’s church so weak? Why can we claim more people with more conversions but have less and less impact on the surrounding culture? Why are our Christians indistinguishable from the world?” Dallas Willard’s response to this dilemma is interesting. He claims that it is not in spite of what the church is teaching but precisely because of it! He goes on to say that the church has pitched its message too low! It has offered a form of “miserable sinner” Christianity that tells believers we are but miserable sinners and that moral failure is expected. Hence we offer a gospel of “sin management” where the essence of the gospel is simply the forgiveness of sins – a message that neither offers nor expects any real transformation of life and character. As a management expert would say, “This system is designed to yield the results it is getting.”
This low level of spiritual living has become so common, so ordinary, so much in keeping with the way things are, that many Christians have ceased to expect anything else. This has become the new norm! But you can be assured of one thing; this is not the true gospel! The gospel not only offers the forgiveness of my sin but the real transformation of the heart! It clearly teaches that through the power of the Holy Spirit and the abundances of God’s grace we can live in full obedience to the commands of Jesus – “not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (I Cor. 15:10).

“Worldliness” is a High Place
I am using the term “worldliness” in the Biblical sense as to how people “think” and subsequently “behave” (Rom. 8:5-7; 12:2) The word for world (kosmos) means an order or an arrangement of things. Hence we can define the world as “Human ability organized historically and socially into a system where humans use natural ability (their own resources) to achieve what they want and to promote what they value, a great deal of which is in active hostility to God.” The Bible defines “living in the flesh” in much the same way. When the New Testament speaks of those who live in the flesh it speaks of those whose lives are oriented around themselves and who know only their own resources. A “man of the world” or someone who “lives in the flesh” is someone who thinks and acts from a point of view that leaves God out of the equation. To them the only reality is the temporal – what they see, touch and know.
True Christian living is the antithesis of this. Christians place the eternal over the temporal. They live from an alternate reality. Their life is drawn from divine resources. This way of living is in significant contrast to the world and has two major implications for the Christian. First, he thinks differently than the world thinks! His thinking is not limited to the confines of mere human understanding. He doesn’t determine his course of action by what Godless men say, no matter how brilliant it sounds (Psa.1:1). Second, he behaves differently than those who are of this world. He doesn’t seek after the “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes” nor is he controlled by the “pride of life.” To him the world is “passing away” and lacks permanence. Hence he “sets his affection on things above” and “stores up treasure in heaven.” This makes his life recognizably different; distinctly unique from everybody who is not a Christian (Matt. 5:47). He is in the world but not of the world.
The only problem here is that the description I just wrote of the Biblical Christian is not recognizable, much less acceptable, to the average Christian today! Our obsession with the material, our addiction to more, our love of the good life and our captivation with this modern day Sodom hardly receives a slap on the hand by even the most radical of prophets. Worldliness has become so common, so ordinary, so much in keeping with the way things are, that many Christians have ceased to it see as a problem. This has become the new norm!
The high places of our lives may be varied and unique but they are all equally despised by God. We may have changed the words we use for them but God still uses that same old word from long ago – abomination!

Echoes of Eden ~ Reflections on walking with God

If there is one person mentioned in the Bible who has always intrigued Christians, it is Enoch. His biblical importance is such that he is mentioned by four of the inspired writers, yet the personal information given about him is scant. What is given can be summed up in just four simple words – “Enoch walked with God”. One might be tempted to overlook such a brief simple biography but, in the estimation of heaven, these four words speak more completely of a greater life and character than could ever be ascribed to the most renowned warrior or statesman by the whole voice of history.

Enoch’s story is remarkable for not only what is said about him but also for what is not said about him! This bit of silent but important information is tucked away in a genealogical list found in Genesis 5. This list is composed of the descendants of Adam through his son Seth. The scantest of information is provided on each firstborn male and then each descendant’s life is concluded with the same three words, “and he died.” The writer uses the technique of repetition to remind the reader that the dire judgment pronounced in Eden “you will surely die” did indeed come to pass with unfailing certainty on every son of Adam. Every one, that is, but one – Enoch! The sobering phrase “and he died” is never used of Enoch. The writer says it like this, “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him”.

His story is even more remarkable when one remembers that he lived his life and raised his family in the antediluvian world. Genesis 6:5 tells us that during this time the wickedness of the human race had become so great on the earth that “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time”. Yet it was in this setting that Enoch walked in such harmonious fellowship with God that he was graciously exempted from diluvian judgement as well as the universal end of all men – death. Enoch’s life proves to us that a man can live pleasing to God in whatever circumstance he may find himself. This has been true of all the saints. They have shown us that the Christian life can be lived!

Echoes of Eden

Enoch’s wonderful account of walking with God tells us as much about God as it does about Enoch. Enoch’s story repeats for us what we learned in Eden that God desires man’s fellowship. He desires a “walking relationship” with man that involves companionship, dialogue, intimacy, joint decision-making, mutual delight, and shared dominion. This is clearly stated in the creation mandate (Gen. 1:28) and beautifully illustrated by the walks God took with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. Further on in Genesis we learn that God walked with Noah and Abraham. It is in these two accounts that we learn something else about God. We learn that God needs to walk with us before he can work through us. Or to say it another way, God works with his friends. When God can establish a friendship with us, then His divine activity can and will accelerate in our lives.

Reflections on Walking

Enoch’s life models for us the three simple components that are crucial to walking with God.

Faith
This is, in fact, the basic requirement for walking with God. The Hebrew writer informs us that Enoch had this level of friendship with God by faith and faith alone. “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:5-6). Now the writer of Hebrews simply asserts that faith embraces two basic convictions: First, that faith holds the firm belief that God is and that He is who He says He is. Second, that faith is confident that God will reward those who seek Him. (Hab. 2:4, Rom. 1:17)

Fellowship
Enoch’s walk of faith was one of fellowship God. When two friends walk together, they do so to enjoy each other’s company. But they are only able to enjoy the fellowship because they are in agreement one with another. “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). The word used for “together” gives the idea of two people moving in rhythm together, as in riding a tandem bicycle. Enoch was in perfect harmony with God’s will and way.

Obedience
The apostle John tells us “If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie, and do not practice the truth.” (1 John 1:6). One cannot walk with God and live in rebellion against Him. The overall pattern of Enoch’s life was one of obedience toward God while staying away from sin. Such obedience left Enoch with the commendation that “he pleased God.”

Enoch a Model for Today

Someone has said that if there is a crooked stick, and you want to show how crooked it is, you need not waste words in describing it, just place a straight one by the side of it. This is what Enoch did. His simple daily walk with God spoke powerfully to the world around him (Jude 14-15). We also know that such a walk has generational implications. It was his great-grandson Noah that also walked with God. Oh, let it be said of you and I that we “walked with God!”

The Church – A Community of Faith

America is blessed with a lot of churches.  Some sit astride prominent street corners proudly displaying their architectural glory while others are tucked away indiscreetly between a used shoe store and a day old bakery in a weary strip mall on the tired side of town.  Some have one word names like “Grace.”  Others have names so long that you can’t say the full name without stopping to breathe. Most have the stereotypical church look, while others resemble something between a cinema and a warehouse.  It is not, however, the architect they display, the appellation they wear, or the affiliations they boast that makes them a church.

The New Testament doesn’t provide a simple concise definition of the Church other than what is found in the meaning of the Greek word for Church (ekklesia) which is “the called out ones.”   What it does provide is long narratives portraying the Church in action, colorful word pictures of what the church is like, specific duties that the Church should fulfill, doctrinal standards that the Church should teach and prophetic insights of how the Church can stray from the path and lose its way.

History has taught us that the Church needs periods of reformation and times of revival to keep it doctrinally sound, morally pure and faithful to its calling. At other times, the Church needs change that is less radical and might be described as a course correction.  These internal corrections need to be made because the Church has a hard time keeping its balance.    Certain imbalances can be attributed to the peculiarities of leadership.  Others are derived from simply over-emphasizing one truth to the neglect of other balancing truths. The worse imbalances, however, grow out of the fertile soil of fear. When the church and its leaders do what they do or fail to do what they should do out of fear, the church will inevitably suffer from some imbalance.

The Call to the Conservative Holiness Movement, by its very nature, is a challenge to the CHM to address particular areas of weakness or failure. The call is not designed to enumerate all the good things that could be said about the CHM.  Article III of the call speaks to the CHM’s community of faith and addresses some of the imbalances in the way the CHM views its own community of faith and the community of faith at large.  I think it is important to note that even though these imbalances are real and need addressed, the average conservative holiness church is a wonderful place to worship.  In my opinion, they still offer one of the best environments available to raise a family; hear the Word of God fearlessly proclaimed; feel conviction for sin while at the same time find the power of grace; hear fervent praying; sense the moving of God’s Spirit; worship with people who are serious about everyday holiness; and find an environment that truly helps one to keep his feet on the narrow path that leads to life eternal!

Nevertheless, the CHM does have a significant imbalance in the way it views its own differing communities of faith as well as how it views the larger community of faith.  The Movement at large and the various denominations within suffer from a culture of suspicion toward those who do not share their particularities.  They also suffer from a certain insularity that robs them of the insight, wisdom and balance that could be derived from the larger Christian community.  This condition varies in degree from denomination to denomination and from church to church, but it is present and needs to be honestly confronted and openly addressed.

A Culture of Suspicion

            The CHM highly values the Biblical call to separation from the world.  As appropriate and good as this may be, inherent in any serious commitment to “Biblical separation” is the temptation to be suspicious of others who may have a lesser degree or even a greater degree of separation that we do.  Just as the call to holy living can veer off the path into perfectionism, the call to separation from the world can veer off the path into isolationism – an isolation that breeds a carnal suspicion of anyone and everyone that doesn’t see it like I do or share my particular version of how the faithful ought to manifest their faith. This has been a perennial bane for the CHM.   Rev. Tom Reed says this kind of suspicion has caused us to “play God – determining who is or is not a Christian based on the way we see things.”  Clearly if this suspicion is left unchecked, it will lead to a spirit of judging and condemnation of the larger community of faith as well as to divisions within our own CHM family.  Even now many groups within the CHM will not use a speaker from another group within the CHM because of suspicion and fear. Conservative leaders could use their influence and voice to help remedy this disease with a cure that doesn’t require anyone to compromise their corporate values or personal convictions.  It only requires a renewed understanding and commitment to the teachings of I Cor. 8-10 and Rom. 14.  Add to that a fresh supply of the “love of God poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” and we can be well on our way to removing the ethos of suspicion and division among us.

A Detachment from the Larger Christian Community

            In I Cor. 12 Paul reminds us that the Church is a body made up of many different members; each contributing something that the other members cannot give.  This has an application to both the local body and to the larger body of Christ.  It seems to me that God has given the various traditions of the Christian Church particular insights into truth and practice that He has not given in the same degree to all.  He must expect us to learn from one another.  I have learned much about prayer by reading from both Catholic and Evangelical writers.  I have   been immeasurably enriched by the writings and teachings of evangelicals like C. S. Lewis, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Ravi Zacharias and Chuck Colson.  The expository preaching and teaching of men like John MacArthur, David Jeremiah and Howard Hendricks have added great value to the life of the whole Church and challenged others to take the Scriptures more seriously.  The work of William Booth, Mother Teresa and Erlo Stegen have challenged me to the core of my spiritual being to be mindful of the downtrodden and disenfranchised among us.  Where would America’s families be today without the ministry of James Dobson?  Personally, no one has challenged me more in the area of spiritual intimacy and holiness than Dennis Kinlaw and John Oswalt.

It must be noted that not a single name mentioned above identifies with the CHM.  Yet each one of them has spoken powerfully into my life and the lives of many conservative holiness people.  In preparation for writing this article I spoke with the Rev. Tom Reed, who is an elder statesman within the CHM.  He shared with me a list of men outside our tradition who have been used of God to advance his own spiritual life.  He mentioned: H.A. Ironsides (a former pastor of Moody church), A.W. Tozer (he visited his church often on Sunday evenings), Paul Rees, Vance Havner, S. M. Lockridge and Howard Hendricks.  He added this insightful comment, “these were not holiness men but they were holy men and I refuse to write them off just because they see some things differently than me”.

The CHM has tended to isolate themselves from these “outside” voices.  They fear that they might be a corruptive or a persuasive influence, or even worse, that if we allow anyone to minister to us that does not fully share all our values we have somehow compromised and demeaned those values.  Some of this kind of thinking grows out of simple fear.  In other cases I think it is because we have failed to distinguish between a Romans 14 category issue (opinions, preferences, interpretations, etc…) and a Galatians 1 category issue (false doctrine or heresy) and have treated all outside voices as if they were in the Galatians 1 category.  Mature leaders should be more discerning than this. I know many laymen who already exercise this kind of discernment by means of radio, books, CD’s and DVD’s that they buy and listen to.

Let me clear, I am not advocating an open door policy on “outside voices”.  I am certainly not encouraging local churches to open up their pulpits to men and women from other traditions.  What I am suggesting is that in our large conventions, conferences and forums we need to occasionally hear what our brothers and sisters outside the CHM have to say to us. God is working powerfully in His world through many of these choice servants. There are many outside our little circle who are far outstripping us in their passion for the lost, their zeal for the disenfranchised, their insight into scripture and their love for holiness. To hear what they are doing, to be challenged by their successes and to learn from their insight will not and does not diminish my love for my Zion nor make me want to jettison my spiritual tradition and values!  It simply makes me a better servant of the Lord!

We Have Something to Offer the Church

            The sword of isolation cuts two ways.  We are cut off from what the larger Christian community can give us and the larger Christian community is cut off from what we can bring to it. The CHM is the beneficiary of hundreds of years of rich holiness heritage.  We have grown up embracing and experiencing truths that some in the body of Christ will never know or experience. We have some preachers who are as capable and anointed as any out there anywhere.  Our emphasis on personal transformation, purity of heart, perfect love, real character development, growth in grace and freedom from the power of sin are emphasis that are needed by the larger body of Christ!  Surely what God has freely bestowed on us we ought to freely share with others!

My plea is not for some silly, stupid ecumenicalism!  It is a simple plea for us to both reap and share the bounty of spiritual riches that are ours in Christ and found within the various members of His Body – including our own.  The late H. E. Schmul, one of the greatest conservative holiness statesmen I ever knew, use to lead us in singing, “I don’t care what church you belong to, Just as long as for Calvary you stand.  Just as long as your heart beats with my heart, You’re my brother, so give me your hand”.  Somebody strike the tune and let’s sing it again!

Don’t Miss Christ This Christmas

The early American spiritual, “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” has a profound insight running through its lyrics.  The writer appropriately reflects the world’s failure to recognize the incarnate Son of God when He says: “We didn’t know who You were.”  The third verse proves to be even more remarkable. “The world treats you mean, Lord, treats me mean too, but that’s how things are down here. We don’t know who you are.”  The writer deliberately shifts from a historical ignorance to a present-day failure to recognize the Son of God and then to live out the implications of knowing Him.

The world completely missed Him on that first Christmas (John 1:5, 10).  Their kings were born surrounded by pomp and circumstance.  But Jesus came silently, in a stable, with only a few shepherds to pay him homage.  Their kings lived in palaces, dressed in splendor, dined with heads of state, and traveled in gold plated chariots pulled by majestic steeds.  Their vision of a king was one to be served, feared and honored from a distance.  Jesus wore the garb of common men, had no place to lay his head, traveled by foot, rubbed shoulders with the poor and diseased, held children on his lap and first revealed His glory at the wedding of a poor village girl.  The very thought of a king, dying on a cross to redeem his people and establish His kingdom, was to the world foolishness.

His own people missed him (John 1:11).  The Jews were looking for a conquering warlord that would throw off the yoke of Rome, liberate their country and return them to the golden age of Solomon.  But Jesus said His kingdom was not of this world, spoke of going the second mile, turning the other cheek, and loving your enemies.  The Jews watched in complete horror as He healed a Roman’s Centurion’s servant, talked to a Samaritan adulteress, stayed in the home of a tax collector and spent most of His time with a group of ignorant fisherman.  For their Messiah to be crucified on a Roman cross as God’s perfect sacrifice, proved to be a huge stumbling block.

His disciples had problems recognizing who He was.  Peter, speaking for the twelve, announced at Caesarea Philippi that, “Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God.”  Jesus’ response to that was to explain that being the Christ involved a cross.   To which Peter replied, “Not so Lord.”  When Jesus washed the disciple’s feet, Peter’s paradigm of the Messiah came out again, and it was not one of self-sacrificing servanthood.  Even after three years, His disciples saw His death and resurrection as the ultimate end rather than the consummate victory.

You don’t have to miss Him.  Those who were in tune to God’s redemptive plan and activity recognized Jesus right away.  Simeon and Anna recognized Him as God’s means of salvation when He was still a babe in His mother’s arms.  The wise men worshipped Him, John the Baptist announced Him as the “Lamb of God,” and the woman of Samaria said to her friends, “Is not this the Christ?”

Even a Roman Centurion who witnessed His crucifixion said, “Truly this was the Son of God.”

If Jesus were reincarnated among us today, would we be prepared to recognize Him?  Or have we created a Jesus so much to our own liking that we would never know the one walking through the pages of our New Testament?  This Christmas season, go back to the gospels and look for Him.  You will be awed by what you find.

Lighting a Candle in Europe

(My trip to Switzerland to speak in a pastor’s conference this past April has generated a great deal of interest from the GBS and Revivalist families. Enough that I decided to share the experience with you.  Rev. Timothy Keep, who traveled with me, and was also a speaker at the conference, assisted me in writing this article.)

            When I placed the Kwasizabantu Pastor’s Conference  in Switzerland on my web page speaking schedule, I had a number of people ask, “What kind of Christian Minster’s Conference is there in Europe?”  For those who understand the spiritual condition of Europe, the question makes perfect sense. There are many conferences that take place in Europe but not many that are made up of local pastors from Europe.  In today’s Europe less than 8% of the population attends church with only 3% attending regularly.  It is predicted that by 2050 there will be no significant church presence in Europe at all!  To make matters worse, the Muslim population has tripled in the last 30 years. This has given rise to the belief that parts of Europe are beyond being Post-Christian and are quickly becoming Pre-Islamic. So it was natural for people to wonder where you could find enough conservative evangelical ministers in Europe to have a pastor’s conference.  The answer lies in the conference’s sponsor.

The conference was sponsored by the Kwasizabantu Mission that is based in the Republic of South Africa.  The mission was born out of a revival among the Zulu people that began in the 1960’s.  The Rev. Erlo Stegen, who is the Director of the Mission, tells the story of that revival in his book, Revival Among the Zulu’s. A brief recounting of that story is important to understand the conference in Europe.  Rev. Stegen explains that the roots of this revival began with a crisis he faced early in his missionary service. He had been called upon to pray for the deliverance of a young demon possessed Zulu girl but after three weeks of intense intercession her condition remained unchanged.  He writes,

“We prayed day and night for three weeks, but the girl wasn’t healed.  Instead, I was at the end of my strength and close to a nervous breakdown.  The girl sang her satanic hymns incessantly.   Someone advised me to plead the blood of Jesus, which the devil would fear and flee, but to no avail.  On the contrary, the girl began to blaspheme the blood…

“I couldn’t understand it.  We had done what the Bible taught us, but it didn’t work… What was I to do?  Go back to the mother and tell her that her daughter had not been healed?  Everyone in the area knew that we Christians were praying for the girl.  They had heard me preach, ‘Don’t go to the witch doctors, don’t sacrifice oxen and goats to the spirits.  Jesus is the answer to every problem, come to Him.” They were all waiting to see what would happen, and now we Christians had failed.”

In his humiliation Stegen begged God to send him to another place of ministry but the Lord would not.  For six long years he preached while suffering intense spiritual darkness, even doubting the truthfulness of Scripture.  “I deemed it possible that some parts were true and other parts weren’t.”  He struggled to believe the words of Jesus in John 4:13-14, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.”  Through his years of ministry hundreds had come forward to accept Jesus Christ but he knew that most of them still craved the things of this world.  “Perhaps Jesus had made a mistake. Or maybe the authors of the New Testament did – for what I was experiencing was different than what was recorded in scripture.   I had preached the gospel for twelve years and there weren’t even twelve true Christians to show for it.”

Stegen grieved that most of the young people who claimed they had become Christians under his ministry still craved the things of this world and were conformed to its ways.  Something was missing – so he and his little congregation arranged to meet twice a day to search the scriptures, confess their sins and pray earnestly for the kind of revival Isaiah prayed for in Isaiah 64:1-4.  They asked themselves what the life of a person who believes in Jesus should be like.  In John 7:38 Jesus said, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”  Stegen said that when we asked ourselves, “Are there such rivers of living water flowing out of our lives?” we had to answer, No!  This only made Stegen and his Zulu people yearn for these rivers as never before.

Christmas Sunday came but Stegen’s hunger was so intense and his brokenness so profound that he forgot to celebrate!  As they continued to meet day after day for Bible study and prayer the Holy Spirit began to make them very aware of their sin.  While God was dealing with him in very specific ways he was also dealing with the Zulu congregation.  Church members confessed the sins of bitterness, hatred and gossip.  As their hunger for holiness increased so did their expectation of revival.

One day, when a handful of his most faithful believers were with him for a time of prayer and confession, there was suddenly the noise of great wind.  “Everyone was conscious of the presence of God without anyone saying a word,” Stegen says.  Sinners began to be drawn to the meeting place as if drawn by unseen hands.  People couldn’t sleep as they could only think of their sins. Hundreds came!  Even thousands!  Witches were converted.  Hardened sinners wept like children.  Unbelieving husbands were so amazed by the change in their wives that they too believed. Children were converted and led their parents to the Savior.  Stegen said that, “God had kindled a fire, and it spread through the valleys and mountains, so that thousands were saved in one week, yes, even in one day.”

There were countless accompanying signs and miracles as well.  The blind received their sight, the lame walked, the dumb were given a voice and demoniacs were delivered.  The young girl who six years earlier, in spite of prayer and struggle, had not been healed was brought to a meeting and taken home completely whole!  The work of God among them now resembled what they had read in their Bibles!

Fifty years later the flame of revival still burns in South Africa with people being convicted of sin and converted to Christ every day.  At the same time the spiritual influence of this revival has spread around the world – particularly to Europe.   Rev. Stegen felt he owed something to the continent of Europe.  It was from a revival in Germany in the early 1800’s that missionaries were sent to South Africa.  It was from these missionaries that Stegen’s ancestors heard the gospel and were saved.  Stegen felt that he must give back to those who first brought the gospel to his family by returning the light of revival to what is now a very dark Europe.  Kwasizabantu Mission has established eleven missions in some of the most spiritually barren countries in Europe.

The conference, in which Tim and I spoke, was held at their mission in Switzerland.  It was attended by 550 pastors from 14 different countries.  The majority of these pastors have had very little training in the Bible and almost no contact with the conservative evangelical churches of the West.  I was awed by their hunger for the Word, moved to tears by their pleas for discipleship training and encouraged by their zeal to see a revival spread across Europe.

I was there to share, but more importantly, I was there to witness what the Holy Spirit is doing in and through the Body of Christ around the world.  It is vital to my well-being and to that of GBSC and to the movement it serves to witness what God is doing through His Body.  Isolationism is the tourniquet that brings suffocation and death to both individuals and churches.  In the “Plain Account of the People called Methodists,” John Wesley said,

“The thing with I was greatly afraid of all this time, and which I resolved to use every possible method of preventing, was a narrowness of spirit, a party zeal… that miserable bigotry which makes many so unready to believe that there is any work of God but among themselves.  I thought it might be a help against this, frequently to read, to all who were willing hear, the accounts I received from time to time of the work which God was carrying out in the earth, both in our own and in other countries, not among us alone, but among those of various opinions and denominations.”

I rejoice in the work of the Holy Spirit in these days of both peril and opportunity. I want to humble myself continually before God that the power of the Holy Spirit might rest on my life, this school and this generation as He has rested on others.  Would you join with me in praying the prayer of Isaiah? , “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence . . . For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.” Isaiah 64:1,4