Rev Dr Edgar Mayer – Living Grace Lutheran Church, Toowoomba – Date: 28 June 2015
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Leaving a Legacy 1 (Abraham)
For a long time, God was known foremost by his dealings with three men and their families. Before his people even knew his name – Yahweh – or heard a single prophecy about Jesus, God – for centuries – was simply known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Exodus 3:1-6: Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’
This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.
Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’”
Acts 3:13-16: The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.
For centuries, there was not too much known about God except that he was the God with whom Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had a history and the history with God of these men and their families set the course for all of their descendants and the world. What happened? What were the lessons for the generations to come?
God made promises and it all began with Abraham whom he plucked from a foreign country, seventy-five years of age, married but with no children. God said to him:
Genesis 12:1-9: The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.
Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.
These promises were repeated to Isaac and Jacob and God never retracted anything but expanded the promised blessings:
Isaac – Genesis 26:2-5: The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.”
Genesis 26:23-24: From there he went up to Beersheba. That night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.”
Jacob – Genesis 27:26-29: Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.”
So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said, “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed. May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness—an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”
Genesis 28:10-15: Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
God promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that a) they would have descendants b) who would become a great nation c) through whom all nations would be blessed. God promised e) land f) which would produce an abundance of grain and new wine. God promised to make them a magnet and multiplier of blessings. Nothing could harm them and any curses spoken against them would simply bounce back on those that cursed them. As far as promises of God go, this is hitting the jackpot. What more can you want?
The promises were great but, as with promises that we may have received, God is patient in making them come to pass. Neither Abraham nor Isaac nor Jacob would possess any land [Abraham managed to purchase his burial plot in the Promised Land] or an abundance of crops [they would remain nomads]. None of them got glimpses of a great nation forming and there was stuff happening all of the time – betrayal and famines, lives on the run and conflict. Yet, God did not waste a single generation but established legacies for his people through the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and we are still touched by them today.
Abraham was the first to hear all of these promises but nothing happened in response. For years – long years – painful years – when he had already left everything behind him, trusting God – far away from home – all the evidence suggested that his life had been a complete failure because none of God’s promises could possibly come true. His wife was barren; therefore he was without children and this – persistent infertility – had not even been the only threat to the promise of children. While God encouraged him on occasion with wild prophetic imaginings [Genesis 13:16: “I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.” / Genesis 15:5: “He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’” / Genesis 22:17: “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore…”] the reality on the ground looked depressing for a long time. Sarah’s [his wife’s] barrenness was a constant challenge but then twice Abraham almost lost Sarah to another man:
Genesis 12:10-20: Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.
But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.
Genesis 20:1-18: Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.
But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”
Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”
Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. 7 Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die.”
Early the next morning Abimelek summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid. Then Abimelek called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should never be done.” And Abimelek asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”
Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.”
Then Abimelek brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelek said, “My land is before you; live wherever you like.”
To Sarah he said, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.”
Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again, for the Lord had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.
You cannot have children when you don’t have a wife. Then – finally – at the impossible age of one hundred years and with his wife, Sarah, long past menopause – she fell pregnant and a child was born, a son whom they named Isaac.
Genesis 21:1-7: Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
Sarah named the boy “Isaac” which means “laughter” because the birth of Isaac did bring incredible joy to her and Abraham – what a miracle – a baby boy at last (not a great nation but at least a beginning). Only, there was more to come. When Isaac was a few years old, God asked Abraham to give him up. He said: “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you” (Genesis 22:2).
And Abraham obeyed and – having trusted God for all of his life, no matter what – passed the biggest test of faith that is possible. He went to sacrifice his only son. He was prepared to kill off all the promises of God and surrender all of his dreams (his life’s purpose) by giving back to God his only son. If he gave up Isaac – at his age (maybe he was one hundred and twelve years old by then) – it was even more impossible than before to have another child. Only Abraham chose to trust – anyway – and keep exercising faith – anyway. He knew that he had heard God giving him instructions and he would obey them and not worry about any apparent contradictions. He could give up his only son and God would still keep his promises – somehow. Abraham said simply: “He will provide.” And he did.
Genesis 22:6-14: Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
This concluded the life of Abraham. His life’s work was to believe for a son.
Romans 4:18-25: Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
He never saw countless descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and he never saw his descendants live in the Promised Land. He never himself enjoyed the land flowing with milk and honey but this was okay. It was not about him. God’s plan of choosing a man and a nation to bless all nations was not for Abraham’s personal enjoyment on earth. God made Abraham live for one son – all these painful years of waiting and almost despairing – and then leave a legacy of believing for children. God gave Abraham a breakthrough when Isaac was born – a breakthrough against barrenness – and what Abraham attained by faith was then available to the next generation – even to us. God made sure that the breakthrough would be passed on, as we can pass on our breakthroughs.
Isaac married Rebekah and she was also barren which meant that he had to face the same obstacle as his dad, Abraham. How can the promises of God – about becoming a great nation – come true when there are no children? Yet, Isaac did not have to struggle like his dad but, having been blessed by his dad and inheriting his breakthrough, he simply prayed for his wife and the barrenness was broken. She fell pregnant and even had twins.
Genesis 25:19-21: This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Isaac.
Abraham became the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean.
Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. [V26: Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.]
Abraham passed on his breakthrough to Isaac and this is an important lesson because it is often hard to gain a breakthrough but easy to pass on to the next generation and others. At the end of his life, Abraham seemed to fall short of possessing many children by Sarah and he possessed no land but, look at it differently, he had gained a breakthrough which immediately blessed Isaac, the next generation, and was laying a foundation for all of God’s promises to come true. It’s worth spending a life on gaining a breakthrough for your children and their children.
This is what God told Abraham after he had passed the biggest test of his faith (when he was prepared to sacrifice his son and trust God with the future):
Luke 22:18-22: The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
And God also explained the abiding significance of Abraham to his son, Isaac:
Genesis 26:2-5: The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.”
Genesis 26:23-24: From there he went up to Beersheba. That night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.”
For Abraham’s sake, God blessed his son Isaac and gave him descendants. For Abraham’s sake, barrenness was not going to stand in Isaac’s way. The breakthrough of Abraham, his dad, had become his own.
Exodus 20:5-6: … I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
I encourage you to make this perspective your own. Your life matters. Your breakthroughs matter. Our breakthroughs in this church in this generation matter for the next. It’s worthwhile to exercise faith, contend for the promises and go through testing times because nothing is wasted and can be passed on to the next generation. [Wouldn’t it be nice, if God said one day: For Edgar’s sake, for Gary’s sake, for Amy’s sake, for your sake, I will bless the next generation?]
With God, Abraham overcame the curse of barrenness but the broader legacy was his faith – the faith that keeps believing God regardless of the obstacles to God’s promises (and barrenness was only one obstacle among many). Faith is the foundation for everything in God and Abraham established the legacy – also for us who exercise the same kind of faith for God’s promises (faith for a child to be born – to be born again as a child of God):
Romans 4:16-24: Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Galatians 3:6-9: So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Galatians 3:14: He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
[Did you notice that faith like Abraham is so much bigger, more daring and existential than a mere notional version of faith?]
It is interesting that some of the greatest leaders in the church today are people who have been building on the legacy that has been built up by their parents and grand-parents (and even further back).
Rolland and Heidi Baker
Rolland Baker transcript (a few years ago): I am what I am and I am where I am because of what God has done in my grand-father’s life … Now my grand-father started off as an evangelical Hudson Taylor classical missionary. He grew up in Ohio, had Pennsylvania Dutch in him, and he wanted to be a missionary and he wanted to obey the great commission and he wanted to get out there as far away from white men as possible. He wanted to go to the ends of the earth and he was burning up with zeal and nothing would stop him. And this is exactly what he did. He got on a ship to China (six months to get to Shanghai, another six months to get up the Yangtze River), slaves along the river, … up into the mountains of Tibet and my father was born in a little town ten thousand feet up the Tibetan hills … His first two children died of disease. My father was born over a pigsty in a little mountain hut up there – three days yak journey from the closest white man. He started his missionary career. And he worked and he preached and he served and did everything he knew to implement the Great Commission for five years and got one person saved and he wasn’t sure about him. He did everything that he knew to do …
He quit. This is not for me. Missionary work does not suit me. I am not doing this anymore. He got onto a yak’s back, went down the mountain, on a river barge and drifted back to Shanghai, got on another boat, went back to the States, sold Hoover vacuum cleaners to get out of debt … No more missionary work for me … really really tired … Most missionaries in China back then worked their lives for twenty converts … in a very Buddhist demonic society … with meagre results. My grand-father said: “Look God, things have to change but I can’t change them. I am not going back there unless you send me back there unless you go with me, unless you give me some power. I am just not going to do it.”
And that’s when the Pentecostal revival hit in the early 1900s. He’s back there in Ohio and he got completely blasted Pentecostal style. He was the most Pentecostal person I have ever known. Heidi is number two. He did not go another day after that when he didn’t get up at 5am and praying in tongues for two hours … But now God speaking to him, God talking to him, God’s with him. Things are very very different. It’s now God has to do it. He has to make the change. Now my grand-father’s desperate, he just cannot tolerate, cannot contemplate anything but God’s immediate personal presence in his life. And this time, God says: “You go back to China. You don’t sign up with any big denominational organization. You don’t raise your support. You don’t do anything. Just take your wife – my grand-mother – just go back out there and I will be with you …
This time, he goes back, doesn’t know what to do, but he tries at first to be a missionary again. My grand-mother tries to find something to do, goes out their little courtyard there and sees gutter children in the ditch. All China was a wild-west kind of a place, no civil government, no social benefits, no police, no control. It was just wild and crazy – wild bands of robbers and bandits would blow into town. It was just run by just whoever in town had the most guns and killed the most people. My father would look out of his bedroom window and he would watch the robbers shooting each other and executing each other. He watched executions … heads on pikes … violent, bloody, demonic … China in the old days. There were no child labour laws, nobody looking out for anyone, every man for himself.
And there were tin mines around my grand-father’s city and there were commercial capitalistic chieftains that went around the villages and said to the parents (living poor in huts): “Look, I pay you so much money if you give me your children and they work for us.” They would take the children up these tin mines and the tin mines had these tiny little tunnels – so small only a small child could crawl into them. They took advantage of these children and forced them into these mines and worked them with no intention of even feeding them and they just worked them in these tiny tunnels of mines until they died and they would throw the bodies out into the trees and would go to the villages and get more children …
A few of these children managed to survive and crawl into town. It took them a long time and by then they were very very sick, malnourished, diseased and they would end up in rags and in the gutters and my grand-mother would go out and see some of these children surviving and she just began to take them in, hose them off, give them new clothes, two out of three died within a few days. They were so far gone.
Now my grand-father tried to do real missionary work. My grand-mother had nothing better to do. Pretty soon my grand-father took some interest but his missionary friends said: “Harold, you are wasting your time. These kids will never be influential. They never amount to anything. They will never change China. They are useless. Why don’t you deal with nice children? Why don’t you deal with the leaders? Why don’t you train pastors? Why don’t you do something effective …” My grand-mother is hosing off children, finding more kids.
The kids didn’t appreciate it. They didn’t want to study the Bibles. They just wanted to go out play, cause mischief, steal, perfectly normal kids … My grand-parents tried to keep them in chapel a little bit. They were not interested, wouldn’t listen. They didn’t know anything but all of a sudden the Holy Spirit falls and you can read the story in the book “Visions Beyond the Veil”. My grand-father’s book … But it’s all about what God did, not what my grand-father did. All he could do was watch. God fell on these children. He didn’t just fall on them. He took them up to be with in visions for days and weeks and months. They didn’t come out of visions, just long enough every day to get a bite to eat or go to the bathroom or nap for a few hours and they were back on the floor or back walking around, they were caught vividly caught up with God and the angels. At first, they were extremely convicted [of their sins] for days. They wept for their sins – ten year old children. You would think that they were – because they were that victimized – that they had nothing to repent of. They were just poor little children. There’s no reason to heap guilt on them but the Holy Spirit so convicted them. They wept for days and days without knowing anything about salvation. All they knew was that they were lost. And they were chained and dragged off to hell and saved at the last minute and taken up to heaven and then – as the book goes on and on and on – they were just with the angels and with Jesus and in paradise and being shown the truths of the things of God and it went just on and on and on and these children became the pillars of the church in the South Hunan province [a good number of them died as martyrs] and today there is a church of half a million Christians as a result in that area.
These children went out into the villages and prophesied with adult vocabulary and with great power. The Spirit of prophecy was so heavy on them that they would sit down and ask their friends: “What did I say?” And they would go back to their child-like voice and vocabulary. God just fell on them and used them, conquered them, captured them, did anything he liked with them.
And those are the tools he chose, those are the methods he picked. It’s the greatest example of the revelation of the knowledge of God that I have heard in church history. I don’t know anything in church history that would equal what happened to these small band of orphans that my grand-father had. I’ve studied history … read all the mystics. I’ve read every account of revival that I can get my hands on. I’ve never heard of anything like this. These children were in visions. They saw of the future, of the communist takeover of China, of the great tribulation. They saw the future of the church. They saw the last days. They saw such power in the last days. They saw evangelists transported instantly from place to place. You know in Africa the worst problem is transportation. No such problem in the last days. They were able to call fire down from heaven upon unrepentant towns and villages. They saw the rapture. They didn’t see when the rapture was but they saw the bones coming out of the grace and being clothed with bodies. They saw visions of the Old Testament. They saw David and Goliath and Moses and Jonah and Noah. They didn’t know the Bible. They didn’t know the stories but they would come out of these visions and say: “Grandpa Baker, is there anything in the Bible about a little boy and a big giant and a sling and a little rock …”
And when I was three years old and five years old, I would sit on my grand-father’s lap and listen to him talk about power encounters and angels and demons. There was so much that he had to share with me. I never heard the same story twice. My father was fifteen years old when that revival hit and he grew up to start Bible schools. He started one in China. He started one in Hong Kong. He started one in Taiwan. He pioneered churches. His first graduating class in Hong Kong was in 1949. The entire graduating class felt called to go back to China. The entire graduating class went back to China and all of them were executed. They dug their own graves and were executed.
Revival in China has shaped me and my life. Revival in China grows in the midst of the most intense persecution, the most intense suffering – beyond what the mind can comprehend. I remember once hearing in a church in China a pastor’s experience of torture and prison and all the people in the church were weeping as he was telling his testimony and I and many were thinking: “This church really loves its pastor. This church is so sensitive, so sympathetic. It is so moved. It is so sorrowful over what this pastor had to go through. What incredible congregation with such love.” That’s not why they were crying. They were weeping because they had not yet been considered worthy to go through the same thing.
China has completely changed me and shaped me. In the early 90s, I was working on computerize the alphabets and translations for remote tribes up in the province my grand-father was. He worked among minority tribes. Typical of my grand-father, he never went to normal people, to the easiest places, the most common places. He sought out the most remote places, the minority races. The people that were neglected by everyone else. I was working on this Bible translation and we had to print it in Hong Kong, smuggle it into China … Then we had to get up the mountains past the communists and we enlisted the help of this young man. He had already been tortured. He had been hung up behind his back and his feet burned in fires and tortured and all of that and when I asked him to help, he broke down and wept: “I am just not worthy of such a great task of bringing in the word of God like this.” He’s already so far beyond us, we don’t even how to relate to him as he says that.
And so I am sitting as child on my grand-father’s lap and I listen to him talk and talk. And I am telling you, it never occurred to me as a kid that God was all button-holed up in heaven and just would not come down on do anything. It never occurred to me. I cannot not remember ever not believing in Jesus. I cannot ever remember thinking that God would not just do anything. It’s illogical. It doesn’t make sense. Americans don’t get out much. You should go to China and see what a Buddhist priest is capable of. You should go to Africa and see what a witch-doctor is capable of. You should see what evil spirits Muslims get involved in after a while and see what kind of activity is going on. In … the capital city … and yet there is witch-doctors in every block. Everybody is going to a witch-doctor … Everybody knows there is the supernatural. Everybody knows there’s evil spirits about the place …
That’s how it all started on my grand-father’s lap. How can you backwards from that? We spent three years in London – university of Kings’ College. We would start a theological discussion at lunch and we wouldn’t finish till dinner and not resolve anything. We were arguing whether immediacy was possible. We were suggesting that perhaps immediacy might be a good thing and to the great chagrin of all of our professors. But I tell you being a kid on my grand-father’s lap kept me all through school and all through college, throughout all the temptations of everything else I might have done with my life. I wanted to be a scientist. I wanted to be a physicist. I like abstract things. I like equal science. I like things to make sense. I am the total opposite of Heidi.
Rolland E. Baker’s foreword to the book “Visions Beyond the Veil” by his grand-father: Now my wife Heidi and I are in Africa, working among the poorest people we can find, taking in orphaned and abandoned children and looking for lost sheep everywhere we can. And Jesus is again revealing Himself to ‘the least of these’, just as he did in Kunming, China, so many years ago in my grandfather’s orphanage. That outpouring was not in vain; it was not just for the benefit of a few isolated people in a faraway country. Its story has fired hearts among the spiritually hungry around the world for two, and now three generations, and it is being continued today in those who will be like children in His sight.
Bill Johnson, http://bjm.org/bill/: I am a fifth generation pastor on my dad’s side of the family, fourth on my mom’s. My three children are now the sixth generation of pastors. I grew up in a very good Christian home and had a fear of God, and while I never lived in out-and-out rebellion, neither was I a passionate follower of Jesus. The thought of becoming a pastor never once entered my head.
In 1968 at the end of my high school years I moved from the LA area to Redding, California where my parents became the pastors of Bethel Church, and in 1970 the Holy Spirit began to move powerfully in our church community.
It was around this time that Mario Murillo would come and visit our church and speak about being absolutely abandoned to Christ. One Saturday night, alone, I finally said yes to God – the absolute yes. For me everything changed that night. [Bill Johnson and Beni (Brenda) began as singles pastors under his father at Bethel. In 1979, they became senior pastors of Mountain Chapel in Weaverville, California.]
I was invited to pastor Mountain Chapel in Weaverville, California, in 1978 and I accepted only on the basis that this assignment was from the Lord, that I would be sent out from Bethel Church in Redding, and that I would still be able to come under the supervision of my dad who continued to pastor the church in Redding.
We served in Weaverville for 17 wonderful years. During this time the presence of God was so strong on us as a church family that we extended our times of worshiping and glorifying God but in those first years we saw few miracles despite praying for many.
My greatest breakthrough in ministry came after attending two conferences in 1987 put on by John Wimber. I realized I needed to “put a demand” on what I believed – my risk factor had to line up with the boldness of my beliefs. As I did this there was an immediate change in my ministry and we began to see healing and miracles increase.
We moved back to Bethel Church in Redding in 1996 after the leadership there unanimously supported my one condition : I was born for revival and would pursue revival – this was not negotiable.
The outpouring when we started to minister at Bethel began almost immediately, although in seed form, yet grew rapidly and we began to see many healings including multiple cases of cancer healed.
Healings and miracles have become normal today and I rejoice in this.
Many visit Redding weekly, hoping that God will touch them. I am happy to report that many leave well and whole. But many others leave in the same condition in which they came. I refuse to blame God for this, as though He has a purpose in their disease. While Jesus did not heal everyone alive in His time, He did heal everyone who came to Him. His is the only standard worth following.
[Later, I think that Bill called his father, Early, to serve with him at Bethel to help with the revival.]
Brian Johnson was raised by his parents, Bill and Beni Johnson, to make worship and praise before God his life’s greatest pursuit. Alongside his wife Jenn, he carries this message forward today as Senior Worship Pastor at Bethel Church and as Senior Overseer for Bethel's on-campus WorshipU summer program. Brian seeks to empower others to experience God’s kingdom and to equip worship leaders to lead people into His presence. He desires to impact a generation through praise, and see worshippers emerge who carry authenticity, authority, and release the goodness of God. Brian is a founder of Bethel Music, and has produced seven albums, which have influenced the culture of worship in many churches around the world. Brian facilitates an atmosphere of faith in worship and pursues fresh expression of God’s heart through his songwriting. He has written anthems such as “One Thing Remains,” “Love Came Down,” “You Have Won Me” & “For The Sake Of The World”. Brian enjoys his community of family and friends in Redding, California with his wife Jenn and their three children. Brian's song "One Thing Remains" was awarded #1 song for ASCAP Christian Music as well as the 2013 #1 radio single.
Charlie & Julie Harper: Charlie joined the Bethel staff in 2002 as the church administrator and project manager. His projects in his first two years have included the completion of the Earl M. Johnson Memorial Wing to house the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry and the Kingdom Business Institute, the relocation of the playground, and the ongoing development of the ball field …
School of the Supernatural: We also have an award we give out in honour of M. Earl Johnson (Bill Johnson’s father). We choose a male and a female from each class (1st & 2nd) who we feel are living an exemplary Revivalist's Lifestyle in character, heart, spiritually and in their everyday lifestyle. These students give a 3-5 minute charge to their class and share what they've gained during the year (it is not meant to be an Oscar "thank you to everyone," but more of an impartation and charge to their classmates). In years to come, they are invited to a breakfast that honors all past award winners.
Rick Warren, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Warren: Richard Duane “Rick” Warren (born January 28, 1954) is an American evangelical Christian pastor and author. He is the founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church, an evangelical megachurch in Lake Forest, California, that is the eighth-largest church in the United States (including multi-site churches). He is also a bestselling author of many Christian books, including his guide to church ministry and evangelism, The Purpose Driven Church, which has spawned a series of conferences on Christian ministry and evangelism. He is perhaps best known for the subsequent book The Purpose Driven Life which has sold more than 30 million copies, making Warren a New York Times bestselling author.
Warren holds conservative theological views and holds traditional evangelical views on social issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, abstinence-only education over the use of condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS, and embryonic stem-cell research.
During the 2008 United States presidential election, Warren hosted the Civil Forum on The Presidency at his church with both presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama. Obama later sparked controversy when he asked Warren to give the invocation at the presidential inauguration in January 2009.
Rick Warren writes about his dad, James Warren:
stly in small, rural churches. He was an average preacher, but a great carpenter, and, more important, he was a man with a mission. Dad’s favourite activity was taking teams of volunteers around the world to build church buildings in villages devastated by poverty or disaster. In his lifetime, dad built over 150 churches. In the early 1990s, when tens of thousands of Kurds were dying of thirst in refugee camps in northern Iraq, my father led the teams that dug the water wells saving their lives.
Even after he got cancer in old age, my dad’s spirit for serving God by serving others was undaunted. Just months before he died, he told me “Son, I think I’ve got one more church to build inside of me.” He was already suffering the effects of chemo and radiation but I said, “Well dad, you’ve always been a risk-taker. And if you want to die with your boots on, serving the Lord, rather than sitting at home in an easy chair I guess that’s OK with me. Where do you want to build your final church building?” “Siberia,” he said, and off he went. One of my most treasured photos of my father shows him, in his 80s, with cancer, on his knees. on the roof of a small Siberian church, hammer in hand, nailing down roof shingles during a heavy winter snow storm. That was my dad. He believed the local church is the Hope of the World.
In the final week of my dad’s life, his cancer kept him awake in a semi-conscious state nearly twenty-four hours a day. In this dream-like state, he’d talk out loud about what he was dreaming. Sitting by his bedside that week, I learned a lot about my dad by just listening to his dreams. He never talked about the books he’d read, the movies he’d seen, or the war he’d been in. Instead, he dreamed aloud about building churches, reliving one building project after another.
The night before my father died, my wife, my niece, and I were in his bedroom by his side. Dad suddenly became very agitated and tried to get out of bed. Of course, he was too weak to get up so kay insisted he lay back down. But he kept persisting in trying to get out of bed. Finally, Kay in exasperation said “Jimmy, you CANNOT get up! You are dying. We will get you whatever you need. What are you trying to do?”
My dad replied, “I’ve got to save one more for Jesus! I’ve got to save one more for Jesus! One more for Jesus! One more for Jesus” He began to repeat that phrase over and over and over. It is no exaggeration to say that during the next hour, he repeated the phrase probably a hundred times: “Got to save one more for Jesus!”
As I sat by his bed with tears flowing down my cheeks, I bowed my head to thank God for the legacy of my father’s compassionate faith. While my head was bowed, my dad reached out and placed his frail hand on my head and said, as if commissioning me with a sacred calling, “Reach one more for Jesus! Reach one more for Jesus!” It was a holy moment and I knew what I was supposed to do the rest of my life, regardless of problems, illnesses, conflicts, critics, attacks, delays, difficulties, or any other barriers.
Now, if you are going to reach one more for Jesus, you must, like Jesus did, spend time loving, serving, and befriending those who don’t know him yet. You cannot hang out only with people like you. Jesus spent so much time with “the wrong crowd” that it drove the religious crowd and legalists crazy. They mocked Jesus, calling him “the friend of sinners.” They considered that label a put-down but to Jesus it was badge of honour. I want to be like Jesus. And if religious people fail to understand, or criticize me for being friends with sceptics and atheists, straights and gay people, Muslims and Mormons, conservatives and liberals - then so be it. All I want to do it “Reach one more for Jesus.” God has never made a person he doesn’t love. God has never made a person Jesus didn’t die for. God has never made a person he didn’t create for His purposes. God has never made a person he doesn’t want in heaven!
My definition of “Reaching one more for Jesus” is this: You build a bridge of love between your heart and theirs, then you let Jesus walk across. You cannot bring enemies to Jesus. They must become your friends first. Before people trust Jesus they want to know if YOU can be trusted.
So, if people don’t understand why I often I speak to groups hostile to Jesus, and hang-out with people who oppose what I believe, so be it. If I am accused of being too-soft, too hard, to naive, too shallow, or too heretical because I build bridges to people who don’t know Jesus yet, it’s a small price to pay. I’m going to have a lot of friends in heaven because “reaching one more” mattered more than arguing with those who spend their time criticizing rather than evangelizing.
I will warn you: You’ll never reach many with the Good News until you let go of your fear of disapproval and guilt by association. Jesus cared about souls, not politics, and he was never politically correct.
I intend for “Reach one more for Jesus” to be the theme of the rest of my life. I invite you to consider it for your life, too, because nothing will make a greater difference for eternity. If you want to be used by God, you must care about what God cares about most: the redemption of the people he made. God wants his lost children found! Nothing matters more to God. The Cross proves it.
Is anyone going to be in heaven because you cared enough to cross a barrier and shared the love of Jesus with someone not a part of your little tribe? Go reach one more for Jesus.
Reinhard Bonnke’s grandfather, a nominal Lutheran, was converted by a visiting evangelist through a healing miracle.
Herman Bonnke: Reinhard Bonnke: Living A Life Of Fire, Orlando: E-R Productions 2009, 49-51: … Herman had been in this prison camp for 279 days and nights … Still . his confinement … seemed small payment for the mega death and suffering dealt by the German army over the last few years. The trials for Nazi war crimes were even now beginning in the city of Nuremberg. He would not have to stand trial because as an officer in the Reichswehr, he had never joined the Nazi Party. But he had served their cause in a terrible killing machine. He thought that if he were given the death penalty as a prisoner of war now, it would not be too severe. But alas, it could not atone for so many sins. The war’s sweep was too massive and its evils too many for any court to ever set right …
As he lay there, in his imagination, he saw a pair of scales weighed down to the floor with an impossible debt. A tank, a bomber, a field helmet, a bayonet, an Iron Cross adorned with swastikas. Then, placed on the opposite side of the scale, the old rugged cross. Under the weight of that cross the scales were balanced. This alone was the equation of divine justice. God placed on Him the iniquity of us all.
Tears ebbed from his eyes as his heart reached out to this infinite God in prayer. My heavenly Father, I am Yours for the remaining years of my life. No more military service for me. It is my heart’s desire to preach Your gospel and to serve You alone, until the day I see You face to face.
Across the empty barracks he heard a door quietly open and close. Someone began walking softly across the floor. The flooring softwoods creaked beneath every step. Hermann thought perhaps it was a British guard coming to check on him. Or a doctor coming to see why he had reported feeling sick.
He rolled from the bunk and stood up to face him, and to his utter shock it was a man in white, wearing a seamless robe and Middle Eastern sandals. He was smiling as He moved toward him, hands extended as if to embrace him. His hair was long and His beard full, and when Hermann reached out to take His hand he saw that it was torn completely through from the force of a Roman nail.
“Hermann, I am so glad you are coming,” the Master said, then vanished into thin air.
Hermann fell to his knees. He could do nothing but weep for the rest of the day and night. How could the Savior be made glad by one so guilty? Returning to his bunk, he lay down, his soul overflowing with the peace of God that passes understanding. Until this moment it had seemed inconceivable that an imprisoned soldier of the Third Reich could receive the smile of the Lamb of God, and that the Savior could express God’s pleasure at his desire to serve Him as a minister of the gospel. The treasure of this encounter burned like a warming fire in his heart until the day he died.
Reinhard Bonnke, http://www.bonnke.net/cfan/en/cfan/reinhard-bonnke: Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke is known for his Great Gospel Crusades throughout the continent of Africa.
Reinhard, a pastor’s son, heard the call to the African mission field when he was still a boy. When he was 19 he enrolled at a Bible college in Wales and, on completing his studies, spent seven years as an ordained pastor in a Pentecostal church in northern Germany.
Reinhard’s deepest longing was to work on the mission field. In 1967 he, his wife Anni and their one-year-old son Kai-Uwe set off for the mountain kingdom of Lesotho in southern Africa. It was many years, however, before his missionary activities took on greater dimensions and he purchased a tent which could shelter 800 people from the wind and rain. As more and more people came to the evangelistic meetings, that tent was soon not large enough and was replaced by the “yellow tent” with space for 10,000 people. In turn, that tent became too small and in 1984 the “largest tent in the world” (according to the entry in the Guinness Book of Records) was built with seats for 34,000 people.
The international mission organization Christ for all Nations was founded in 1974, by which time attendance was even exceeding the capacity of the largest tent and the meetings were being held in the open air. The largest single meeting to date – during the campaign in Lagos (Nigeria) in November 2000 – was attended by some 1.6 million people.
Over the past 22 years some 120 million people have attended the vast evangelistic meetings. Since the year 2000 more than 58 million people made decisions for Jesus and documented what they had done by completing decision cards. These cards are used in the follow-up work and help to ensure that people are integrated quickly and smoothly into local church fellowships.
Reinhard Bonnke is also known for his Fire Conferences in many different countries of the world. The aim of these conferences, which have a major impact on the life of the church, is to train pastors, evangelists and spiritual leaders in evangelism so that this generation can be reached with the gospel message of Jesus Christ. The theological basis for the clear, Bible-based proclamation of the message of salvation through Jesus is reinforced by Reinhard Bonnke’s books and booklets, 190 million copies of which have been printed in 143 languages. Millions of them have been given free of charge to new converts as well as to Bible college students to help them in their evangelistic studies.
The Reinhard Bonnke School of Fire study programme and the professionally produced eight-part Full Flame Film Series also serve the same purpose – to inspire disciples of Jesus to evangelistic ministry and to make them as effective as possible.
As a registered charity, Christ for all Nations has its headquarters in Orlando, Florida in the USA. It also has offices in Africa, the USA, Germany, Canada, England, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia.
Reinhard Bonnke: Living A Life Of Fire, Orlando: E-R Productions 2009, p146-1 49: … After finishing school in Swansea, I said my goodbyes. Lifelong relationships were begun there at the school of Wales. So many memories. The fellowship, the tests of faith, and the wonderful Bible classes – these had now become forever a part of me and would follow me wherever I went. Furthermore, my English had become passable.
I traveled by train to London. Having some money to spare, I decided I would simply take an unguided sightseeing tour of the great city. Big Ben, the famous Parliament building, Trafalgar Square, the Tower of London. I hoped from bus to bus, crisscrossing the city as if on a holiday. Which, in fact, I was. My first holiday.
At length, I arrived at a place called Clapham Commons, a large park in a lovely residential section of the city. With no specific destination in mind, I decided to stretch my legs. I began walking through the surrounding neighbourhood totally at random. All of a sudden I stopped because I saw a blue nameplate in front of a house. On that nameplate I read, “George Jeffreys.”
I thought to myself, could this be the great George Jeffreys who had founded the Elim Pentecostal Churches in Ireland and England? I had read much about him. He had been a great firebrand evangelist who had traveled across the world preaching to overflow crowds in some of the largest venues. Miraculous signs and wonders had accompanied his preaching. I recalled that 10,000 had been coverted in his historic Birmingham crusade. 14,000 had responded during a crusade in Switzerland. He was known to many as the greatest evangelist Britain had produced after George Whitefield and John Wesley. My heart pounded with anticipation to think that of all the residences in London I might have stumbled upon, I had stumbled upon his.
I felt a spiritual and natural link with this man. As with so many other British revival leaders, Jeffreys had been born in Wales to a miner’s family. He had been a teenager during the great Welsh Revival of 1904 and 1905, and for him, the fire had never gone out. What especially linked him to me was that he had also ridden the tide of the Pentecostal revival that followed from Azusa Street and onward. He had embraced both revivals.
You only live once, I decided. I walked through the front garden gate and climbed the porch, pausing at the door. There I rang the bell. A lady opened the door.
“Pardon my intrusion, ma’am. Does the George Jeffreys live here who was that famous firebrand evangelist I have heard so much about?” “Yes, he does.” “May I please see him?” “No. Under no circumstances.”
She had hardly said no when I heard a deep voice from within the house say, “Let the young man come in.” I squeezed past that lady in a heartbeat and into the house. As my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I saw him coming slowly down a staircase, holding it unsteadily as he made his way toward me. As he reached the landing, I stepped forward, took his hand, and introduced myself. I told him I had a call of God on my life to be an evangelist and to preach the gospel in Africa. That I had been to college in Swansea and was now returning home to Germany.
What happened next was extraordinary. All of a sudden, he took me by the shoulders and fell to his knees, pulling me to the floor with him. He placed his hands on my hand and began to bless me as a father blesses a son, as Abraham blessed Isaac, who blessed Jacob, and on and on. The room seemed to light up with the glory of God as he poured out his prayer over me. I was dazed by that glory. I do not remember the words with which he blessed me, but I do remember their effect. My body felt electrified, tingling with divine energy.
After about a half hour he finished. I stood up and helped him to his feet. He seemed very frail. We said goodbye. The lady came and escorted him away. He could hardly stand. Nor could I, for different reasons. I stumbled from his house and staggered back toward Clapham Commons like a drunken man. There, with my head spinning, I waited for a bus to carry me on my way to the railway station.
What were the odds that this had happened to me? Even more, what did it mean that it had happened to me? It seemed like a dream. I had to convince myself, again and again, that it had actually happened. Why would God grant me this unexpected and unplanned meeting as a 21-year-old Bible college graduate in London on his way hom to serve a practicum at the smallest church in all of Germany?
I did not know. I kept it to myself.
I arrived at home and began the process of serving with my father in Krempe. I had been home for just a few months when one day Father said to me, “Son, did you hear the sad news?” “No, what news?” “George Jeffreys died in London.” “George Jeffreys! That’s impossible, Father. I just saw him. I met him.” And then I told him the story of my meeting with him in London.
In fact, he died on January 26, 1962. I was still 21, three months short of my 22nd birthday. As I absorbed the news, I realized something wonderful had happened in London. I had caught Elijah’s mantel that day. God had connected me with former generations of evangelists – George Whitefield, John Wesley, Evan Roberts, George Mueller, Rees Howells, George Jeffreys. The gospel is like a baton in a relay race. That day I got the baton into my hands. The fire I had already within me. The fire is always fresh. The baton of the gospel is always old, and it is passed on. I now understood that on that day in London, the baton and the flame had met …
The last testimony of Reinhard Bonnke also relates how spiritual breakthroughs are not only passed on from one generation to the next (within a family) but can be passed on more widely through impartation in the church. Through the laying on of hands and prayer, he had received authority for ministry from George Jeffrey.
Genesis 27:26-29: Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.” So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said, “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed. May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness—an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”
Genesis 49:1-28: Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come. Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel.
“Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honour, excelling in power. Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it.
Simeon and Levi are brothers—their swords are weapons of violence. Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.
Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the
neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. You are a
lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies
down, like a
lioness—who dares to rouse him? The sceptre will not depart
from Judah, nor
the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his. He will tether
his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk …
All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.
Romans 1:11-12: I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.
Acts 8:15-17: When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
1 Timothy 4:14: Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
2 Kings 2:9-10: When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”
Have you ever wondered about the legacy that has been left to you? I know that I have had Christian parents (my dad became a Christian again when I was about twelve), an incredible grandmother (the mother of my mother) and a very committed grandfather (the father of my father) and their spouses were Christians as well. Two uncles (the brother of my father and the brother-in-law of my mother) were full-time preachers and pastors. However, what intrigues me is the story of the man that my (paternal) grandfather’s sister married, Herman Lauster, because I can see parallels developing to my own life. Will I inherit some of what God had placed in his life?
Herman Lauster (1901-64) – The Church of God in Nazi Germany? Indeed. Born into a Lutheran family in Germany, Lauster and his wife moved to the U.S., where he was converted, then later received the baptism of the Spirit. He joined the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) and returned to Germany in 1936 as a CG missionary. He managed to establish three churches, but the Nazis frowned on Pentecostals, and they sent Lauster to prison. Even so, new churches were founded in Germany through World War II.
http://www.faithnews.cc/?p=10670: The Church of God arrived in Germany in 1936 in the hearts of Herman and Lydia Lauster. It was a dangerous time as political events propelled the world toward war.
Desiring material wealth and enticed by posters advertising the need for farmers, Herman and Lydia had immigrated to the United States from their homeland in Germany ten years earlier. With toil and struggle they had successfully made a comfortable life for themselves in Grasonville, Maryland. But along the way they had encountered Jesus Christ and learned to follow His voice–even when that voice led them along paths they had not planned to travel.
As the Lausters prayed at home one evening, Lydia prophesied, “You shall carry my name into all the world.” The same words were repeated to Herman in a vision the following evening. Believing missions ministry to be the will of God for their lives, Herman made a brief visit to Columbia, South America.
The Lausters not only learned to hear the Lord’s voice, but also to commit their all to Him. When one of their heifers suffered a broken horn and was bleeding to death, Lydia prayed that if God would spare the cow, they would give it to the Lord. That cow was later sold and the money used to build the Church of God in Grasonville.
In 1936, Brother Lauster heard the Lord tell him to return to Germany, and the Church of God agreed to send him with a salary of $45 a month. To his surprise, he found that many Germans, including some of his relatives, were under the influence of the Nazi Party. Despite the Gestapo’s forbidding him to preach, he began to hold home meetings.
Two miracles confirmed the hand of the Lord as the Lausters worked to establish the Church of God in Germany. Herman’s brother-in-law, Hans Klement, supported Nazism and opposed the Pentecostal message. But when Hans became so ill that the doctors could do nothing for him, Herman prayed, and Hans was healed. Now full of fervor himself, Brother Klement became a church leader. When Mrs. Otto Sonder heard of Brother Klement’s healing, she opened her home for prayer meetings, requested prayer for herself, and was healed.
These activities did not go unnoticed by the Gestapo, however. Brother Lauster was routinely questioned by the secret police, worship services were interrupted, worshippers were threatened, and mail was censored. Then on August 22, 1938, Herman Lauster was arrested and imprisoned in Welzheim Prison, where prisoners were often starved, brutalized and made to toil under horrible conditions.
Although he was imprisoned for preaching the gospel, Brother Lauster’s work and character gave him favor in the eyes of the prison staff. The Church of God declared a day of prayer and fasting, and Brother Lauster was released from prison on March 16, 1939– eleven days after the church-wide day of prayer and fasting. Despite his experience and the constant dangers, Herman Lauster continued to follow the voice of his Lord and preach the good news of Jesus Christ.
This article was written by Church of God Historian David G. Roebuck, Ph.D., who is director of the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center and assistant professor of the history of Christianity at Lee University. This “Church of God Chronicles” was first published in the February 2004 Church of God Evangel.
Paul Schmidgall: VOR 70 JAHREN: Herman Lauster kehrt nach Deutschland zurück, in “in Spirit. Zeitschrift fuer geisterfuelltes Christsein”, 2/2006: … So kam es, dass Herman und Lydia Lauster nach zehn Jahren, jetzt zusammen mit zwei Kindern,Walter und Maria, am 26. November 1936 Amerika wieder verließen, mit dem Schiff nach Deutschland zurückkehrten und am 5. Dezember 1936 in Cuxhaven ankamen. Zurück in Deutschland, wollte er
zunächst keine neue Gemeinde gründen, sondern sah sich als moderner Luther, der die Kirche und besonders die ihm bekannten landeskirchlichen Gemeinschaften reformieren wollte. Aber dabei stieß er bei seinen früheren pietistischen Freunden auf Ablehnung und entschloss sich deshalb, neue Gemeinden
Durch die Arbeit von Herman Lauster sind ab 1937 zwölf Gemeinden entstanden,
die den Nukleus der Gemeinde Gottes in Deutschland bildeten: Stuttgart-Münster, der Wohnort seiner
Schwester Maria Klement (1937), Asperglen, der Wohnort seines Bruders Gotthilf (1937), Krehwinkel, der Wohnort von Lausters selbst (1938), Kirchheim/Teck (1938), Uhingen (1938), Holzhausen (1938), Boll (1938), Albershausen (1939),Weiler (1940), Plüderhausen (1941), Geislingen (1943) und
Göppingen (1943) …
Anderen Gemeinden half Lauster mit dem Kauf von Gemeindehäusern oder dem Bau von einfachen Versammlungssälen in Leichtbauweise. Bis 1954 war die deutsche Gemeinde Gottes unter der Leitung von Lauster auf 30 Gemeinden mit etwa 1.000 Besuchern angewachsen. Bis 1964 stieg die Zahl der Gemeinden auf 42.
Herman Lauster war nicht nur Gründer der deutschen Gemeinde Gottes, sondern verfolgte auch seine Vision einer europäischen Gemeindebewegung, indem er verschiedene europäische Länder besuchte. So gründete er beispielsweise eine Gemeinde im französischen Colmar. Diese Vision wurde nach seinem Tode von seinen Nachfolgern weiter verfolgt. Heute zählt die Gemeinde in Europa 700 000 Zugehörige (weltweit: sieben Millionen) und ist in den moisten europäischen Ländern vertreten.
Nach zwei Herzinfarkten in den Jahren 1959 und 1963 übergab Lauster mehr und mehr Verantwortung an jüngere Mitarbeiter, und die Leitung der deutschen Gemeinde wurde seinem Schwiegersohn Lambert DeLong übertragen.
Seine letzte Predigt, die Herman Lauster auf einer Konferenz amerikanischer Soldaten in Berchtesgaden am 9. September 1964 hielt, musste er wegen eines weiteren Herzinfarkts abbrechen.
Er starb noch auf dem Podium, hinter dem Rednerpult. Er wurde auf dem Friedhof von Krehwinkel unter großer Anteilnahme beigesetzt.
Herman and his wife, Lutherans, emigrated to America (not for religious reasons) and there experienced not only a redication of their lives to God but also the baptism of the Holy Spirit and then felt that God sent them back to Germany to tell those that were left behind about this fuller expression of the Christian faith. [I remember how my dad talked about meeting Herman and Lydia and how Herman would talk to my grandfather about the Holy Spirit. He even took my grandfather and my dad to a revival meeting with William Brennan. Wild!] Will something similar happen to me – well, it already has – (discovery of the Holy Spirit after emigration and a call to bring others into a fuller appreciation of the Christian faith through the Holy Spirit) and I am wondering whether God will let me build on Herman and Lydia’s legacy and grant ever greater breakthrough – also with the established Lutheran church (maybe even in Germany). It is intriguing.
You may not have anyone in your family line that has been Christian (as is the case with my wife) but you can marry into the inheritance or you can be grafted into the inheritance of the church family that meets here. Have a look around and become conscious of what God has placed in our midst. For instance, Merna is a mother in the church and there are great blessings flowing through her – faithfulness, fruitfulness, hearing God clearly (even audibly), etc.
Be that as it may, at the end of your life, all that you may have to show for the promises of God is a single son – a single daughter – (you may be like Abraham) – but it will have been worth it because you are leaving a legacy and the next generation(s) will go on from where you finish until every single one of God’s promises has come true in their lives.
For now, we may have to stop here. For centuries, there was not too much known about God except that he was the God with whom Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had a history and the history with God of these men and their families set the course for all of their descendants and the world. It all began with Abraham and the legacy that he left was the legacy of faith – believing God in any crisis. He received a son according to his faith and God was so incredibly pleased with his faith – his trust in him – that he made him the father of faith for us all. We are still receiving the promises of God in the same way as this man. By faith we are being saved and this is the gift of God to us.
For Abraham, land and possessions would come to his descendants later on but he laid the foundation – established and passed on the legacy of faith. Next week, we will have a look at the legacies which Isaac and Jacob left to their descendants but, this morning, ask yourself what you want to leave behind. It’s not all about you. It’s not all about me. It’s about the promises of God which will keep unfolding in future generations. I want to leave a great legacy for our children in this church. And I know that you want the same. Amen.