The weather here is gorgeous and the temperature is perfect!
It was evening when I got off the plane in Kilgali and walked across the tarmac to the terminal. As soon as I stepped outside, I could feel the scent of that gentle Africa breeze in the air. I’m not sure what it is or why, but each of the sub-Saharan countries that I have visited have their own distinct exotic scent – similar but slightly unique to each land. As I emerge from the plane, it’s as if the land is welcoming me back. I almost feel at home.
Tomorrow morning, I will catch up on my jet lag and will slowly emerge from the hotel room later on to meet the General Manager of Restore FM, a major radio station in Rwanda. We are starting a 30-minute broadcast in Rwanda, twice a week every Monday and Friday for the next year, and I need to give him the DVD that has the broadcasts on it. As it turns out, he is a good friend of one of my hosts, Pastor Isaiah. Small world.
I will be preaching in a church upcountry for three days before coming back to Kilgali to launch the “Gideon Generation Movement”. University students are coming in from all over the country to be here for this. This movement all started at a lunchtime meeting of college students in the north of Rwanda last year. I had challenged them that they were the Gideon generation and for them to rise up to answer the call of God upon them. I left, not knowing what, if anything, would happen, but it has exploded, and is about to spill out like a fire into all the rest of the country. I have no idea what I will find when I meet with them at this national conference next week, but it is distinctly in the hands of God.
Lately, I have been reading about the great revivals in Wales, Azusa Street and the Hebrides Islands. I am impressed with the amount and intensity of prayer that preceded each of them – men and women travailing for hours and days under an intense burden of prayer for years. It’s not only the length of prayer, which would burden them all night long in many cases, but the depth of the travail of their souls. Groaning under the burden and crying out from the depths of their hearts for God to save souls and revive the Church again. Sounds like Africa.
We in the West do not pray like that anymore. Not only do we not know how to, we don’t even know we are supposed to! Where are the intercessors who would battle their way to the Throne of God all night long, crying out at the top of their lungs, wrestling with the powers of the heavens until the Spirit of God would break forth in victory like the sun shining through the clouds after a storm? Where are the Prayer Meetings at church where the saints would gather to wage war on the spiritual darkness around them, crying out for souls to be saved – and stay there all night long? Where is the yearning down deep in our souls that would drive us to our knees in travailing prayer until we secured the answer from God?
Victories only come after battles, but it appears that we have lost our will to fight. How can we expect a great move of God if we have forgotten how to pray? When we find the strength to lift our voices to God and contend all the way through until we reach the Throne of God, we then release Him to move. Until then, His hands are tied. This is not about God, but about the preparations of our own hearts so we can receive that which He has for us. Fallow ground is too hard to receive seed. It must first be broken up and watered with the tears of repentance before it is prepared to bring forth the harvest. So our hearts must be broken before God can move amongst us in His great power. It begins with His Word – a hammer which breaks the rock in pieces. It will not be our good works or good intentions that will be the catalyst that brings revival, but the power of the Word of God that works in us to bring us to that place of Holy Ghost conviction. And then, all the glory will go to God. And that’s when He can begin to move.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)
“Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!” (Isa 64:1-2)
Our first set of meetings are in Muhanga, an hour’s drive from the capital. I have no idea what to expect – sometimes it will be an incredible surprise; sometimes it is just warm-up for the rest of the campaign. Most of the bigger outpourings of the Holy Spirit seem to happen in the small villages out in the country, so I don’t mind driving an hour to minister to God’s hungry children out here. They do more for me than I do for them.
Muhanga is where everything starts in Rwanda, including the Genocide in 1994 that destroyed a million people in just 100 days. I have been asked to come here because the cold wall of unforgiveness still grips the hearts of these people. Which is not surprising considering the extreme horrors that took place. My host tells me that they have asked me to come to Muhanga for two reasons: they need revival here desperately because of the spirit of unforgiveness that lingers, and it is in Muhanga that everything starts in Rwanda.
All that may be well and good, but do they want revival is the question I ask. If they are not willing to let go of the old hatreds and passions, there’s not much I can do. I don’t have anything special to offer other than the message that God has given me. The spark of revival has to happen between the hearts of people who are desperate for God and the throne of His mercy. For some reason, I am not feeling the usual excitement inside me that pumps me up to drive into each campaign. Maybe it’s from lack of sleep, maybe I’m not tanked up enough on reading and prayer, or maybe there is a cold layer of ice in the hearts of these people that is shutting out God. Whatever it is, I am not expecting what comes next.
Instead of a little country church where a couple dozen poor people are waiting for me, I walk into a large building where over 250 people start cheering and clapping as I enter. I am thoroughly amazed. Here is hope, because it is not me that they are cheering, but it is the promise of God for revival. I may not have a “feel” for what the message will be yet, but God has to feed His people. It will come.
The evening service is even more incredible. Now there are over 700 people in this place, all singing and praising God at the top of their lungs. Again, as I walk in, they start cheering. It is deafening. How can God not hear? I have decided to bring the message from the Book of Joel and show them the prophesies of the coming great revival first before launching into the usual series of messages about how badly the Church in the last days would need a true, Holy Ghost revival. I am told that they normally win about 300 souls every month, so how can I reprove them about not winning souls? These people are already on the road to revival, so what is it that I can give them?
But there is still something missing here. I can feel it but I don’t know what it is. As the message pours out of me for the next hour and a half, I get this sense of people stuck inside a bucket, peering over the edge at me. They want what I am telling them about, but they are stuck in something that keeps them from being free. I don’t know what it is yet, but this will not be the usual set of messages that I bring. I will have to be totally yielded to the Spirit to navigate these waters so that God can break through whatever this barrier is in their hearts.
And right now, I don’t feel very yielded or up to the task. But then, when am I ever? I just have to close my eyes and step off the cliff, and let God do what He is going to do.
Rend the heavens, O God, and let the mountains of Rwanda flow down at Thy presence!
This is the 2nd day here in Muhanga and for this afternoon’s service, we are being taken to a different church that we are assured is nearby. Uh huh. Nearby … as in I-don’t-know-how-many miles down rutted mountain roads, over hills, and around valleys? At one point we had to get out and walk because the car couldn’t make it up the hill with us in it.
I spotted the church on top of a hill and it looked bigger than what I was expecting. I was expecting the usual 20 x 50 church with a corrugated roof, wooden posts, dirt floor and no walls, but this was actually a real building … and it was pretty big. As we pulled into the yard, dozens of people started yelling and waving their arms in the air. I was a little spooked at first, but then I realized they were welcoming us! But that didn’t prepare me for when I walked into the church.
Inside this church was close to 800 to 1,000 people packed like sardines from front to back, and as we walked in, the whole place exploded! I have never seen anything like it! If you have never heard a thousand people cheering at the top of their lungs inside a crowded building, let me tell you it is deafening!
Services were great. They even got me to get up and take part in a tribal dance. (I think Brother Noah caught it on video.) As usual, I poured out my heart for an hour or so to tell them as much as I could about revival. I had to squeeze a 6 to 10 messages into this one service because I would not be coming back, so I gave it all I got. Somewhere around the middle, I could feel that rolling breeze of the Holy Spirit take over and we were sailing! The people were so excited that you couldn’t keep them sitting down. When I gave an Altar Call, they came from everywhere. Over forty souls got saved.
Besides the crowd inside, there were a hundred or so people outside because there was no room inside. They stood outside, piled up by the windows, leaning in to hear the Word of God. When I came out to leave, they crowded around me, shaking my hand, touching me, or just plain staring wide-eyed at me. Kids thronged me and mothers pushed through with their babies for me to lay my hands on each one and bless them before I left. It really grabs your heart to see these simple folk reaching out in such desperation for God to touch them and leave a blessing in their hard and poor existence.
We headed to the regular evening service and experienced the same thing there. Between 700 and 800 souls filled the place to hear a message about revival. These were not the curious or bored looking for some entertainment. Neither were they coming because they thought they were supposed to. This church is a long walk from the main town, so if you are planning on coming, you have to serious about it. The power went off a few times, so the lights went out and the microphone went dead, but no one ever budged. I had to get down off the pulpit and shout the message to them until my throat was sore, but thirty souls got saved there. That makes 70 for the day.
On the surface, everything seems good – the churches are excited, they understand there is a price for revival, and they hang on every word I speak – but something is wrong. It’s as if there is a wall of ice as a barrier that blocks the depths of their hearts from opening up to God. I feel like I am preaching all around the issue but not getting to the heart of it. I had this same feeling last year when I preached in Rwanda.
Before I bring forth another message here, I have to find out what is wrong otherwise everything that I am doing here is in vain, even counterproductive. In order for any true revival to take hold, there has to be a breaking deep in the hearts of the people. To bend but not break will end up giving a church a false sense of security, thinking that they are so right with God, but never able to completely surrender in broken-hearted repentance. And no revival comes without repentance. Without it, all you have is a very nice church … but you won’t have revival.
I’ve been praying hard for God to show me what is problem that I am having here in Rwanda. The normal set of messages of Four Steps to Revival just will not work here. It’s as if the Lord refuses to allow it. So I can feel myself wandering around trying to grab an anchor for the message. Something is wrong, and this morning the Lord opened it up to me.
Unforgiveness is killing these people. Not just physically, but spiritually. In 1994, Genocide stormed through Rwanda when the Hutus slaughtered one million Tutsi’s in 100 days. The hatred and bitterness for the horrible acts of barbaric butchery is too deep to describe in words, and the intense pain has created a wall of ice that blocks the bottom of their hearts. On the surface, all is well, but down deep there are raw wounds that have not healed. I understand the pain – my God, I have no idea what I would have been like had it been me — nevertheless, there cannot be any revival here until this wall is broken down. Last night, someone threw a grenade into a group of people here in town, killing at least two and wounding several others. The hatred between Tutsi’s and Hutus is still raging.
It seems that great moves of God are oftentimes birthed out of pain and suffering. Perhaps that is the only way God can cut through the outer layers of fat and grease around our hearts to touch the real pathos of our souls. If that is so, then that explains the intense hunger that these people have for the Gospel. The level of excitement here is incredible! Hundreds pour into whatever church I am in, having walked for miles to get there, just to soak up anything and everything I can deliver. One hundred souls have been saved in the last two days alone. How wonderful! And yet, with all this desperate hunger and crying out to God, that wall of unforgiveness blocks the innermost recesses of their hearts and closes them off from God. It’s killing them.
This afternoon, I met with about 200 pastors and leaders and brought them through the Lord’s Prayer. The entire ending is all about forgiving those who have trespassed against us. If we cannot forgive others, then neither can the Lord forgive us. There are no exceptions, no level of degrees, no mitigating circumstances, and no excuses. Pretty severe. I see no way around it. These people have everything else that would drive them into a great move of God here, but this root of bitterness and hatred eradicates everything. There can be no revival with unforgiveness.
The pastors agree that this pain lies over the people like a dark shroud, but they do not know what to do about it. I asked them if they would like to have an altar call. Deliverance for others must begin with ourselves before we can minister it to others. There is no feeling like seeing the bursting forth of weeping and tears from broken hearts at the altar of God.
I know of no other solution. There is no 10 Step Plan to complete deliverance and victory; no CD, program, or book that can do this. Flesh cannot win spiritual battles. Only God can do this.
The tragedy of Rwanda is that, after all the horrors of Genocide that they have suffered, this wall of unforgiveness would keep them back from the one thing that can dissolve all the pain and torment and set them free – a true, Heaven sent, God fearing, soul saving, Holy Ghost revival.
Dear God, give me the power to deliver your Word as a hammer that will break this rock in pieces and set them free! As great as the darkness is that has afflicted these people, let your power be ever so much greater. Oh God, send revival!
True to human nature, we like to view the idea of revival as a time of great rejoicing, singing and dancing, and an explosion of the joy of the Lord. But the fact of the matter is that for every revival, both Biblical and in history, the doorway to revival is filled with the exact opposite.
No revival comes without repentance. Nehemiah knew this as did Daniel. Even after reading in the Word of God about the restoration of Jerusalem (which is a picture of revival), Daniel did not go party with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, but instead dropped to his knees in repentance. It was written and it had to come to pass, nevertheless, revival must be preceded by a time of great repentance. Holiness must precede the outpouring of the Holy Ghost.
It is at the Altar of God where we seek the face of God for entrance to His Spirit. That is the door that leads to revival. But the Altar is not a place of singing and dancing – it is a place of blood, sacrifice, and death! It is the place where the fire falls, but the fire only falls on a blood-soaked dead sacrifice. The desperate cries of Rachael – “Give me children lest I die!” – must be the soul-wrenching cry of those who fall to their knees in humble, broken repentance to cry out to God for revival. These prayer warriors and intercessors are the ones who travail through the birth pains to bring forth any move of God. Their cries must reach Heaven. This is not a time for the faint or hesitant – this is a desperate weeping of the soul for the deliverance of God’s people. There is no room for defeat or denial – we must have revival lest we die!
How quickly these lessons are overshadowed by more superficial images of a church enjoying a great time of rejoicing and praise! We tend to overlook the things that are unpleasant, and focus on the things that make us happy. We are like children. Proverbs says, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” To approach the holy presence of God with a superficial attitude that dismisses the chilling fear of God will never bring revival. If anything, it will drive it far from you.
I preached to a gathering of university students yesterday who spent an hour or so in loud singing and dancing, jumping up and down, waving hands, and shouting the praises of God. It was wonderful … until I brought a message of repentance and the price that God requires for a true and lasting revival. The room quieted to a somber level and much of the crowd began to dissipate. It wasn’t fun anymore.
I worried that it might be my fault. Perhaps I was not deep enough in the Spirit, or I had not presented the message correctly, or had done something wrong to change the atmosphere so dramatically. But from there, we stopped by another church in the city where I delivered pretty much the same message to several hundred people. What a difference! The hands went up, the voices exploded with enthusiasm, and the prayers broke through the ceiling! It was as if they had been waiting for God to please send someone with this message. They were so desperate for revival that they were ready to pay whatever price was required.
I went back to the college that evening for another session assured that everything would now be different. I was ready to deliver a message of Elijah’s challenge. I could feel that tingling feeling up and down my arms that told me I was in the Spirit. But, again, after the singing and dancing was over, they were still not ready to receive a message that pointed them to the broken surrender of repentance, deep prevailing prayer, and a desperate crying out to God. What was the difference between the two places? It wasn’t the message – that was the same in both places. It was the hearts.
Unless the fallow ground of our hearts is broken up, it cannot receive the seeds of the harvest. And then that broken ground must be watered with the tears of repentance and weeping. Only then will you see the seeds of the Word of God that have been planted begin to germinate and grow up into a great harvest of souls.
You see, revival is not about having a great church service or a wonderful time of praise in the Lord. It is about winning souls. That is the reason God sends revival – to revive His Church to rise up to the calling placed upon her to be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth with fruit. It is the call to true Charity – the giving of yourself out of love, so that souls can be saved. This is the purpose of revival. It is the message of the Cross. It is the great call upon all of us to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him. And where did He go? To Calvary to die so that souls could be saved. Including you.
Anything else is a cheap imitation of the Grace of God.
I know you can’t judge long term effects by short term results, but sometimes it’s nice to see the end from the beginning … or at least as you’re on your way there. We have planted seeds today, but there’s no telling which will grow and bring forth fruit and which will not.
It was another day of contrasts. I spent the night in prayer – not because I’m so spiritual, but because that stupid Jet Lag woke up again at 2:00 am and I was wide awake. I figured I could do one of two things: either torment myself by lying in the bed for the next few hours trying to go to sleep, or make the assumption that the Lord woke me up to get up and pray. Figuring that I might as well make the most of it, I stayed up to pray. By morning, I was pumped and ready for anything. I felt like my feet were firmly planted on something solid and I had a grip on God and could tackle the challenges of the day with all confidence. Before the day was out, I was going to need that confidence.
It was Sunday and the morning service was at a fairly large church in Kigali. Normally, this is their day for healing services, but the pastor had been told that if he let us bring a message about revival, his congregation would be blessed. He took a chance and let me come.
This was a wonderful church. You could feel that warm feeling in the air as soon as you walked in. The joy of the Lord was in this place. If I lived in Kilgali, this is where I would want to go to church. As I took the pulpit, I could feel the Spirit begin to flow. Oh, this was going to be a great service!
I have often said that my job is simply to show up. I don’t control the message or the Spirit that brings it, and I don’t control the hearts of the people to receive it. I just show up. Granted, I had better be in the Spirit- read up, prayed up, and fasted up - so that I can be a yielded vessel for God to control. Our flesh has to be crucified for the Spirit to work freely through us. That’s my job, but all the rest is up to Him. I’m just there to be a mouthpiece. When things are open and flowing, it is because the hearts of the people are open to receive from God. Conversely, when the message is not flowing, something is blocking that connection between them. As in Fluid Dynamics, the receiving end has to be open to enable the flow.
This church was wide open. The Spirit of God touched some souls there like they had not experienced before. You know you’ve hit the bullseye when people tell you that the reason God sent you to Africa was specifically for them. If you are operating under the Anointing, that happens all the time. When God is anointing the message, He is able to reach out to touch the innermost places of their hearts. He is a personal God.
The University that afternoon, however, was just the opposite. We had gone to great lengths and expense to bus these kids in and give them the booklets because they had said they wanted to launch the Gideon Generation Movement, but once the service had started, it was as if something was blocking the flow of the Spirit. We just could not punch through the wall of impassive faces that stared back at us. I felt like Paul in Athens. Intelligence and education can be great liabilities because they promote the cerebral over the spiritual and make you think that you are smarter than what you really are. What a tough crowd!
What was different? All covenants with God are predicated on humility. The Tree of Knowledge offers you a fruit that is desired to make you wise in your carnal mind, but the Tree of Life requires you to surrender all to God. In order to enter into a covenant with God to send revival, we must come to a place of repentance before God so that He can take over the Church. That will not happen through logic or intelligence but only through a broken heart. Unless we realize the vast difference between the corruption of flesh and the holiness of God, we can never truly come to a place of repentance and break before the Altar of God. And until that happens, God cannot use you.
Both Noah and myself prayed over them and cried out to God to pry open their hearts and give them true understanding. They have heard a message that they have not heard before in that revival is not about singing and dancing but that there is a price to pay for revival. We have handed out about 1,000 booklets that have the message that we have been bringing all over Africa. Our prayer is that they will read it and, like the Bereans, will search the Scriptures and see if these things are true.
My job is to show up. It is God’s job to take it from there.
Our next stop is at a little village called Rukira in eastern Rwanda. Leaving the town of Kabunga, we have to head out on some dirt roads over the hills, through the valley, and up the next mountain to get there. There are no hotels out here, so we will have to commute from Kabunga for three days. The brothers are telling me that there is going to be a thousand people there. Uh huh. A thousand, did you say? Typically in Africa, whenever you are told one thing, you can expect something else, so I’m figuring that maybe 50 people will show up.
I was wrong. There were somewhere between 3,000 to 4,000.
Coming with us was Theo, a celebrity friend of my partner here, Pastor Isaiah. Both of them are very popular singers and their songs can be heard on the radio throughout Rwanda. Theo is so popular that wherever we stopped, people would throng him. I wouldn’t say he was quite like Elvis, but he was definitely a celebrity. So between Theo and Isaiah, we had a draw that brought people from miles and miles around. Fine with me. I’ll use whatever I can to bring the message to as many people as I can.
Needless to say, we had a great time. Besides all the singing and rejoicing which could be heard from miles away, we had an altar call to which so many people responded that I couldn’t count them -- maybe 150 to 200? Calling souls down to the altar is not hard to do. All you have to do is ask and they will come. When you assume everyone is saved just because they came to church, your lack of courage spurns the souls who desperately need more than just a Sunday afternoon service.
The next day, I spoke to the church and the Lord stopped me from delivering any message about revival until sin had been dealt with in the church. At times like these, you have to throw out whatever you think you’re supposed to do or say and trust the Lord to speak through you. Let me tell you, that is not always easy, but if you can just let go, the results are … well, … supernatural. If you want to see God move, you gotta let Him have His way. If you don’t, well, you’re on your own. Good luck with that.
The great sin in this place has to do with unforgiveness. If you cannot forgive others, God cannot forgive you, and subsequently, there can be no revival as long as this sin blocks the path. This area was tortured with the Genocide in 1994 and the bitterness runs deep. They may have covered it up on the outside, but it has been festering away down in the bottom of their hearts. On the surface, these people may have been all good Christians; inside they are like dead men’s graves.
I felt the Lord lead me to call them to repentance, and for the next half hour, it was like a dam had burst! There was no stopping it once their hearts broke. Weeping and crying out to God in tortured desperation, and grasping the Throne of God for mercy, the whole congregation was swept along by a mighty flood of repentance. All Noah, Isaiah, and I could do was just stand there and let them go. They rolled right over us while they poured out their hearts to God.
What a cleansing! What a refreshing in the Lord! You could feel a dark burden lift off the church as they were set free. As we ended the service, there was a rejoicing in the Spirit that had been a long time in coming. People were hugging, laughing and crying with each other as a great joy filled the place. Something great has just taken place here that will affect the future of this whole area. The sin has been washed away and the victory has come.
And when they do, all the glory will go to God.
We are now in Kabunga, Rwanda, a small town that has the only hotel for miles. The place is clean and tidy and fairly comfortable except for the water. You have to be ready to catch it when its running, which apparently is only for a short while around 6 am. After that, it’s a slow dribble into a plastic tub from which you then scoop it out to pour over yourself for a shower. I guess you might say that it’s part of the adventure … J
I preached at this same church where we are having services at last year, but the pastor had been out of the country. He has been waiting for me to come back ever since. The Lord had energized his congregation after I had left and had turned it into a soul-winning church. They have taken the message to the streets, the hospitals, and anywhere they could to witness to the lost and his church has grown significantly. And this pastor wants more.
Lately, the Lord has been trying to teach me the lesson of unreserved trust. I got this strong feeling not to prepare my message for this afternoon. While I never prepare my messages in a typical sense, I do like to have an idea of which direction I am going. But not this time. It is difficult to sit there and not allow your mind to search out different passages that I might use or different subjects to follow. But it was like trying to grab hold of a mist.
Just before I got up to go to the pulpit, I burst out with, “You lead, Lord, and I will follow”. And the scripture about Abraham in Hebrews 11 flashed through my head. Another message about revival that I had never before considered! I wasn’t sure where we were going with this, but we were going somewhere! I jumped up with a renewed exuberance and headed for the pulpit.
Fire ran up and down that church tonight as the message poured out of me. I’m sure glad I didn’t try to figure out what I was going to say because I’d have never figured this one out. I watched as God began to move amongst the congregation and break through to their hearts. Even the pastor, who normally is a very sedate, composed person, was jumping up and down in excitement on top of his chair, and as the services were ending, he was dancing along with everyone else in a Spirit-led celebration which lasted for I don’t know how long. And this came from a message of challenge and repentance, not of blessing and false promises! Go figure.
Another 20 souls got saved at the end of the service. That makes well over 400 souls since we began two weeks ago. These souls see the fire of God running in services and they want to be part of it.
Victory comes when you surrender to God. And learning how to let go and trust Him is part of that surrender. When you do that, you untie the hands of God so He can take over and do the miraculous.
My friend Barry put it well: it is like driving a stage coach at breakneck speed down a winding mountain road in the middle of the night in a pouring rain with a sheer drop-off just inches to your side … and you just throw the reins to the horses!
It takes courage to trust the Lord to that degree. It also takes a hope that is birthed out of a desperation for something more than just “church as usual”.
We had a taste of that tonight.
Doesn’t that name sound exotic? It carries all the expectations of a deeply foreign African enclave in the heart of this distant, mysterious continent.
And so it is. Where Kilgali in Rwanda is clean and almost antiseptic in comparison to this bustling, gritty city, Bujumbura seems to possess more of that easy, flowing African soul. Where Rwanda is a controlled society, Burundi is anything but. Rwanda’s populace is constantly aware of keeping all the rules, including seat belts and litter, whereas Burundi’s asks the question, “What rules?” Kigali is the Park Avenue to Bujumbura’s Greenwich Village. Can you tell which one I prefer? Cindy, I’m sure, would love Kilgali, but I can let loose in Bujumbura.
There is also a stronger sense of revival stirring here amongst the churches and the university students. They not only want revival, they are poised for it. I do not have to convince them that the price for revival is high – they already know. When I tell them that I am not a nice guy, they laugh because they don’t want a “nice guy”. They want the truth!
I have been told repeatedly that I am not like all the other Muzumgu preachers from America with their messages of love, peace, blessing, and prosperity. It makes me wonder what we have been telling these people. Are we so interested in trying to show how nice we are that we have filled them with an insipid Pollyanna Gospel in which everything is beautiful and everybody loves everybody as we tiptoe off into the garden of Love? I am not telling them anything unusual – just the old-time Gospel that our forefathers preached -- Repent or Perish! So why is this message standing so far out from the crowd of well-wishers and do-gooders that flock here to spread the American Gospel of Prosperity and Love?
They recognize a severe difference, and while they are accommodating, they are not interested in what they see as an American Gospel. They want something real. After the service last night, an old man came up to me and said, “You really don’t care what anyone thinks about you, do you?” Nope. There is too much hanging in the balance.
Revival will not come without repentance, and if it won’t come here in Africa where they are so hungry for God, it sure won’t come in America where we are far too comfortable to stretch our souls into a desperate cry for repentance from our “church as usual” that we clutch so closely to our hearts. I have to bring this message in a clarity of truth, regardless of what anyone thinks of me, so that those who have open hearts that are ready to hearken and receive this message may plant this seed and bring forth a harvest.
Those who prefer a much easier Gospel have a different path and destination.
“And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow …” (Matthew 13:3)
It has been an exhausting week. If I didn’t feel an obligation to tell you all about the things that have happened, I would probably just roll over and go to sleep, but I feel these events that are happening here are important because they are a precursor to the great move of God that is coming in these last days.
Am I a hopeless optimist? I don’t believe so. I am too much of an analyst for that. I can see what is coming by what is written in the Word, and I can see that the things that are transpiring right now fit perfectly into what has to be His plan. When you can add up the numbers, the answers will always make sense.
When I first started coming to Africa in 2004, I had no idea why I here, what I was doing, or where this all was going. I have always firmly believed in the great end time revival spoken about in Joel, Isaiah, and hinted at in other prophets, but could never pin a timestamp on it other than that it would be just before the Day of the Lord, which was coming up pretty quick.
This mission here became focused when the Lord showed me a vision of a field of wheat. That field was so dry and brittle that it had turned white. I watched myself step into that field, strike a match, and drop it into the grass. As the field of grass exploded into flame, the Lord spoke to me that that was His people in Africa.
Okay, I’m not stupid. I get it now. Go preach revival to Africa and start the fire. So I started coming to Africa and kept on coming. Eight years ago, I would not have expected to still be coming, but here I am still preaching the same message -- modified and evolved somewhat, but basically with the same thrust.
So when is this Great Africa Revival going to show up? I don’t know, but does it really matter? I mean, after all, I can’t just snap my fingers and command the Heavens. I have to wait just like everybody else … and keep striking matches.
But lately, I’ve noticed that the pace is speeding up. Last year was pretty intense, but this year has been even more so. I’m preaching to more places and to wider audiences than ever. The crowds are getting bigger and more people are recognizing the power in this message. More people are getting saved and healed, and more churches are getting fired up than ever before. And I am running at a harder pace than ever … and boy, do I feel it.
Towards the end of this week, I was so worn out that I was beginning to feel like a block of stone -- a talking robot if you will. I couldn’t remember what day it was or what I was about to say. And don’t ask me to cross the room and remember to do something! I just kept going, 2, 3, and 4 services every day. Keep preaching, keep bringing the message, keep going. I would be in a daze until I stood up behind the pulpit, and then, I’m telling you, the Spirit would come down and I would wake up and all that mind-numbing fog would dissipate like smoke.
I don’t know how much longer the Lord will have me punching out this message. Will I get too old or sick? Will people get tired of supporting this ministry? Will God keep pouring out His fire in service after service? Is He going to keep healing people and winning souls? I guess those are not my problems. I just gotta keep going.
I am seeing more and more brothers and sisters are picking up the torch and going forth to light more fires. They’ve heard the message, felt the fire, and have answered the call. The fire is spreading and the pace picking up.
The train is starting to leave the station. I can hear the whistle blowing.
It’s raining this morning. You’d think that would set a somber tone to the day but actually, it feels refreshing, like washing away all the dust from the last few weeks. I don’t have any services until 6 pm tonight, so I can just sit here and muse and let the day roll along as it lumbers past me. I must be tired.
There are two strong currents pulling on me. One is pulling on my heart to come home. I’m both physically and emotionally drained and desperately miss my sweetheart and all my girls. It is at this stage of every trip that I turn into a cranky old man and everything becomes hard. I am so ready to go home.
But the other current pulls on my heart to keep on going - one more church, one more city, one more soul, just a little more … This message works. It is transforming church after church and opening their eyes, not only to what revival is really about, but the price they have to pay to get one. It’s as if this is the missing manual; the secret key to unlock the door; the hidden answer to the desperate cry of their hearts. It is hard to turn from them and head off to the comforts of America when they are so hungry for what the Lord has to give them.
Last night, I spoke to a group of university students who had gathered to hear about revival from the white man from America. As I have heard in so many other places, they were expecting a soft message of peace, love and blessings with false promises that never come to pass. But there is always hope, so they came. And once we began, they did not want to go home. It was as if they have been clueless for answers about revival and here, at last, were the answers that made sense. All they have heard are messages of blessings and prosperity that they are finally coming to realize do not work. So where are the courageous ministers of our past who had the guts to stand up and tell these people the truth and were not worried about what anyone thought?
I hear this all the time – Africans are tired of the message that they hear from the Americans who come here. One pastor told me that he has to be very careful about promoting someone from America because they always carry the same weak message. How sad that the country that once produced great men and women of God whose messages transformed the world and broke the power of darkness now only produces weak and insipid preachers who have nothing but an anemic gospel to offer in its place.
I preach a different message than what they are used to hearing. There is a price to pay for revival and it begins on your knees. My first job is to shatter their illusion of “church” and point them to the altar of deep, broken-hearted repentance. No revival comes until that threshold has been crossed.
Once the word gets out that here is a message with teeth that is accompanied by the power of the Holy Ghost, everything changes. People want to hear the truth, not some Pollyanna Gospel to make them feel good about themselves. And when they hear it, they come.
So you see, as much as I am dying to go home, there is a strong tugging on my heart to keep going – one more church, one more service, one more group of hungry hearts …
But it is time to go. Three more services and I am finished here in Burundi. My money is about gone, but thankfully, a church has offered to pay for my hotel and food for the last remaining days I am here in this town. As soon as I get home, however, I have to turn around and head for Nigeria – a conference at Abuja in March, a series of churches and meetings in Lagos for April, and then a tour of churches, kings, and crusades in the Delta State in August. I dare not stop until Africa is ablaze with revival. It is only then that this same fire will spread around the world and reach America.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1)
Faith is a choice. It is not something that is thrust upon you or presented as a set of choices to pick from. It is something that you have to reach for that lies beyond the grasp of your understanding. You have to choose to believe.
I have always been struck by the passage in the 2nd chapter of 2 Thessalonians that tells us that God will send strong delusion to those who do not have a love of the truth but have pleasure in unrighteousness. This life, therefore, is a test for our souls. We are eternal creatures created in His likeness, but our choices determine our final destiny. Will we follow our hearts in a path that leads to self-gratification , or will we choose the fear of the Lord? Only we can make that choice.
Faith, then, is not a matter of believing in God because it makes sense. The Gospel does not make sense to the carnal mind – not the unseen existence of another world, not the path we are called to that leads through the sufferings of the Body of Christ, nor the ultimate victory that was won on the Cross. Everything about God is contrary to the world we live in. And yet, He asks us to close our eyes and believe.
Faith is a choice we make that is born out of Hope. We hope in the righteousness of God. We hope that it is all true that there really is a God who is holy, that Truth is supreme, that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness shall be filled, and that, in the final culmination of all things, we will walk on streets of gold. We hope, and we make a choice to believe in hope as did Abraham, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Faith that is born out of such hope stretches us past our horizons and creates a vision in our hearts to believe God for the impossible, to take us past what we can see, and reach all the way into Eternity.
Faith is the very substance of that righteousness that we hope for because as we reach through the portal of Eternity, we grab hold of the hem of His garment and touch the Throne of God.
God likes small things. Ever notice that? Not only does He stick up for the poor and needy, but He seems to like using little people from little places, nobodies if you will, to do great things. The big shots like Moses, the prince of Egypt, He breaks down and turns them into nobodies before He can use them. How unlike the way we would do things. But then, He is God and He can do it however He wants to.
While we were in the city of Bujumbura, we had some great services in several of the churches there. Some of them were huge – one had 6,000 members – but others were moderate in size. The people there are hungry for revival like everyone else in Africa, but they are a step ahead of most others. They already understand that the modern Gospel which proclaims blessings and wealth for the believer will not fulfill the promises it claims – certainly not the ones for revival. They know and understand that any true revival comes with a price, that price is high, and it will take something special from God to give us the power to pay it. They want a message that gets right to the meat of the matter – tell us what we have to do to bring revival.
Prayer groups are beginning to spring up. Christians are binding together to read the Word with each other. Outreaches are stretching out into the communities to witness to the lost and bring them in. They are setting the stage for the next step to revival. The Presence of God that brings the kind of Holy Ghost conviction that crushes people to their knees in repentance is right around the corner. If you ask God for revival, He will bring a conviction, and it will burst forth across the entire church. The house has to be cleansed before He can come in.
This is what we find in the city, but up in the back country where the rural countryside tends to have a lower level of sophistication, God seems to move in greater power. The outbursts of God’s power that we found in the two towns we ministered in the back country were far more explosive then what we found in the city. This has been true wherever I have gone.
Why is that? Are country people less encumbered with the demands of society? Are they less “worldly”? Do they have a clearer picture of Eternity because their vision is not cluttered? Is their faith simple because their lives are simpler and more direct? I don’t know and I am not trying to figure it out. I have enough to worry about.
What I do know, however, is that God uses the weak things of the world to confound the strong and foolish things to confound the wise so that all the glory goes to God. I also realize that He will use anybody that will simply have the courage to believe Him. He used a teen-age shepherd boy to take down a giant and an 80-year old shepherd to take down a mighty king. And, I might add, a jackass to take down a prophet.
He can use you to change the world. Not the guy next to you – you! You just have to have the faith to take Him at His Word and act on it.
Gitegi is a fair sized town in the hills of Burundi. As in most African cities, the streets are cluttered with shoebox storefronts sporting a cacophony of opposing faded colors, peeling paint, and years of grime. There is a running life to the city that seems to thrive on the disharmony of yelling matatu drivers, honking horns, and shouting hawkers trying to sell you cell phone airtime. It starts in the morning and lasts into the evening when the street vendors come out to roast corn and fry up Chapati, a thick tortilla-like favorite of all Africans.
But besides the daily bustle of the streets, there is little else going on in the city. Most people, if they have a few francs, will hang out at some pub and have a few beers with their friends and watch soccer on TV. But that’s about it. And every day is pretty much the same.
Maybe this is a perfect situation for revival. When there is not much going on around you to look at, maybe it is time to look up. Certainly the Christians here are hoping for something more than just going to church on Sunday. They want revival; they just don’t know what to do.
The pastor of the church where I am preaching was also my host where I was preaching in Ruyigi, so the folks here have heard all about the outpouring of the Spirit that happened in there. So when I walked into the first service, I felt like I was under glass. They were staring at me in hopeful expectations that I would bring the same outpouring here that came down in Ruyigi. Uh, excuse me, but I am not a rainmaker, don’t do miracles, and most of the time don’t even know what I am doing or how to do it. But I have learned that it is pointless to argue. I represent hope to them, and I dare not take that away.
The first service here did not seem very cohesive to me, but I have been going for 4 weeks now and am running on empty. There just ain’t much left in the bucket to pour out, so it is not surprising to me that I just ain’t got it like I had it a few weeks ago.
But then, towards the end of the service, you could feel this shift in the message. I started driving toward salvation, repentance, and having that personal experience and new life with Jesus Christ. I called for them to come to the altar. I could feel it that there were those out there who did not have a right relationship with God, but they were slow to respond.
Then a young girl raised her hand. I told her to come on down. Then another. And another. And then, here they come! Somewhere between 125 to 150 people came down to the altar. Once the flow started, it poured.
I guess it just didn’t matter what the message was like. God is dealing with these people. They had come from the town to hear what God had to say and fell like ripe fruit into His hands.
On the second day at Gitegi, I brought another message of revival for the church and 11 souls got saved during the Altar Call. For the most part, however, the Lord was dealing with the church to change from their complacency to a vibrant walk of action. If you want revival, you can’t just sit there and wait – you have to do something or nothing will happen. And that starts with prayer and repentance. The seed was planted and it bore forth fruit the next evening.
The 3rd service in Gitegi was electrifying from the very start. I knew it would be good because I could feel myself falling back into the free flow of the Spirit. The message just rolled out of me and connected with their hearts. The place was packed with people from all over town, not just this church. When the word spread that the Spirit of God was moving in these services, people came. Just like in Jesus’ ministry, when people are hungry for Truth, they will drop everything they are doing and walk a hundred miles to come to Jordan to hear the Word of God. When I gave the Altar Call, it was like a mighty river poured out of the pews down to the altar. 250 souls came down – some for first-time salvation, others for re-dedication and repentance for dead works. I say 250, but really, you just had to guess because there were so many that you couldn’t count them. What a cry was heard! What a refreshing and a cleansing in the air! What a transformation in the church! And what a promising beginning for revival in this little town of Gitegi!
This was my last service for this campaign. I am more than ready to go home. It is difficult to relay to others the price that is paid to bring this message of revival to these different towns and villages. Money is the most obvious, each trip costing several thousands of dollars, but the invisible costs of the strain of delivering message after message, continued traveling, food, and separation from home are often overlooked. I am tired of eating alone. The real hardships, however, are spiritual in nature. Satan never sleeps and is constantly at work in the spiritual, mental, and emotional realm. The only relief comes when the saints begin to hold up a defense around you in prayer. You can feel the dramatic difference when they break through.
But when you can see the vision spread out before you in the shining faces of these people who have just entered into a new hope that God will really move in their lives, their churches, and their communities, the price diminishes to nothing. What could possibly be more important than this?
When I am out here delivering my soul to these hungry people, I feel more alive than ever. I will be back.