Last week Dena and I got to spend the week in Wheaton, IL at Wheaton College / Billy Graham Evangelism Center. The Graham Center, now led by Ed Stetzer, was hosting “Amplify,” an international Conference for Pastors and Evangelism leaders from around the world. The speakers included people from Asia, Australia, Mexico, South America, Europe, Africa and the USA—including men working on the front lines in inner city Chicago. It was one of the most beautiful and spirit-filled gatherings of the Body of Christ I have ever experienced. There was a clarion call from God’s Word for us to unite around our Savior to reach our broken and hurting world. God spoke through many gifted servants words of encouragement, words of unity, of hope and challenge to us all.
In light of last night’s tragic events of Dallas where 5 Police Officers were murdered, and in light of Orlando, Paris, Brussels, Bangladesh, Baton Rouge, Ferguson, St Paul, et al, can there be any doubt that our nation and world are in trouble? Has there been any moment in our lifetime when we were more clearly in need of Divine intervention? Is there any hope?
At Amplify, I met a young pastor from Mexico named Paco Amador. Paco is a father of 7 children who pastors a church in the Little Village Community of inner-city Chicago. He told about when a number of Chicano, white and African American pastors in his area were meeting to pray together (after Ferguson, MO) and they felt led to completely change their Sunday morning worship plans the next morning. Instead of meeting for worship inside their churches, they had a prayer and worship march through their community. One congregation started at their location marching, singing and rejoicing. Then as they entered the next neighborhood, another church met them and joined the procession. This went on for miles, the people of God from every ethnic group gathering together, singing songs of praise to Jesus, showing the love of Christ, greeting, singing, dancing, hugging and loving on one another and everyone they met. By noon there were thousands gathered from all over the city giving glory to God for His great love and mercy through Jesus Christ. Is this not a beautiful picture of the Body and Bride of Christ?
During the week, I had the blessing of having lunch with Billy Graham’s historian, a quiet and thoughtful man named Wayne Atcheson. Wayne oversees The Graham Historical Library in North Carolina and he documents events, crusades and moves of God during the 60 plus years of Billy’s ministry. It was a rare opportunity to hear stories from an insider close to the ministry and to the family. Knowing this was my chance—since it was just the two of us sitting together in the Wheaton College cafeteria, I asked him question after question. Near the end of our hour-long conversation, he asked if I had heard about what God has been doing in West Virginia and North Carolina in the past 90 days? He said that Franklin Graham had asked him to document the revival and spiritual awakening that is taking place there. God is doing some amazing things through young people (and others) who are on fire for Him. I said that I had heard some and had shared what I knew with my church family. Yes, I had read a short article in the Billy Graham magazine last month but didn’t know the whole story. My heart burned as Wayne quietly shared stories about what the Spirit of God was doing to bring hope, repentance and thousands of reported salvations in those areas. (As promised, after we returned home, I received his very detailed write-up about the West Virginia revival with his assurance that the North Carolina document would soon follow.) Here’s an excerpt:
“On March 24, Skyler Miller, a football athlete at Logan County High School, 28 miles north of Williamson, WV, was boldly led of God to preach in the school hallway after lunch. Skyler had been healed of leukemia twice and gave his life to Christ after the first healing. Students listened to Skyler that day with his great passion, boldness and conviction. Some repented of their sins and invited Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Savior.”
That was the first event of hundreds that followed over the next few months all over Logan and Wingo County, West Virginia. The revival is ongoing today. This gives me hope that we can see this in our lifetime. Before we said our good-byes, Wayne shared about a recent conversation with Anne Graham Lotz who said, “Daddy is still praying for revival fires and longs to see this in his lifetime…” (Billy is now 97). She went on to say, “Daddy and I have talked about how the world is not so much falling apart as it is falling into place. God is orchestrating His plans as He sees fit.”
Over and over in the Bible we read about when the people of God get desperate enough, when their circumstances are painful enough, then they finally come to their senses and cry out to God. They recognize their deep need for brokenness, for healing for repentance and finally and fully return to Him for healing. (We will look at some of this in 1 Kings 8-10 this Sunday) There is good news. He is able to cover, forgive and heal! Sin and selfishness drive away the presence and glory of God from our lives and from His Church. But the presence of God drives out sin and brings revival! When this happens, the people in the area are exposed to the dramatic change in the lives and priorities of His people. God’s people must lead the way in praying for peace, for healing and for God to reveal Himself and His ways to us (See 2 Chronicles 7:14). We must fulfill our God-given assignment to be His Ministers of Reconciliation and Ambassadors for Christ. “For Christ’s love compels us.” (See 2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, joy and rejoicing! Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is unity and love and compassion for one another. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there will be reconciliation and unity among people from every language and tribe and tongue! And Who gets the glory for that? Amen. Are we desperate enough yet? I pray it will be soon and very soon. Before it’s too late. Will you join me?