Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Something Unusual


“Five Prayer Meetings Go Round the Clock” – Washington, D.C.

“City’s Biggest Church Packed Twice Daily for Prayer” – New Haven, CT

“Ice on the Mohawk Broken for Baptisms” – Schenectady, NY

These were actual headlines in American newspapers during the 1857-1858 Prayer Revival that swept across our nation.

In the midst of great moral decay, a decline in religion, and a pending financial banking collapse, God was at work. Jeremiah Lanphier invited people to pray with him in an old church building at noon on 09/23/1857 in New York City. Six people gathered. The next week it was twenty and the next forty.

Prayer meetings sprung up all over the city, and in six months, 50,000 people were meeting daily for prayer. The services were marked by spontaneity in hymn singing, Bible reading, but primarily intercession for spiritual needs.

The revival spread to other cities. Church historian J. Edwin Orr believed nearly one million people were converted those two years. With no well-known leader, this movement was marked by churches in the same region of differing traditions and denominations, united for the cause of revival.

In Charleston, South Carolina, revival broke out at Anson Street Presbyterian Chu
rch, which had 48 black members and 12 white. Walton Yuen writes, “In the summer of 1857, the church’s pastor, John Girardeau pressed his congregation to begin to seek intently for another great spiritual awakening, awaiting a fresh outpouring of the Spirit again. The church fervently started to pray. They even set aside the normal preaching services in order to focus on crying out to Heaven. The congregants labored in prayer for months on end.”

After months of praying, one night it was as if God visited the congregation, setting off a chain reaction within the city. Dr. John Girardeau preached every night for eight weeks, preaching on sin and repentance, faith and justification and regeneration to crowds from 1500 to 2000. Many whites and blacks were converted.

Revival spread to other nearby places. In Beaufort, SC, for example, “a small church reported seeing 400 new members join their assembly in just a few days” (Yuen). The revival and awakening crossed denominational and social lines.

Today, God is doing something unusual across our nation. Singer Michael W. Smith recently told CBN, “God is on the move. I’m so grateful that I’m alive to get to see it. I think what we’ve prayed for for so long is actually happening. … There’s this resurgence of faith.”

Recently the faith-based hit The Jesus Revolution passed $40 million at the box office and is now the highest-grossing movie for its studio, Lionsgate, since 2019.

Dr. Timothy Tennent, President of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, recently wrote, “An awakening is where God begins to stir and awaken people up from their spiritual slumber. This is definitely happening not only in Wilmore, but as this move of God spreads to other schools and communities across the nation and even the world.  There are many reports that this is what is happening. [W]e must keep our hearts and eyes fixed on Jesus and ask him to complete the work he has begun so that, over time, there is a lasting transformation in the lives of those who are being touched by God.”

When I was a young man, a popular Christian song spoke of the river of God flowing. While the river of God seems to now be flowing through America, may we not just stand on the bank and watch. May we jump into its flow.

About forty people gathered a few weeks ago at Temple Baptist Church in town for one specific purpose – asking God to pour His Spirit out in Lancaster County. Several pastors who attended commented that we need to continue doing this.

We are not trying to push a program, denomination, or agenda. We are wanting to call God’s people to gather humbly to ask the Lord to cause His river that is flowing to sweep through this area.

I don’t want to get in God’s way or miss what He was doing. One of the most damning verses in the Bible speaks of Jesus’ visit to his home area: “And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58). Imagine being in the physical presence of Jesus Christ and choosing to not believe because He did not fit my expectations. McDow and Reid share, “An institution can be in revival even when some members are skeptical of God’s movement. . . . When revival erupts, the tendency is to expect all to receive immediately what God is doing, but this is never the case. Skeptics are witnessing things beyond their experience” (Firefall: How God Shaped History through Revivals, Create Space Publishing).

Dr. Joe Youngblood and I hope to build a connected prayer network in Lancaster County. We’d love to get the name of a potential prayer coordinator and the name of a pastor from every interested church. Feel free to contact me at or Joe at

We want to invite any Jesus-followers who believe His Word to join in praying for revival and spiritual awakening to join us for our second Concert of Prayer on May 7 at Catawba Baptist Church in Lancaster at 7pm.

Roy Hession said, “Prayer is the foundation of revival, and testimony is the spark that ignites it.” Let’s lay the foundation together.


Pictures used courtesy of Pexels and Pixabay



Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Where is the God of Charles Stanley?

Every one of us have a small handful of people who made a giant impact on our life. Dr. Charles Stanley was one of mine.

I first tuned into his ministry as a freshman in college, listening to the InTouch radio broadcast on Greenville, South Carolina’s WLFJ or Black Mountain, North Carolina’s WMIT. During those years I probably heard his sermons three of four times weekly. Attending a liberal religious college, which jettisoned the authority of Scripture and basic evangelical theology, his preaching helped anchor me in eternal truths.

My first year of school, I picked up his book, How to Listen to God, which had a shaping influence on my nineteen-year-old life. The first of more than two dozen of his books I would eventually read, I experienced his practical teaching that drew deeply from the Bible but also was illustrated with personal experiences. In that book I would find what was one of his constant exhortations: develop a lifestyle of meditating on the Word of God, expecting Him to guide you.

The next year, Thomas Nelson released Stanley’s The Wonderful, Spirit-Filled Life, and he preached a four-part sermon series about the Holy Spirit on his radio and television broadcast that coincided with the release of the book. It was my first practical introduction to the Spirit-filled life as a young adult. I devoured the book and messages, pouring over the material as he step by step explained what the Bible says about the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer.

My senior year of college, he released the book and series, The Source of My Strength: Relying on the Life-Changing Power of Jesus Christ to Heal Our Wounded Hearts. Sharing openly from his own struggles, including the inferiority he developed growing up in poverty without a father, Stanley explained how to trust God with problems in our lives such as loneliness, fear, abuse, and guilt. At the time, I was dealing with an array of hurts and problems stemming from my own father’s poor choices. I vividly remember Stanley’s teaching being a balm to my wounded spirit, helping me learn to lean on the Lord as my healer and restorer. To this day, I think I’ve given more copies of The Source of My Strength away to people than any other book.

His Preaching

I first learned how to preach from listening to radio preachers like Stanley. His winsome, conversational style combined with practical exhortations and challenges to trust God marked his teaching. He regularly said, like Jesus, “Now listen!”

To this day, I hear teaching from the InTouch app weekly. Having listened to him regularly for more than thirty years, I recall some of the great themes of his preaching and books:

Intimacy with the Lord

Stanley told listeners that God wants a close relationship with them. Through sermons like “Favorites vs. Intimates,” he explained how the Lord desires to reveal Himself to them in ever-deepening dimensions. I once heard him say, “Far more important than As in the classroom is your intimacy with God in your dorm room.”

I only met Dr. Stanley once quickly at a book signing at the 1999 Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta. After waiting in line, when I got to him, I handed him a book to sign and said, “Dr. Stanley, thank you for teaching me about intimacy with God.” He stopped, lowered his pen, and stared directly into my eyes. Then he emphatically said, “That is the most important thing!”

Obedience to God

When his grandfather, George Washington Stanley, shared with young Charles that if God told him to run straight into a brick wall, he should duck his head and trust God to remove the wall, a deep rudder formed in his life.

Charles’ most familiar phrase, “Obey God and leave all of the consequences to Him,” is written in large letters along the wall of InTouch Ministries in Atlanta. He taught that obedience is a joy and privilege – and a necessity for those who will experience God’s best.

The Empowerment of the Spirit

I heard him say numerous times that if he were Satan, he wouldn’t try to make good people bad. He would simply try to convince Christians and churches they could do God’s work in their own strength. After going through a deep struggle in his thirties, Stanley learned what it means to abide in Jesus. He wrote in his book, The Spirit-Filled Life, “To abide in Christ is to draw upon His life. . . . The abiding presence of the Holy Spirit is the life of Christ in us.”

In the 1990s I got a cassette tape of Stanley preaching at Dallas Theological Seminary - a sermon entitled “Spirit-Anointed Preaching.” He told preachers they must learn to move between time at their desk studying to time on their knees, stretched out on the floor talking to God, listening to Him, and asking for the anointing of the Holy Spirit on their life, ministry, and preaching.

Fight Your Battles on Your Knees

Stanley’s mother first taught him the importance of prayer, and throughout his life he became a man of prayer. In his book, Living the Extraordinary Life, he wrote, “Is your prayer life pitiful or powerful? No one else can put on your spiritual armor for you. If you want God’s best in your life, get on your knees. Divine, supernatural power is available if you will cry out to God and claim it by faith.”

Stanley faced many battles in his life, including a fierce one before becoming Senior Pastor of First Baptist Atlanta. During that time a senior lady in the congregation taught him a vital lesson. Showing him a painting of Daniel in the lions’ den, she told him to notice that Daniel’s eyes were not on the lions but on the Lord. Stanley later became President of the Southern Baptist Convention during some critical years of the Conservative Resurgence, presiding over the largest-ever-attended meeting of more than 45,000 messengers in 1985 in Dallas, Texas.

Guidance from the Lord

Stanley believed God could and would speak to and guide every believer who seeks Him. He wrote in How to Listen to God, “I believe one of the most valuable lessons we can ever learn is how to listen to God. In the midst of our complex and hectic lives, nothing is more urgent, nothing more necessary, nothing more rewarding than hearing what God has to say. . . . His voice waits to be heard, and having heard it, we are launched into the greatest, most exciting adventure we could ever imagine.”

To the Ends of the Earth

Dr. Stanley preached, taught, and wrote about the God of Abraham, David, Daniel, Ruth, Peter, and Paul. But, as a young man, Charles wanted to know and experience that God. And he was motivated his entire ministry to help people all over the globe learn to walk with that same Lord. The God of the Bible is not limited to olden times. He is alive and real today, desiring an intimate relationship with men and women.

That living God put His hand on this young man, raising him up to be one of the most influential preachers of the Gospel in his generation. Decades before podcasting, Facebook live, and webcasting, a few faithful preachers like Charles Stanley had the vision to maximize modern technology to spread God’s Word.

Stanley and InTouch Ministries never stopped pursuing ways to keep sharing the message in every way possible. His obituary shares, “At the time of his death, Stanley’s messages were heard in more than 127 languages around the world via radio, shortwave, the Messenger Lab project, or TV broadcasts. Stanley was the country’s longest-serving pastor with a continuous weekly broadcast program.”

Stanley represented a generation of stalwart Bible preachers and pastors like Adrian Rogers, Jerry Falwell, Jack Hayford, Charles Swindoll, and others who are finishing their tasks and moving on to heaven. These giants leave incredible Gospel legacies.

As our world seems to turn further away from the God of the Bible, may the Lord raise up others to take their place. As we see our Elijahs taken away and their mantles fall, may we stand on the bank of our Jordans and cry out, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah - or Charles Stanley?” And may we walk forward in His presence and anointing.

Some of Stanley's contemporaries respond to his death:

“There are few places in the world where Charles Stanley cannot be heard and seen through In Touch ministries. He was truly the world’s pastor. It was my privilege to serve with him, preach for him and walk through some crucial times with him. He was a consistent proclaimer of God’s Word and touched millions of lives.”—Jimmy Draper, former SBC president

“Much will be written and spoken about the incredible, global and timeless impact of Charles Stanley’s life and ministry. My thoughts today are filled with gratitude for the impact of Charles’ warm, personable and welcoming spirit. Thank God for unleashing His powerful truth through Charles Stanley.”—Tom Elliff, former SBC president

“Charles Stanley was a reluctant president of the SBC. He responded to the need of the hour and the requests of God’s people. Characterized by his gracious actions toward all, Dr. Stanley modeled the life of Christ. His fervency in prayer, alone with his Lord was profoundly experienced by all who knew him well. Who will take the place of my friend Charles on his prayer rug before God?”—Paige Patterson, former SBC president

“Charles Stanley was a giant among us. Faithful pastor. Courageous SBC leader. Minister to the world. Well done, good and faithful servant.”— Jerry Vines, former SBC president

“We lost a warrior for the faith. He was God’s man at a critical juncture of Southern Baptist and evangelical Christianity’s struggle for biblical integrity. His television ministry became an incredible entree for many of us to share the gospel with seekers. We are diminished by his absence but enlarged by his life and ministry.” — Jim Henry, former SBC president

“I don’t know of any Southern Baptist pastor whose sermons have helped to build up believers and reach people for Christ more than Charles Stanley.”—Bryant Wright, former SBC president

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

April Decision Magazine Cover

My and Tracey‘s trip to Wilmore, Kentucky, resulted in another added blessing.

Decision magazine decided to use my picture of the auditorium at Asbury university as their cover photo for the April edition!

My friend Lee Weeks quoted me in their cover story, and they used two more of my pictures in the story.

I’ve never had a photograph published in anything!

I heard they are sending hundreds of copies of the magazine to Asbury. Read Lee's entire article, "Signs of Revival," here.

Monday, April 3, 2023

An Unforgettable Easter

Holidays, particularly religious ones, carry with them a lot of memories that invoke various emotional responses.


Easter reminds me of decorating Easter eggs with my mother using the PAAZ egg dye kit.  I remember seeing my grandparents every Easter at their house.  We enjoyed egg hunts and Easter baskets.  I have very fond church memories from various Easters.  I received my first real Bible from my parents one Easter - a bright yellow "Good News" one, which still sits on my shelf today.  I was baptized by my pastor on Easter Sunday, 1982.  I remember big Easter musicals the weekend of Palm Sunday, singing hymns like Christ the Lord is Risen Today, and always having a new Sunday-best outfit to wear.  I especially liked a green sports coat I was given when I was in about the 5th grade.  Our church had a cross outside each year, and on Easter Sunday we would all bring fresh flowers to fill it up with color.  And I recall every year ABC playing Charlton Heston's The Ten Commandments from 7pm-11pm.

My family now has some of our own holiday practices, many of them similar to those of my boyhood.  We have never done the Easter Bunny with our children.  We weren't terribly opposed to it, but church jobs always required one of us to be out of the house early Sunday morning before children awoke, so we made it our habit to give our children Easter baskets from us on the Saturday before Easter.  We chuckled then and still do now thinking about when our then 5-year old came home from church one Easter and said, The children in Sunday School were talking about some bunny coming to their house this morning!  What are they talking about?

Easter offers wonderful opportunities, whatever your practices, to talk with your children about the essence of the Christian message - that God loved a sinful world so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven and we could have a forever-relationship with Him.

Don't underestimate what children can absorb.  One of the church-misnomers of our time is how we send middle and high school students to school where they learn algebra, chemistry, history, and foreign languages, yet we bring them to church and think that all we should do is play games with them thinking that they can't yet absorb the great truths of the Bible.

And don't miss opportunities with your own family members and other people in the community to share biblical truths about the gospel message. 

The church of my youth never did sunrise services, but we did do Easter musicals.  Perhaps my most vivid memory of an Easter season was when I was in the third grade.  Our church did a musical called Hosanna the weekend of Palm Sunday.  I still have the cassette tape from that performance.  My grandparents came to attend with us, and I sat directly next to my grandfather.  I will never forget that when they came to the scene where Jesus was dying on the cross, my grandfather began quietly sobbing.  Tears streamed down his face.  At that moment, in my little nine-year old thinking and feeling, I was deeply struck with the fact that this stuff is real to him.  This matters to him.  His life has been changed by the cross.  He loves and respects God.   I remember that moment like it happened last week.  And I doubt I will ever forget it. 

Don't underestimate how your faith and your love for Jesus, shown in your own unique way, can deeply impact the life of another person - even a child.  Thirty years from now they may be remembering you this Easter.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Wisdom Justified by Time

Dick Cheney’s autobiography In My Time reviews the lives of political figures who have shaped America the past several decades. Cheney rubbed shoulders with many of Washington’s elites, gleaning wisdom from some of their lives.

Careful observers gleaned one valuable lesson from observing the leadership of Gerald Ford: some actions are only justified by time.

Cheney shares the surprise he and many Americans, experienced when President Ford announced on September 8, 1974, that he was issuing a full, free, and absolute pardon to Richard Nixon following the Watergate scandal. Cheney writes, He described his actions as a way to ‘shut and seal’ the matter of Watergate and to mitigate the suffering of Richard Nixon and his family.  

At the time, this action cost Ford – some speculate that it cost him the reelection. There was immediately a firestorm of controversy and criticism. Ford’s approval rating dropped from 71% to 49%. The press condemned Ford, and he endured much negative criticism as a result. 

However, more than thirty years later, Cheney writes, the wisdom and generosity of Gerald Ford’s instincts have been recognized for their courage and honored for their rightness. But at the time the pardon was controversial and unpopular.

The Right Choice

Wisdom beckons that at times the right choice is the unpopular choice. The right choice may be greatly misunderstood and even condemned. It takes courage to make the right choice. And in time, even those who criticize that person may see years later that it was the right choice.

Many years ago, my parents left a toxic church situation. When they joined the next church, the pastor told them, I don’t know what happened at that church, but everyone who comes here from there comes hurting. Before they left, Mom warned some persons of the unwise and ungodly path of the senior pastor. Mom and Dad received an incredible amount of criticism and ostracism for their stance. The pastor told the staff to not have conversations with them.  My parents left their church of 25+ years belittled, bruised, and broken.  Several years later, however, after several hundred people and most of the staff left the church, an ex-staff member commented to me in retrospect, Mrs. Wilson was right.

One of the traits of a godly man or woman is this: a godly person does not play to the crowd. A wise person does not make his judgments solely based on public opinion. King Saul in the Old Testament lived most of his reign working to make himself look good in front of others. The fruit of his character revealed a pitiful life, not so different than the lives of some Hollywood favorites or political figures that woo the crowds but lead miserable lives of shallow character.

The roar of the crowd and public opinion are often fickle and sway with the wind. As with President Ford's day, systems of people are quick to make fast judgments and shift blame to scapegoats to manage their current stress. But the perspective of years often reveals a different reality.

Be willing to make the hard decisions when necessary. God will be pleased, and time will tell.


Pictures courtesy of Pixabay

Entrust Yourself to God


Life contains difficult choices. One of those choices is whether or not to defend yourself.

When someone else has spoken despairingly about us – whether verbally or in writing –the natural instinct within most people is to rise up and defend self. They’re not going to say that about me, we think. Being misunderstood or misrepresented makes matters even worse, leaving us wanting to “set the record straight.”

King David experienced such a time. When his son Absalom attempted to seize the throne, Absalom and his cohorts spread negative reports about the king. When the usurper’s army was moving in on Jerusalem, David and his people had to flee quickly. As they fled along the road, David encountered came out cursing continually. The old man took the opportunity to throw stones at the king and call him a “worthless fellow.” Nothing like kicking a man when he is down. 

Interestingly, God’s Word says all of King David’s mighty men were at his right hand and at his left. He could have retaliated. One of those mighty men, Abishai, even asked David for permission to go over now and cut off his head. And I’m sure Abishai would have enjoyed it! Instead, David refused to retaliate. He refused to return evil for evil. He refused to return a bad report for a bad report. He even refused to respond! David quietly entrusted himself to the Lord: Perhaps the Lord will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of cursing today (2 Samuel 16:12).

And then what did David do? He and his men went on the way. They moved forward and kept going.

The Lord Jesus responded similarly. He, too, was misunderstood and mistreated. Mocked and maligned, he was led on a path out of Jerusalem and nailed to a tree. Instead of returning evil for evil, he gave a blessing. While cursed and killed, the Bible says that he committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, he uttered no threats, but kept entrusting himself to Him who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:22-23).

When we feel mistreated, maligned, or misunderstood, instead of lashing out in retaliation, the model of Jesus serves as a governor to our all-too fleshly mouths. He quietly entrusted Himself to God.

In her devotion Streams in the Desert, L. B. Cowman writes,

“What grace it requires when we are misunderstood yet handle it correctly, or when we are judged unkindly yet receive it in holy sweetness! Nothing tests our character as a Christian more than having something evil said about us. This kind of grinding test is what exposes whether we are solid gold or simply gold-plated metal.

Some Christians are easily turned away from the greatness of their life’s calling by pursuing instead their own grievances and enemies. They ultimately turn their lives into one petty whirlwind of warfare. It reminds me of trying to deal with a hornet’s nest. You may be able to disperse the hornets, but you will probably be terribly stung and receive nothing for your pain, for even their honey has no value.”

Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Greg Laurie: The Jesus Revolution


4 Signs of Christian Revival

What my generation called “The Jesus Movement,” Time magazine called “The Jesus Revolution.” They were right. Revolution involves a dramatic change, a return. The same can be said of revival. Simply put, a Christian revival is a return to New Testament Christianity—the way we who follow Jesus should always live.

We need another Jesus revolution, and I believe we will see one in our lifetime. But to experience revival, we must first wake from our sleep.

So many in the church today are spiritually asleep. They are settling for a watered-down form of the Christian faith. This is not the form of the Christian faith that changed the world in the first century—the faith that changed families, countries and cultures. As evangelist and Bible scholar G. Campbell Morgan once stated: “Organized Christianity that fails to make a disturbance is dead.”

Read the entire article here at Decision Magazine.

Learn more about the movie here.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Moose: Mentor of Men

It was in the early 1980s. One of my great-uncles died, and my mom, dad, and I were at a funeral home in Anderson County, SC, with the rest of the Wilson family. Morris Keller, a distant Wilson cousin, met me in the foyer of the funeral home.

"Heyyyyy Rhett!" (I would hear that many times in the future.) I had seen this big man at our church in Greenville. "I saw you the other Sunday night at church doing the Bible Drill. That was great. You did a good job finding those books of the Bible and sharing those verses you memorized. Keep it up. You keep memorizing Bible verses, ok?"

That was the first of countless exhortations I would receive the next almost forty years from this man. And I didn't know it at the time, but he was a fisher of men. And in that funeral parlor, he was fishing for a ten-year old boy.

Morris "Moose" Keller, nicknamed for his large frame, played football for Greenville High School in the 1950s, was a Clemson Tiger under Coach Frank Howard, including playing in the Bluebonnet Bowl, and played for the Philadelphia Eagles in the early 60s.

Moose married the love of his life, Charlton, who he met at a dance around Thanksgiving in 1957. Next to Jesus, he most loved Charlton, his three daughters, and their families.

In their adult life, Moose and Charlton spent fourteen years in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where they met and were mentored by Gene and Irma Warr. Gene, an Oklahoma oilman, later received a lifetime discipleship award from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for his tremendous investment in making disciples of men to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Gene and Irma went on to write the discipleship courses The Godly Man and The Godly Woman.

Moose began attending a men's Bible study at church led by Gene, who had been trained in Navigator style discipleship with people like Charlie Riggs of BGEA.

Spiritual Disciplines

Moose and Charlton's daughters share, "Sharing their testimonies in large group settings and leading others to a personal relationship with Christ were highlights of their lives. Morris was committed to scripture memory. He enjoyed reviewing scripture and having one ready for any need."

Indeed he did. Moose commanded a handle on Scripture memory better than any person I've ever known - including any seminary professor or pastor. Driven to know God's Word, he committed probably hundreds of verses to memory. He could tell you the passage - which Navigators call "the handle" - and the translation or paraphrase.

I don't know how many times through the years I heard him ask about any specific verse, "Do you know Matthew 6:33 in the Living?" Or the Berkley, or the Phillips, or the Message, or the New King James. 

Every year he read the Bible through from cover to cover in a new version, until he caught up with them. 

Moose led countless Bible studies through the years. At his funeral, two men shared first meeting him in the 1980s when he taught single adult Sunday School at Edwards Road Baptist Church. He would fish for men in those classes, then taking a few on to keep developing in small group Bible studies and one-on-one relationships.

At his funeral, I asked for men to stand up who had ever been in a small group or Bible study led by Morris Keller. About thirty men stood to their feet. I don't know I've ever been to a funeral where I saw as many adult men visibly moved by a man's life.

Fishing for Men

Moose loved to fish for men, and life was his fishing pond. Whether he was on the job, at the grocery store, at a restaurant, or in church. His signature line was, "Can I ask you a personal question? Do you know if you died today, you would you go to heaven?" And then, often using a "Steps to Peace with God" gospel track, he was ready to tell them about King Jesus who died on the cross for their sins.

That day in the early 1980s, standing with a boy in the parlor of a funeral home, he was fishing. About ten years later, the same boy - then nineteen - was beginning to get serious about walking with the Lord and practicing spiritual disciplines as a young adult. One day I ran into Moose and Charlton at our local KMart. He asked me, "Are you still memorizing Scripture?" And I'm sure he gave to me his often used closing line, "Call me if you need me."

Something sparked inside of me, and before long I gave him a call and asked if we could get together and talk about the Lord. For the next couple of years, during my college days, he and I would get together every couple of months. I'd drive from Clinton to Greenville and meet him for a lunch at Stax Omega.

The Wheel of Life displayed at Moose's funeral

We enjoyed great, biblical fellowship, talking about things that matter. That's what mentoring is. Spending time with someone connecting over important things, listening, helping them grow and learn.

Moose trusted God. His faith was consistent. I - and many others - learned much from his life about leaning on the Lord.

Going to Heaven

Some friends come into your life for a short while. A few others last much longer. Something connected between these distant cousins, though almost forty years apart in age, and our friendship continued for more than thirty years.

About a month ago, with Moose in his hospital bed and gown at his house, I went to see him, which I knew would be the last time.  I drove the more than two hours to his house in Taylors. Pulling up the white house, I recalled the days in college I would pull up to that same house to visit him. I remember coming to see them five years earlier one afternoon and how delighted Charlton was with the bouquet of roses I brought.

We shared another wonderful hour of real fellowship. His body frail but his mind bright, he quoted Scripture after Scripture to me, telling me how he was learning to trust God, and sharing how he led one of the hospital nurses to faith in Jesus Christ a few weeks before. Moose asked me about my wife and three children - all by name. He talked about my father, who has been gone for fifteen years (they used to sometimes eat breakfast together). He talked about old times at the church we participated in during the 80s. And he talked about his current church and pastor, whom he loved. 

He got out his IPhone and said, "Ooooooh. I have to read to you what I read in my quiet time this morning. I read it in the Message and I've never seen it say it quite like this." He proceeded to read his morning reading to me. The last several years, I could expect almost daily an email sent to several dozen people outlining the notes from his daily quiet time. 

He told me, "We've been through a lot, buddy."

This time was probably the only one he ever ended our conversation without, "Call me if you need me." He knew he was about to cross the river and go into the other side.

And a few days later, Moose was with Jesus. 

Click here to sign up for my e-newsletter, Faith, Family, and Freedom. I also plan on starting a podcast later this year.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

My Experience at Asbury: Full Streams

See my previous article, When God Does it Again.

“I came to experience God. I think something big is going to happen. When a lot of people come in faith, expecting the Lord to do something, amazing things will happen.”

That’s what Rocky, from Asheville, North Carolina, told me Friday morning outside of the auditorium at Asbury University where revival continued into its tenth day. Rocky, an associate pastor at his church, came with their staff: “We expect the Lord to do something amazing. We came expecting God to give us something that we can take back to others.”

Striking up conversations with people, I continued hearing similar hopes among the crowd. And a crowd it was. On Friday morning at 10:30, at 34 degrees with a light snow, hundreds of people lined the sidewalk waiting for the doors to open at 1:00pm. Before long the line stretched for a half mile.

My pastor in college in the '90s showed us a documentary one Sunday evening of the 1970 Asbury Revival. It lit a spark in me to study historical revivals – and to begin praying for God to pour Himself out again in this generation. Like many other people, testimonies from the First and Second Great Awakenings, the 1857 Prayer Revival, the 1904 Welsh Revival, the Shantung Revival, and various campus revivals, to name a few notable ones, showed me what can happen when God shows up in a supernatural way.

Another documentary on the 1970 Asbury Revival was titled “When God Comes.” And that reality - God showing up - makes all the difference. One succinct mark of a genuine revival is the manifest presence of the Lord. Theologically, we know the omnipresence of God – He is everywhere. But, He does not show Himself at the same level and power everywhere.

We enjoy a sunroom at our house with five large windows. On cloudy and rainy days, the room reflects the outside reality. However, on sunny days, light pours into the room, giving it a whole different dimension.

Malcolm McDow and Alvin Reid gave the church a gift in their book, Firefall: How God Has Shaped History through Revivals. They explain, “Revival is God’s invasion into the lives of one or more of His people in order to awaken them spiritually for Kingdom ministry."

And Stephen Olford called it a “strange and sovereign work of God in which He visits His own people, restoring, reanimating and releasing them into the fulness of His blessing.”

Welcome to Asbury University

Roy Fish said, "When the fire is falling, get as near as you can to the flame."

We first heard the news from Asbury last Wednesday, February 8, when chapel did not stop. One week later, after full days at church, my wife and I looked at each other and said, “We need to go.” So Thursday morning we packed up and drove seven hours to Wilmore, Kentucky. Through the day, I quietly sang in my spirit the song, "Holy Spirit, Thou Art Welcome," wanting to prepare myself for worship.

The little town was abuzz with activity at six pm, with cars parked on the street and in every available lot. Walking to the school, we saw dozens of people waiting in line to walk up the large outside stairsteps to Hughes Auditorium – the center of activity on campus. I’d heard of Hughes for thirty years – the same place God poured Himself out in 1970.

We waited in line about an hour. The 1489 seat chapel was packed. As people left, they called out a number of empty seats and let the same number in. The Salvation Army gave out snacks and coffee. A large mag screen outside showed the chapel service going on inside. And two overflow auditoriums were open for people not wanting to wait in line. A pleasant, friendly spirit filled the air with a strong air of excitement. People often greeted each other with, “Where did you come from?”

And people came from all over. We talked with people from all over the Southeast, Michigan, Connecticut, Oklahoma, and even heard of one woman who drove from Oregon. To date, I read that twenty-two colleges and universities have sent students to Asbury to experience the divine moment.

I met four male high school students who drove together from Nashville, Tennessee. One of them, Luke, told me, “We came to see what God is doing. It’s awesome.”

Another young man from Burundi, Africa, told me, "It’s a very rare moment in America, where people are so stuck chasing money, to see people coming together" to seek the Lord. Nova, who now lives in Lexington, said he knew he had to come.

As we stood in line, I told my wife, “I don’t know when I have had to stand in line to wait for a seat at an event.”

When our turn came, I quietly prayed, “Lord, help me experience You.” I did not want to get in God’s way or miss what He was doing. One of the most damning verses in the Bible speaks of Jesus’ visit to his home area: “And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58).

Imagine being in the physical presence of Jesus Christ and choosing to not believe because He did not fit my expectations. McDow and Reid share, “An institution can be in revival even when some members are skeptical of God’s movement. . . . When revival erupts, the tendency is to expect all to receive immediately what God is doing, but this is never the case. Skeptics are witnessing things beyond their experience.”

The usher escorted Tracey and me to two balcony seats, which gave us a wonderful view of the auditorium. The place was packed. For three hours we joined with the crowd, sometimes standing and singing, other times sitting quietly. There was a tremendous sense of spontaneity combined with order.  Never did we feel like things were out of control. In fact, when we left, I commented on how amazed I was at how well the school administrated the event.

A speaker who was obviously scheduled would get up and testify or share some exhortations from the Bible. Then instrumentalists and a large number of college students would come onto the platform and lead us in singing for two or three songs. Then there would be quiet praying. During our three hours, a faculty member gave a very clear gospel presentation, with a strong emphasis on what Christ did for our sins, our need for repentance from our sins, and the need to follow Him. 

Giving an invitation, several individuals indicated decisions to believe in Christ, and they received a massive celebration from the crowd – and follow-up discipleship materials from Asbury after the public altar call. Another speaker talked to students about the need to submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ, die to self, and live a surrendered life, followed by another altar call. In between “movements,” a student or faculty member would get up, welcome people, and give basic “house rules.”  We laughed when the student said, “The balcony is old, so if you are going to jump up and down or dance, please come down to the floor.”

I think I went with the expectation that it would be an emotional experience for me. I did shed a few tears, like when 1500+ people clapped and shouted exuberantly when five to seven people gave their lives to Christ. But overall it was not a strong emotional experience for me. I spent a good bit of time observing, wanting to see what happens in a time like this, praying quietly, and thanking God for what He is doing. And when we walked out of the doors at 9:45pm, the line was longer than it had been three hours earlier.

8 Observations from the Asbury Revival

Studying revivals and awakenings for three decades, what was happening at Asbury “checked the boxes” for what I know to be true about historical moves of God. Here are just a few of my observations about the movement:

1.            The manifest presence of God, coupled with a strong spirit of worship.

God was in the house. And people were worshiping Him. This is not about a speaker, music group, or showman. Jesus is center stage.

I’ve read in testimonies from previous moves of God, and I’ve heard multiple people say about Asbury in the past week, it is as if time stands still in the auditorium. We were tired after driving all day, but we were not bored. We were focused. Three hours seemed like just a little bit of time.

McDow and Reid write, “The normal response in the midst of a spiritual awakening is an awesome awareness of the presence of the Holy God. A holy hush literally permeates the atmosphere.”

Timothy Beougher observed this week, "Within the crowd there was a mixture of times of quiet deep reverence and loud vocal celebration."

2.      A stirring spirit of expectancy.

Miriam Cisneros of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, told me she drove and slept in her car for two nights. When I asked her why she came, she enthusiastically replied, “I am hungry. I want revival. I want to be a part of what is happening here.”

Ivan Litvac and his wife, originally from Moldavia, drove from Connecticut. When they left home, their six children gathered around them and prayed for them. Ivan shared, “I want more power and more fire.  We want to take it with us. We want to be a part of what God is doing. There’s a new song here, and we want to flow in his presence.”

Bill Elliff, who has written a series of excellent articles, day by day on his blog, on the Asbury Revival. He explained to Baptist Press how the Asbury community has an expectation of God working:

“It seems to me – I’m not an authority on this – it seems to me that that particular school has an openness to this, a bent towards this. They want to see God come.”

“They believe in experiential spirituality, and I do too. And I’m not talking about charismatic theology, as much as just heart theology … and heart experience. And there’s a deep emphasis on prayer, and on surrender.”

Elliff also sees a faith component in the mix at Asbury.

“They are looking for and expecting God to move because of their past,” Elliff said. “I think across the board in America, because we haven’t seen a nationwide movement since 1970, and prior to that 1904 in the Welsh revival that dramatically affected America, because we haven’t seen that personally, most of us, then we don’t pray big."

“We can’t fathom that 15 percent of the population could come to faith in two years like it did in the first great awakening. So, we don’t even ask for it.”

As with any move of God, some religious people – and some Christians – will critique it and oppose it. Sometimes, God moves in ways that we don’t expect. It doesn’t fit our carefully constructed theological system. And if not careful, we can be like the people in Jesus’ home – filled with unbelief in the very presence of the Lord.

3.      An emphasis on the gospel, conversion, and repentance.

During my three hours, I heard a clear gospel presentation. It was not a feel-good, self-fulfillment, God is here to make you happy and give you a great life. This was a “you are separated from your Creator because of your sin, Jesus paid the penalty for that sin, and you need to repent of your sins and turn your life over to Him.”

The leaders at Asbury are clearly wanting to lead people to faith in Christ. When we attended, those who responded to the gospel invitation included students and adults.

4.      A spirit of prayer and humility.

Roy Hession wrote, “Prayer is the foundation for revival, and testimony the spark that ignites it.”

Prayer permeated the atmosphere, modeled by the facilitators on stage, continued by worshipers all over Hughes, and maintained by people in groups outside of the auditorium. People gathered in the aisles for prayer. Prayer counselors prayed with people at the altar through the night. People spontaneously came to the altar for prayer. People all over the room prayed quietly. 

Many people shed tears. Occassionally you would hear someone crying or groaning loudly. Beougher reminds us that "true revival doesn't begin in ecstasy, it begins with agony. It doesn't begin with laughter but with tears."

The book Firefall explains, “While the length may vary according to the nature of the awakening, the participants will remember the experience for their lifetimes and will not be satisfied with anything less.”

My wife told me Thursday night, “This is what church should look like.”

Pride will destroy revival. A very real understanding exists at Asbury that this is an act of God, He has gifted them with a divine moment in time, and they are trying to be wise stewards of His blessing.

5.      Order, decency, and hospitality.

We were overwhelmed with how well the entire event is administrated.

Inside of Hughes there was order, but such that allowed expression. Volunteers were at every door. There were clear boundaries. There were plenty of people around to answer questions.

Outside of Hughes was amazing. A police presence existed. Nice, portable bathrooms, free coffee and hot chocolate, a food truck, and other details showed that they clearly wanted people there.

6.      Freedom and a spirit of celebration.

A wonderful spirit of worship filled the place. There was such freedom of expression – people standing or sitting as they wished, lifting their hands or sitting quietly, shedding tears, moments of a quiet, holy hush, mixed with moments of loud celebration with clapping and shouting. Occasionally a few people would dance in the aisles or jump up and down exuberantly.

But as mentioned before, never did anything seem inappropriate nor out of order. And it never distracted from the central theme of worshiping the Lord.

Outside on Friday morning, hundreds gathered, waiting. People enjoyed walking around and talking with each other. Some huddled in groups praying and worshiping as the live stream from inside was broadcast. There was never a sense of being unsafe or unwelcome.

I encourage you to read Tim Beoughter’s comments, which are linked in this article, about the excesses of revival vs. staying “in the main.”

7.      An emphasis on the lordship of Christ.

We live in a day with a huge emphasis on self-fulfillment. While not all of that is bad, a biblical worldview reveals that God’s biggest purpose is to glorify Himself – not just helps us live our best life now.

At Asbury, they are not just inviting people to find forgiveness of sins. There is a clear emphasis on submitting to the lordship of Jesus Christ. In the time we were in Hughes, we heard a clear exhortation on “dying to self” and living the Spirit-filled life.

McDow and Reid write, “The ultimate result of awakening in the life of the beliver is submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ. When Christ becomes enthroned, He impacts the total person, including emotions.”

8.      Spanning generations and races.

Hughes auditorium Thursday night was filled with white, black, Asian, Indian, and Hispanic people. I enjoyed watching an Indian middle-aged man near me singing, standing, crying, and raising his hands. We noticed people of all ages – couples bringing babies, children, teenagers, young adults, middle aged persons, and seniors. Families came together. Old men and women came on canes and walkers. Occasionally small children would cry o make noise. I noticed one older lady with a cast on her foot wheeling in on a foot stroller. This is not a “youth revival.” This is touching all ages and many races.

For me, a real gem of this movement was not that I received something dramatic individually. It was watching so many people drawn together in the name of the Lord - the sense of "this is a taste of what heaven will be like."

The Implications of Revival

For years, I’ve told my churches that America has not experienced a nationwide movement since the 1904 Welsh Revival spilled over into the United States. That means there is no one alive who has lived through one.

Many people in our churches have not been taught about historical revivals and have no orientation to them. That’s one reason when an outpouring actually does occur, some Christians oppose it because they have no expectation toward it. They think revival is a series of meeting churches plan in the spring or fall. (View J. Edwin Orr’s The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening and his History of Revival series.)

In some past revivals, it appears that people who experience it firsthand then go other places where a similar manifestation occurs. This happened in the 1970 Asbury Revival, when student teams went to churches and schools all over the country and similar outpourings of the Spirit occurred. That’s why, in this current movement, Christians from all over the country want to travel and get close to the fire.

Timothy Tennant wisely shares, "An awakening is where God begins to stir and awaken people up from their spiritual slumber. This is definitely happening not only in Wilmore, but as this move of God spreads to other schools and communities across the nation and even the world.  There are many reports that this is what is happening. [W]e must keep our hearts and eyes fixed on Jesus and ask him to complete the work he has begun so that, over time, there is a lasting transformation in the lives of those who are being touched by God. . . .

Someday, we will look back on these days and thank God that he visited us in ways we will talk about for years to come.  But, what we are doggedly seeking is not lasting memories, but transformed lives long after the lights go out in Hughes auditorium or Estes Chapel or all other places which are experiencing this work of grace."

Last Wednesday night, I told our church that for years I’ve believed America will not last apart from a genuine, God-sent revival and spiritual awakening. We live in dark, desperate times. The good news is that historical moves of God often come during dark, desperate times, when God’s people have been crying out to Him for a fresh touch.

Dr. Tim Beougher, former professor of mine at SBTS, wisely writes, “every believer ought to be on their knees in prayer, praying for God to do something. Our churches desperately need revival. Our nation desperately needs awakening. We ought to all be crying out to God, asking Him to do something new.

“If this movement becomes a spiritual awakening, it won’t just be Christians talking about it,” Beougher said. “Everyone in America will know what’s going on, because it will be transforming our culture.”

Beougher wrote his master’s thesis on the 1970 Asbury Revival and its impact on Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and coauthored with Lyle W. Dorsett, “Accounts of a Campus Revival: Wheaton College 1995.”

“Ultimately, I think we have to fall back on the sovereignty of God,” Beougher told Baptist Press. “I think G. Campbell Morgan said it well. He said, ‘We cannot cause the wind of the Spirit to blow, but we can set our sails to catch the wind when it does blow.’”

The Streams of God

Kentucky experienced a huge amount of rain this past week. During the last hour of our drive to Wilmore, we saw creeks and streams overflowing their banks. The psalmist wrote, "The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops. You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance" (Psalm 65:9-11 NIV).

I thought as we approached Wilmore, "The spiritual streams are full, and God is pouring Himself out."

May the Lord continue pouring Himself out - and not just at Asbury - but all over the nation and world. "LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known" (Habakkuk 3:2 NIV).

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See my friend Wayne Atcheson’s book, The Asbury Revival: When God Used Students to Wake a Nation.

See also some excellent commentary on the Asbury Revival from Tim Beougher, Bill Elliff, Timothy Tennant, Bryant Sims, and Lee Grady.

See God is Moving: 10 Observations from Asbury Revival by Rob Jackson

See 40 Days of Seeking God: For Revival, Elections, and Key Leaders by Greg Frizzell

View J. Edwin Orr’s The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening and his History of Revival series.

Resources on historical revivals and spiritual awakenings: Firefall: How God Shaped History through Revivals by Malcolm McDow and Alvin Reid; Fresh Encounter: God's Pattern for Spiritual Awakening by Henry and Richard Blackaby; Revival Now by James Burns with Tom Phillips