Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3 that the work of the Holy Spirit in regenerating men is like the blowing of the wind. I saw this reality this weekend in east Texas, where I had been asked to preach a simple weekend series of meetings for a group south of Longview, Texas, deep in rural east Texas.
I have chosen my words carefully here, so as to not exaggerate, but to give an accurate report. The events are as follows:
I had been asked to preach for the weekend by a young pastor and his wife who had begun a Bible study in their home after seeing some relatives converted. The woman's father and brother, both oil-field workers, had been powerfully saved simply through the witness of this couple and ongoing prayer. These men were transformed and have began to really live for Christ. Others began to be affected by their lives, became hungry for truth and, seeking out other real Christians, began to come to the study. These people come from such backgrounds as Amish, Catholic, Southern Baptist, Independent fundamental Baptist and others.
As the study continued over the weeks, more and more people made their way to this rural countryside home, and before long, their large living room was consistently being filled with people of all ages-- elderly people, middle-age couples, young couples, single people, teenagers, and young children. The simple truths of the Bible began to take hold of hearts and conversions have continued. Now the study has become a steady and real movement of God's grace, in the beginning on Tuesday and Saturday nights, and now on Sundays as well, often until the midnight hour.
As they gather, the singing is fervent with reverence and no foolishness, the praying is orderly, yet genuine and real, and the desire for preaching and for biblical truth is strong. And the presence of God is real and manifested. The wind of God is blowing and people from several counties in east Texas are being affected.
The unique aspect of this work is that it is not a spiritual thunderstorm that has come suddenly, like some think is supposed to happen when the Holy Spirit begins a reviving work. Instead, it is more like a steady, gentle light rain that has continued week after week, which has not stopped for several months.
I had been scheduled several months ago to preach for them, presuming it was just a small church wanting a weekend Bible conference. But when I arrived this weekend, I saw the wind was already blowing. I came into the midst of people living in the reality of the presence of the Lord, with real joy, spiritual hunger for truth, tears, brokenness, genuine love for each other, and a burden for others. From the first minutes that I arrived, I saw God at work. The wind was blowing.
I came to the weekend somewhat tired and battling discouragement. I had planned during the previous week what I would preach. But as I arrived and was preparing, I was convinced that my planned messages were all wrong. I saw God at work already. As I prayed, 2 new passages came to me, with a conviction that I was simply to preach from these, with no further preparation or notes, but was to simply trust the Holy Spirit to apply His truth, as I poured out my heart concerning the meaning of the passages.
As I preached, I began to experience exceptional liberty to share the Word, with great help from the Lord. God was present in reality. The truth began unexpectedly to come forth with unusual freedom and utterance. Among the entire group I observed deep hunger, serious attention, extensive note-taking, and real reception to truth. It was like seeing with your eyes the good soil of receptive hearts spoken of in the parable of the sower. People were being affected right during the preaching, which lasted probably 1 1/2 hours. When I stopped, several asked me to keep going, but I knew I had nothing else to preach at that moment. Questions began to come from all over the group and we continued for another hour, talking about truth, doctrine, conversion, spiritual life and reality, with joy and obvious open-heartedness from the entire group.
After closing the service, the people tarried, sharing, praying, and talking about Scripture, with several seeking the Lord with brokenness until after midnight. As I was trying to doze off to sleep late Saturday night, I was awakened by noise outside my room, as young men were talking about the things of God with zeal and joy, not realizing their voices were keeping some awake. The wind was blowing.
Sunday was just as good. People arrived early; they began to spontaneously sing worship songs and were sharing with joy. They couldn't wait to begin the time. What I had planned to preach in the morning was wrong again. After praying, I took new 2 passages and did the same thing again as the night before, with the message lasting 1 1/2 hours; it seemed like 30 minutes. The message led into conviction, honesty, confession, and questions for over an hour. The wind was still blowing.
In the afternoon around the meal tables, all anyone talked about was Jesus, the Bible, doctrinal issues, holiness, the true gospel, how to love their families, and how to walk with and glorify God. It was an atmosphere of joy and heavenly reality. I had come into a place where the wind was already blowing and I just happened to be blest to get in on it.
The meetings did not continue with me preaching more nights. But the wind was blowing as I left; it was very obvious that this work which had started several months ago has continued until now. It could turn into something more extensive if the wind begins to blow stronger.
As I was experiencing what God was doing this weekend, it was as if the Lord said to my heart, 'I am always at work in the earth and I am always saving people all over the world daily'. The Scripture then came to my heart with joy that speaks of Him being a God that is "working salvation to the ends of the earth."
So please pray for this work of God in east Texas. Ask your church or ministry to pray. It has the same kind of initial marks which were there in some real revivals in history, when the wind of God mysteriously, sovereignly and graciously began to blow. It's blowing now--even in rural east Texas.
- Mack Tomlinson