Influenced by Charles G. Finney
An excerpt from No Compromise by Melanie Green
"When my time comes--that's the way I wanna go," Keith said as he snapped his fingers. "Earth to heaven in an instant!"
Keith's words went right by me at the time. There would be a day, though, when they would come back. For the moment, I busily tucked the blanket around Josiah as we headed out the front door for Richard's memorial service.
One day, a short time later, Keith walked into our bedroom looking more serious than usual--and that was saying a lot. He was holding the book, Rees Howells: Intercessor, in his hand as he flopped on the bed.
"Did you know Rees Howells and his wife gave their infant son away so they could go to Africa as missionaries?"
"They gave him away..." I repeated, flatly. Already I didn't like the sound of this.
"They gave him to relatives," Keith continued, "and God told them they 'could never claim him again'. Years later, after he graduated from college, he joined his father in the ministry in Africa. But he was already all grown up."
"That's really heavy." Wasn't there something else we could be talking about?
"Yeah. God told him to do it."
"I sure hope it was God," I said, and now I bit my lip, wondering what Keith was leading up to.
"Mel, what if God told us to give Josiah away?"
"I can't see how that could ever be the Lord's will," I shot back at once. "I mean, do you really think he would ask us to do that?"
"I don't know. He might. God can do anything he wants."
"Well, I always want to obey the Lord, no matter what it costs. But that would be a hard one. Are you saying you would be willing?" I pressed him.
"It would be the hardest thing I've ever done," he said, seriously. "But if I was one hundred percent positive it was God, I'd do it."
By now, my heart was so heavy it could have burst. I was afraid Keith was going to do something crazy. What if he tells me he thinks God wants us to give Josiah to somebody else? I was thinking, What would I do? You don't just give kids away, do you? My emotions were rocking.
Things had been so much easier when it was "just us and our stereo". We'd always said we would give the Lord everything. But it seemed a lot easier to give God things like money, comfort, and time. How do you give your child? Rees Howells found out. So did Abraham, with his son Isaac. The enormity of their commitment was staggering to me.
Fortunately, it wasn't a question we needed an immediate answer to. We weren't going to put Josiah up for adoption or anything. Still, our parent-hearts were being painfully tested. And for the next few months Keith, in particular, was going through a deeper testing than I knew about until much later.
JANUARY 15. 1979
Lord, Help Again!
My Jesus, please pour your strong life out on me...I'm almost dead I need and desire to be close to you ....Please, God, you know I'm serious about this. Send your angel to answer.
One evening, in February 1979, Keith was poking through his bookshelf--pulling books out, scanning a few pages, then putting them back. I noticed that he kept at it, until one book seemed to capture his interest. Keith carried it over to his favorite chair--a $5 Naugahyde recliner we "scored" at the resale store--and kicked back to read for a while. I smiled and shook my head. Keith was always tackling books that frightened me off just by their size.
It seemed like he was only half a chapter into it when he called me over.
"Mel, do you remember this book?"
It didn't look familiar. "No. What's it about?" "It's all about revivals! Real ones!"
I did remember what he was talking about now. The book was called Revival Lectures and it was written by a nineteenth-century revivalist named Charles Finney. One night about a year ago, Keith had phoned me from the road, sobbing into the phone. He had read me a whole chapter of that book over the phone! Keith had been reading more Finney lately and, tonight, he had rediscovered this particular book.
He went back to his reading now--no long passages to read out loud, I guessed--and I got ready for bed.
When I walked out into the living room to say goodnight, Keith was still engrossed in reading. But by this time, his expression had changed from excitement to total sobriety. Keith was so absorbed that he barely looked up as he mumbled a goodnight to me. I went in our room and turned out the light.
The next thing I knew Keith was shaking me awake. I was so groggy I could hardly understand what he was saying.
"Mel, wake up. you need to get up."
"Uh ... why?"
"It's happened! Get up. We're gonna have a special meeting right away."
Our voices woke Josiah up and he started to cry for my attention. It was barely daylight and through the haze of grogginess I wondered what on earth Keith was going on about.
I've got to go to the other houses," he was saying. "I'll be back."
As I turned my attention to Josiah, the front door slammed and Keith took off in the gray morning light. One of the first places he went was one of the men's dorms. Wayne Dillard and a few other guys were awakened the same way I'd been. Later on Wayne told me what happened when Keith shook him awake.
"As soon as I got my eyes half-way opened, I could see his face--it was like he was smiling from the inside out. He was radiant."
"Wayne, wake up!" Keith said. "We've got to have a meeting." "Okay," Wayne mumbled, "but what time is it?"
"It's about six. Listen, I was out in 'The Ark' praying all night. And I just got saved." "You what?"
"I just got saved!"
BY THE TIME ALL SEVEN HOUSES HEARD ABOUT THE SPECIAL meeting, our community was buzzing with curiosity. Having an early morning meeting was in itself a shock. Usually, no one even saw Keith before 10 a.m. because of his late-night schedule. I watched everyone quietly drift into The School House--throwing questioning glances at each other. It looked like all seventy of us were there--crammed into the living room, and spilling over into the hall and kitchen, anxiously waiting to find out what was going on.
As soon as I saw Keith's face I knew something big was going on. His eyes were clear and bright and his whole face was lit with a broad grin. Something had happened to him!
"You know I've been struggling with a lot of questions about my ministry and the Lord's will for my life," he began, "I've been really wanting God to be more real. Well, I was up all night in 'The Ark' and God showed me so much sin in my life that I spent the whole night weeping and crying out to Him. I told the Lord I wasn't going to leave 'The Ark' until I had a breakthrough--no matter how long it took. Finally, it happened. I had a touch from the Lord like I've never had in my whole life. And I know I just got saved--I just got saved last night." Keith's words stunned everyone as much as they stunned me. I could see it in their faces. Just got saved? I thought, What have you been if you haven't been saved? But Keith just kept talking, either ignoring or not noticing the wide-eyed surprise on everyone's face. "Last night I was reading Finney, and I just couldn't get past a chapter called 'Breaking Up The Fallow Ground'. God convicted me of so much fallow ground in my life--ground that's hard and crusty and needs to be broken up for Him."
Now the happiness in Keith's eyes clouded over as they started to fill with tears. Blinking them back, Keith pulled some sheets of paper out of his Bible and unfolded them as he kept talking.
"I've already gotten these things right with God, now I want to confess them to you and ask for your forgiveness because my sins have affected you. First of all, I know I haven't been a very good leader. I've wounded some of you with my words and my crummy attitudes .... "
Now Keith broke and really started to cry, but he controlled himself enough to go on.
"The Lord has also shown me areas of pride and unbelief in my life. I don't read my Bible enough and I don't pray enough, either. And I'm so undisciplined. I've been a bad example to all of you. I have no excuse except for being lazy and loving myself more than I really love God .... "
He went on for several minutes, pouring his heart out and crying.
"Another area God has convicted me in is not trusting him for finances. When we offered the cassette of my 'Jesus Northwest' concert in the newsletter, we said we'd send it for free, or for a donation. The Lord showed me we shouldn't have even mentioned donations after promising not to solicit funds--so we're going to send everybody's money back to them right away.
"I know my sin has broken God's heart. I know it's hurt you, too--and I'm really, really sorry. I'm not worthy to bear the holy name of Christian. Please forgive me."
Then Keith picked up his Bible and read a scripture to us from Hosea: "Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes to rain righteousness on you .... "Keith continued, "Fallow ground is ground that was once tilled, but has since gotten hard and unusable. Before it can receive seed it needs to be broken up and made soft again. Finney says to break up the fallow ground of our heart we need to examine our motives, actions, and state of mind very carefully."
Then picking up the Finney book, Keith read to us. "Many people never seem to think about doing this. They pay no attention to their own hearts, and never know whether they are doing well in their walk with the Lord or not--whether they are bearing fruit or are totally barren."
Keith explained the two kinds of sin Finney talks about. Sins of commission are the things we do that we shouldn't. Included on Finney's list were--lying, cheating, gossip, wasting time, slandering others, love of possessions, vanity, envy, bitterness, hypocrisy, having a bad temper, and hindering the usefulness of others. Keith added in a few areas that Finney didn't list because they weren't as prevalent in his day--things like sexual sin, drugs, and involvement with false religions.
And if that wasn't enough, there were the sins of omission~ the things we don't do that we should. Included in these were lack of love for God, for the Bible, for prayer, for the poor and needy, and for the lost all around us and in foreign lands. Also listed were the sins of ingratitude, neglecting to be careful about our words and actions, and a neglect of self-denial.
Then--Finney again. "There are many professing Christians who are willing to do almost anything in religion that does not require self-denial. They are so far from realizing that self-denial is a condition of discipleship, that they do not even know what it is!"
As Keith was talking an awesome sense had been coming over me. Instead of thinking that the things he'd done were so terrible, I found myself starting to examine my own heart, thinking, if God put the searchlight on Keith, what does all this mean for me? By now I was starting to make a mental list. A long one.
Keith went on to read the whole chapter out loud to us. It was a real "outline" for a point-by-point examination of our own hearts. Finney said that "general" confessions of sin are not good enough. Since our sins were committed one by one, as much as possible they need to be repented of one by one--confessing to God those sins committed against him, and confessing to other men the sins committed against them. No shortcuts allowed! Then Keith paused and seemed to take a deep breath before he continued.
"I believe God wants to do something powerful in all of our lives. What God did for me, he wants to do for you. He wants all of us to have pure hearts that are soft and open to him. We all need to humble ourselves and break up the 'fallow ground' of our hearts so God can be glorified. I believe we all need to have a breakthrough with God. I really think we all need to pray
Everybody bowed their heads and closed their eyes. Then Keith started praying a very powerful prayer and a hush fell over the room. In just a moment something began to happen.
Suddenly one of the women burst into tears. She'd been sitting on the floor and now she was on her face, her whole body heaving with deep uncontrollable sobs. A few others started to weep, and the next thing we knew we were all on our faces, crying, and calling out to God. Actually, some of us could do little more than moan. The feelings were so deep it was hard to even put them into words. It was a gut-wrenching time of conviction and soul-searching. The sound of wailing started to rise and fill the room--and it went on and on.
After a long time, Keith asked everyone to go and take some time alone with God. "Go home and make out a list. List every area of sin that the Lord is showing you and will continue to show you. List it in detail. Let the Lord shine his spotlight into your hearts."
We met again later that evening and over the next few days-- day and night. We had hours of prayer, weeping, and humble open confession. Everyone was being broken. They'd read their list of sins and ask forgiveness of God and those who'd been affected. There was such an awesome sense of God's presence in the room, sometimes overwhelming. And more often than not after someone shared, tears of sorrow ignited into tears of joy-- and even laughter as many broke through to God at deeper levels than ever before. They said they felt cleansed and refreshed in a brand new way--like their souls had just come alive and the weight of the world was lifted off their shoulders. It seemed like,
one by one, this was happening to everybody. Everybody, that is, except me.
After a few days, so many people had experienced their "breakthrough" I started to worry about when I'd get mine. Keith was beginning to worry about me, too. He'd walk over to me while I was lying on the floor praying and say, "Do you think you might be getting close?" He was so excited and had waited so long for this to happen, he wanted to be sure it happened for me, too.
One of the first people Keith phoned was Winkie. "It's happened!" he told him. "We're having a powerful move of God!"
Meanwhile, word was getting out locally, and some people from the Vineyard showed up at our ongoing meetings. Even some neighbors came. All with the same results--deep conviction of sin and a fresh touch from the Lord.
One night a brother from another ministry came and taught us about God's sacrificial love. At the end of his teaching he shared a story with us.
It seemed there was a man with the job of raising and lowering a drawbridge so passenger trains could cross a deep canyon. This man had one child, a son, that he loved very much. One day the little boy wandered toward the bridge without his father noticing.
Soon the father heard a train whistle. As he started to pull the lever to lower the bridge, he looked out the window, and saw that his son had crawled down into the big heavy gears. If he pulled the lever his son would be crushed!
There were only seconds to decide. Hundreds of people would die if he didn't lower the bridge--all sons and daughters loved by someone. He took a deep breath and his heart screaming with pain, he pulled the lever.
The bereaved father stood helplessly at the window, beating on it with both fists and screaming out in anguish, as the train zipped quickly over the bridge. The passengers saw him and thought he was waving--so they waved happily back without realizing the price that father had just paid for them.
When the story was over, every face looked stricken. As the meeting was dismissed I started crying. Running out into the dark night, I fell on my knees in the backyard with my face pressed into the grass. I still hadn't had a "breakthrough" like all the others, but with this story, I'd felt the heart-crushing pain of the father. In my mind's eye, I could only see my curly-haired Josiah in those gears.
"Oh Lord," I cried, "please give me a clear picture of what it cost you to send your only Son to earth. I'm so sorry for taking your sacrifice for granted--and for not loving you the way you deserve to be loved. Please forgive me!"
The next day, I left the meeting and went to sit in a car parked near The School House. I decided I wouldn't leave until I got my breakthrough. That worked for Keith, so maybe it would work for me. I didn't know what else to do.
I'd already made a long list of my sins and shared them with the ministry, repenting to God and man. I confessed to everyone that sometimes I got really tired of living in community. Also, that I was still striving for recognition in my songwriting and how much pride I had when Keith would say in concert, "Melody and I wrote this song together." My prayer life and my time in the Word left so much to be desired, too. I also confessed that I took the best baby clothes for Josiah before sending some donated clothing off to Mexico. I knew I'd hurt people by not speaking the truth in love and by being judgmental. To be honest, I was even judging this revival. Actually, I was mad at Finney, and jealous of those who were starting to look happy while I was feeling totally miserable. I felt like such a mess.
Maybe I'm not repenting in the right way, I thought. As I sat in that car, I was devastated by the blackness of my heart. I thought I loved God. Maybe I didn't love him at all--maybe I never did. But the thing that scared me the most was the fear that I might be incapable of loving God. So why should he love me--or forgive me, for that matter? I started to question every motive of my heart and felt like I was tumbling down a dark shaft of despair.
After a while Keith came out to talk to me. As much as he wanted to see me have a breakthrough, he didn't think camping out in a parked car was the answer. "Mel, why don't you come back into the house now."
"I can't. I don't even know if I love God. How can I go to a prayer meeting?"
"Mel, you love God. I know you do. Maybe it's not gonna happen the same way for you. Come on back in."
I went back into the house, but I wasn't comforted. I saw the wickedness of my heart and I felt torn from the inside out. I didn't understand why I seemed to get "passed over" by the Lord.
There finally came a point, later, where I just had to let it go and go on--without the happy feelings and with the thought that maybe I wasn't a Christian. Perhaps God doesn't deal with everybody in the same way, I reasoned. But then, maybe I only felt like I'd been left behind in the darkness. I decided I would serve God in that darkness as fully as everyone else was serving him in the light--whether or not, I was really saved.
After several days, when the intensity of it all subsided, it seemed that the Lord had drawn near to our community in an incredible way. Later on, we would refer to this time as "The Revival". Charles Finney defined revival as "a new beginning of obedience to God". and that was definitely what happened. It was a life-changing time for all of us, myself included--even though my memories were a bit painful.
Keith also knew that his statements about "just getting saved" came from his black and white way of looking at things. It was just that he'd glimpsed a walk with God that required such a deeper commitment, it was almost as if he'd never given his heart to the Lord before. He said, "It's like getting born again . . . again!"
Keith believed the Lord wanted the spirit of revival we'd just experienced to sweep the nation. It just happened that the very next concert Keith had scheduled was at the end of March in Tulsa at Oral Roberts University--in the 11,500 seat Mabee Center. Tulsa seemed like the perfect place to start, with its clusters of well-known ministries. And ORU was the best-known Christian university in America. When revival broke out there it would resound across the nation! Keith marveled at God's perfect planning.
It seemed that with "The Revival", Keith had also found his answer to our long-standing questions about finances.
One afternoon he bounced into the kitchen and said lightly, "Mel, we're just gonna go wherever God sends us and not worry about money."
"Well, usually you just go for offerings anyway." I wasn't sure why Keith was making this sound like it was so different from what we were already doing.
"Yeah, but we're not going to worry about how much of an offering or honorarium we get," he replied, "or even if we get one at all. In fact, I really feel like God is telling me we need to pay our own way into these cities--and not ask for anything from the churches!"
Now that did sound different.
Keith's new financial decision and his desire to see our revival spread had an immediate effect on his scheduled time at ORU. Since they didn't usually take offerings at the Mabee Center, they were going to bless Keith with $2,000 for one concert. But now the plans needed to change a bit. Keith didn't want the $2,000- -and he wanted to go and minister for at least a week.
In Keith's thinking, when Finney went into a city it wasn't for a "one-night stand." He stayed until the Lord finished doing what he wanted to do. If revival broke out, Finney could be in the same town for months. With what had just happened to Keith and our community, it sure seemed like God was up to something big.
The first person Keith phoned in Tulsa was the ORU student body president who'd invited him in. Keith got the guy on the phone and explained to him what he felt God's new direction was--that we were to come for a week for free. The guy's jaw must have dropped.
A short time later, we received a return phone call from this brother, saying we had a green light. Instead of going to the Mabee Center, Keith could preach for a week--in the chapel! We were all so excited we could hardly see straight. So we made plans to go to Tulsa and had no idea when we'd be back.
Keith said, "If revival breaks out, we might even end up moving to Tulsa!" He wrote a prayer bulletin and sent it out to the 22,000 people who were now receiving our Last Days Newsletter. Keith asked them to pray because we were going to Tulsa and he believed God wanted to pour out his Spirit and bring repentance--and put a spirit of prayer and conviction upon the city.
Keith was also really excited about God picking ORU in particular as the place to begin. Like all ministries do, they'd been experiencing some financial difficulties. Keith really hoped that if the Lord birthed this spiritual re-awakening in this, the "cradle" of so many other ministries, it would open the door for fresh blessings to pour in. Keith said, "God is really going to bless ORU once this revival breaks out there!"
Keith sent Wayne Dillard and a few other guys to Tulsa two weeks ahead of the chapel meetings to meet with the local pastors so they could get ready and start praying. Keith had also planned a pastors' luncheon when he got to town so he could meet them and share his heart about the city-wide revival.
After Wayne had been in Tulsa for about a week though, Keith received an upsetting call from him. "Keith, they don't want you to come."
Wayne explained that the student group that invited Keith had neglected one critical detail--they forgot to go through the proper channels with the change of plans. And the administration was surprised when they first found out about the upcoming revival on campus by reading about it in the school newspaper.
"I got a call frown the ORU administration today and they said they didn't invite you in so you shouldn't come," Wayne told him.
Keith figured their concerns were understandable. After all, they didn't really know him or his ministry very well. From their point of view "uninviting" him probably seemed like the responsible thing to do.
Maybe the administration had heard about Keith's steamy message a year before at Oklahoma Baptist University. There was a tremendous response from the students--but it did cause some real shock waves when Keith told them:
"Going to church, or going to a Christian college, or going to cemetery--I mean seminary--doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger! If there were that many on-fire people in all of Oklahoma, there'd be headlines all over the nation: 'Oklahoma Has Revival'!"
For whatever reasons, Keith's time in Tulsa was cancelled. Keith wasn't convinced however that the decision reflected the Lord's heart. He was going to pursue getting it reversed
Keith set up twenty-four-hour prayer chains at Last Days and everyone started fasting. Then the next day he was on the phone from 8:45 a.m. until dinner time, back and forth to Tulsa trying to work things out. But he was told, "We're sorry brother. We don't really know who you are. We're responsible to protect the students here. We can't let you come."
Keith finally told them he understood their position--but that he felt the Lord wanted him to come anyway. That day, he wrote:
MARCH 10, 1979
ORU is cancelled. We're going anyway. In my spirit I know it's right, but the rest of me is scared!
Had the best prayer/cry in a month. Oh! did I cry!
Keith did have some misgivings. He wondered if he'd really heard from God about going. He didn't want to be propelled by any false desire of his own to "bring a fiery message" to Tulsa. In the end, Keith received what he believed to be confirmation from the Lord. The Vineyard was going to send us out with their blessings, and there was a scripture passage that came to us, Jeremiah 23, that convinced Keith he should go "with the right motives". Keith struggled up to the very last minute ....
MARCH 11. 1979
In an hour and fifteen minutes, the Vineyard will lay hands on us to go to Tulsa and I'm not sure totally we're supposed to go! Oh, my pride, reputation and false faith all say "go". My mind and heart are divided. I can't find my spirit! ... I must go for the right motives. God said, "GO!"
We loaded up "The Ark" with about twenty-five of our Last Days family and drove all the way to Tulsa. When we arrived we had no place to stay, but the student body president told us about a house for rent. It only had a few pieces of furniture and most of us slept on the floor, but it met our needs. We immediately started two things: A twenty-four-hour prayer chain and a series of meetings with the ORU administration, who were shocked that Keith actually came after being told not to.
At Keith's first meeting with the administration he told them about the mighty move of God we'd just experienced and how he believed God wanted it to spread across the nation--right from their chapel!
Keith was emphatic about what he felt God had told him. He even asked if he could rent the Mabee Center--though at $2,000 a night, that would mean taking out a loan. Though ORU had rented the arena in the past to secular artists like Billy Joel and Liza Minnelli. they'd continue to pray about it over the weekend before they gave Keith a final decision.
That night when Keith got back to our little rented house, he announced, "It's not over yet! But we need a miracle."
Twenty-four-hour prayer chains went on all through the weekend, and by now we were getting pretty good at it! Keith also called a fast. We wanted to do everything in our power to see God move.
In the meantime, some of the local pastors were very open to Keith. In fact when Keith sang and shared his vision for the city at a pastors' luncheon it turned into a prayer meeting, with many tears and heart-rending prayers. Keith had also scheduled meetings in some other churches and schools. He was determined to reach the city one way or another.
On Sunday morning, Keith preached at a local Baptist church in West Tulsa. The service usually ended like clockwork at noon, but because of the powerful move of God it didn't dismiss until 2:30 p.m.--and Keith was invited back for another service.
That night, Keith was given the evening service at Tulsa Christian Fellowship--the oldest charismatic fellowship in the city. His message and his songs centered on God's broken heart over the hypocrisy of lukewarm Christianity. Keith often said, "Christians don't like to talk about hypocrisy any more than turkeys like to talk about Thanksgiving!" This night he was driving the point home, and his preaching was even a bit abrasive. He'd come with a burden to shake the congregation into a confrontation with themselves and with God, and I knew he was about to pull out all the stops.
"You don't like it, do you?" he said. "You came to hear a concert, and you're getting cornered. The Christian walk is a bunch of squirming flesh getting nailed down to a cross. 'Hey man, I want a padded cross. You know, a Posture-Pedic Cross with nice springs in it. Something comfortable.' The gospel is a no compromise, absolute sell-out for Jesus, one hundred percent walk!"
Keith had been pacing the floor as he spoke, his piano long forgotten. "I hate to say this to you folks--I really love you but .... " I could feel it coming. Turning to the congregation, Keith pointed and said in a booming voice, "You brood of vipers and snakes! . . . Who call yourselves Christians and half-heartedly serve Him!"
Instant shock ran through the place. Some people in the congregation had obviously been going to church before Keith was born--let alone born-again. Even I couldn't believe my ears.
But suddenly, it didn't seem to matter. An overwhelming sense swept through the room. Keith had gone back to the piano and, as he began a song, he prayed, "Lord, these people can't know how much I love them. They've heard me yelling and screaming at them, but Lord, you know the heart you've put in me that hates sin and hypocrisy and compromising so much. You know how much I love these people and want to see them turn into blazing, glowing Christians. Oh God!--please bring a revival!"
Without hesitation, people started rushing forward to the altar rail, weeping and sobbing as they came and fell on their faces. The pastor joined Keith and they both led the congregation in a very powerful time of personal and corporate repentance. Keith recalled something the pastor had said in an earlier prayer and spoke it out like a battle cry--"Lord, let there be a revival and let it begin in me!"
It seemed like revival was, indeed, going to break out in Tulsa!
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