Arthur Blessitt says his near-40-year journey carrying a 12-foot wooden cross around the world was more than an evangelistic trek-it was a lesson in living by faith.
Evangelist Arthur Blessitt finished carrying his 12-foot cross to every nation of the world last June, but that doesn't mean his nearly 40-year journey to spread the gospel around the globe has ended.
"I felt Jesus speak to me and say, ‘Lay the cross down,'" he told Charisma. "And I didn't know if I'd ever pick it up again. But then I heard Jesus say to me, Now I want you to release the cross."
He believes releasing the cross partly means spreading his passion to preach the gospel to the masses. With the March 24 release of the documentary titled The Cross:The Arthur Blessitt Story, the charismatic evangelist hopes to do just that.
"When you finish [watching the film], our prayer is that everyone would either fall at the foot of the cross or take up their own cross," Blessitt said.
Now 68, Blessitt first came to prominence in the 1960s when he spent his time witnessing to hippies, bikers, strippers and drug addicts on Sunset Strip. Then in December 1969, he sensed God leading him to take the giant cross that hung above his Christian coffee house and carry it on foot across the U.S.
He has since logged 38,102 miles-traveling to 315 countries and all seven continents. His journey was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records lists as the "World's Longest Walk."
"Far too often religious differences have caused the cross to become a symbol of conflict," Blessitt said. "Part of my mission over the years as I've walked around the world has been to help people understand the cross for what it truly is: the ultimate symbol of God's love for all humanity."
Blessitt has gone into 52 war zones, and he has raised the cross in China and North Korea. But he said his greatest memories are the times when he was spending time with people in their homes, sharing the gospel and receiving their hugs. He said he misses "the little children running after the cross, the people praying, the people reaching out their hands to touch me, to touch the cross."
The Cross producer Matt Crouch, founder of Gener8Xion Entertainment, said the film is not meant to make Blessitt seem larger than life, but to show that he's just the opposite.
"The movie's about the world's reaction to the cross and [Blessitt's] reaction to the cross," Crouch said. "What will face every person watching the film is, You will have a choice either to reject or accept God's calling. What will you do? ... [Blessitt's] not Superman; he's everyman."
Blessitt said throughout his journey, he learned to hear God's voice more clearly and to walk by faith. "I had good theology as a young preacher, but walking around the world has made me live it," he said. In the early days of his ministry, he said he sensed God saying, "I'm grounding you to powder so I can blow you where I will."
His faith has been tested every step of the way. In Spain, he says God told him to give a bullfighter his coat, his only source for warmth. And in Africa, he battled doubts about his calling when a missionary told him he'd never be able to walk across a continent rife not only with ethnic conflict but also disease.
"The sovereignty of God is that if He wants me to walk tomorrow, He'll have to keep me alive," Blessitt concluded. "As time went on, I learned to [rely on God]. Jesus said: ‘Go to the Iraq border. Go to Saudi Arabia.' And you reach a point where you realize only God can get you there. It's total trust.
"People perceive you to be bold," he added. "But you're just walking with Jesus."
Blessitt said he used to keep track of the number of people who came to Christ during his travels, but the crowds got too big. "I pray with people, and God knows if they meant it or not," he said.
Crouch said God is always pushing the least likely people to do the most important tasks. "Arthur had a stroke before he was to take the cross across America," Crouch noted. "Who can qualify as the least likely? That's the message for audiences." read more
Women serving in positions of spiritual leadership need to live above reproach. The counsel Paul gave the young evangelist Timothy applies: “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young [or female]. Be an example for all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity” (1 Tim. 4:12, NLT, bracketed material added).
Paul said to the women serving in his time: “And I want women to be modest in their appearance … for women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do” (1 Tim. 2:9).
And Peter admonished them, “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to the Lord.”
Taken in context, Peter was not condemning physical beauty or advocating that women be doormats who never speak up or contribute significantly to church matters.
Rather, both he and Paul were describing the conditions in which women might be best received.
Like humility, modesty goes a long way in breaking down barriers. As one female CEO said, “A teaspoon of honey goes a lot further than a gallon of vinegar!” Women in leadership need to be surrendered to God … and also wise!
Men or women who use their gifts to create personal platforms that draw attention to themselves abuse their callings. Women who desire to serve the Lord should accept responsibility for living above reproach and as far as it is possible, be at peace with all men (see Rom. 12:18). A rebellious spirit pollutes church fellowship, whether it comes from a woman or a man. God is not glorified when we fight over positions and power. According to the Word, those who humble themselves and serve faithfully will, in due season, reap sure rewards (see Gal. 6:9).
There may be times when God calls a woman to stand up in spiritual authority and lead militantly, just as He called Deborah to lead her people into battle. However, acording to Scripture, Deborah was known as the “wife of Lappidoth,” in addition to being named a prophetess and judge. Her domestic title suggests that she remained under the supportive covering of her husband (see Judg. 4:4). If at all possible, a woman should remain under the authorities God has given for her protection.
It is difficult to fight against humility and impossible to thwart the divine purposes of God. Any woman who diligently seeks her King, to be possessed entirely by her King, will not fail to find her place in the kingdom of God (see Proverbs 22:29). read more
Kudos to Israel Houghton for not staying in his comfort zone and giving listeners another standard, albeit solid, praise and worship album with those funky guitars that he and his band mates play so well. On his latest album, The Power of One, Houghton finds inspiration from pop stars past and present, including Gnarls Barkley (“Just Want to Say” is similar to Barkley’s mega-hit “Crazy”). He also incorporates some
New Orleans jazz music (“UR Loved”), a ballad with restrained keyboards that sounds like Phil Collins (“I Receive”), a reggae tune on which he shouts “Jamaica” (“Surely Goodness”) and finally, “You Found Me,” a song that Houghton does, somewhat curiously, as an alternative-rock number. In between all that, there’s a fairly straightforward gospel song (“Every Prayer”) and an innocuous title track that sounds like the distant cousin of Eric Clapton’s “Change the World.” It all makes for an interesting album that will probably be well-received by Houghton’s fans. But from a critical perspective, this album is something akin to a five-course dessert after Thanksgiving dinner. Now that Houghton knows he can pull off just about anything, perhaps next time listeners will be treated to lighter fare with fewer trimmings. —CAMERON CONANT
The Now and Not Yet By Jeremy Riddle, Varietal Records. Jeremy Riddle’s latest CD opens with “Christ Is Risen,” a song celebrating the resurrection and challenging believers to go tell the world. “Bless His Name,” an album standout, is a clarion call to believers: “Come, let us sing for joy / And let us shout aloud to our King / Come, let us worship God / Lifting holy hands / Bless His name.” The heartfelt ballad “As Above, So Below” examines what we struggle with on earth and then pleads with the Father in heaven to let His kingdom come. “Among the Poor” was inspired by the revelation that worship is more about ministering to others than about singing songs. “To Be Like You” carries a lighthearted melody but is a cry to be changed to “reflect the God I know.” “Prayer for the Church” is a most timely and much-needed song for the church today: “We’re praying no more compromises / No more moral crisis / Tonight may she move and act as You / No more small divisions / No more lack of wisdom / Tonight may she move and act as You.” Believers individually and collectively with their churches should sing this prayer. Riddle’s melodies and thoughtful lyrics will usher listeners into the presence of God, and they will gain fresh understanding and insight as they worship. —LEIGH DEVORE
Many people have heard and even sung the anthem “The God of This City,” which has been recorded by Chris Tomlin and was the theme for the Passion World Tour. But now we can hear it from Bluetree, the band that wrote it. Hailing from Belfast, Ireland, the members of Bluetree—Aaron Boyd (lead vocalist and guitarist), Andy McCann (bassist), Johnny Hobson (drummer) and Pete Kernoghan (deejay)—want to write worship songs that inspire change in everyday life. They desire to encourage people with hope but also remind them to live with others in mind. They practice what they believe. They were on a missions trip to Pattya, Thailand, a city known for sex tourism, when God gave them “The God of This City.” Bluetree realized that this was a “prophetic shout” not only for Pattya but also for the entire world. The energetic debut opener “Life’s Noise” reminds us that God is in the quiet of life and praising Him clears away distractions. “Burn Me Up” cries for God to refine us so that the world sees more of Him. Boyd wrote “Each Day” after getting the news that his newborn daughter had cystic fibrosis. This upbeat song declares that even in difficult circumstances, we can trust the God who never leaves us alone. This album combines a diverse mix of songs and styles, yet the sense of worship throughout makes it cohesive. If this debut is any indication of what is ahead for Bluetree, believers are going to be encouraged by their ministry for many years to come. —LEIGH DEVORE read more
The actual origin of the name Easter is still unknown, but people have speculated since the eighth-century that the name could have originated with Eastre, the Anglo-Saxon Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility.
Here is some of the evidence built for this case.
The word Eastre is derived from the ancient word for spring.
The Greek month that corresponds with April is dedicated to Eastre.
A springtime festival, which was held in her honor, was celebrated utilizing a rabbit, which represents fertility.
Colored eggs, which represent the bright colors of spring and sunlight, were also commonplace during this festival.
Learn more about the resurrection celebration here.
Charisma's managing editor, Jimmy Stewart, recently sat down with Pastor Brian Zahnd to discuss his newest book What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life.To purchase this book click here.
Charisma: Your new book, What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life, is based on a sermon you preached. What prompted you to preach about the worst day in King David's life?
Brian Zahnd: It goes back to 1993. My secretary told me: "It seems like an awful lot of people are going through a really hard time right now." She meant in our church. A few minutes later, I had what I would say was a real divine encounter.
I remembered when David had a bad day. He returned to Ziklag and found the place burned to the ground. All his possessions were stolen. His family had been carried away by the Amalekites. But he found a way to recover.
So I thought, I can do something with that. I preached a sermon on it at a Friday night church gathering. And I thought, That's that--but people started to duplicate the message. Cassette tapes got out there, and everyone was making copies, bootlegs. Eventually, I started hearing from people across America, from India, Nigeria and Russia.
A few years later, somebody said, "You really ought to put that in print." So I cranked out this 130-page book. I self-published 5,000 of them, sold them in my church, sold them here and there. They printed up another 20,000 in Russia and in India. I didn't mind. Basically I forgot about it, but I would hear things--from people about the book.
Then on December 4 this past year, [pastor] Jentezen Franklin called me. Interestingly, he was the second person to talk to me that week about the book. He simply called to say he'd gone through a difficult time, had found the book, he and his wife had both read the book twice, and he was calling to express his appreciation.
He asked me, "Are you interested in publishing it?" And I said, "No, I'm really not." So, he said, "Would you mind if I made some phone calls?" I didn't. Strang was very interested in just publishing it, so over the holidays and while traveling in Europe, I redid it.
I would say it's at least 80 percent new material. I tell people, if you read the old one, you really haven't read the new one. The general story line of following what David did, that remains the same--other than that, it's brand new.
Charisma: We are in one of the most challenging economic seasons in America's history. How has this affected people in your church?
Zahnd: I've kind of wondered if things are really bad, or is it that we now are in the era of 24/7 news channels, so everything is magnified. But I've been a pastor for 27 years, and I have never seen so many people facing severe financial crises.
At any given moment there are people who are going through hard times. If you pastor a congregation, you know this. But I've never known a time when so many were.
Frankly, this includes the kinds of people who maybe in their life have never faced severe financial challenge. They didn't grow up on that; that hasn't been their experience, and all of a sudden, it is. I think it's a big deal.
Charisma: What do you say to a Christian who just lost his or her business, job or home?
Zahnd: That's what the book's about. First, if you are so inclined, do precisely what David did--the first thing he did was weep. You can be human. Jesus wept; He shed the tears of God. And He didn't just weep once.
So, it isn't like the first thing you have to do is suddenly be some sort of superspiritual faith man. Stoicism has really nothing to do with authentic faith. Pain is real.
There are many kinds of loss in life-financial, divorce, death. It's more easy in a sense to have a cavalier attitude toward a financial loss, but financial loss is real loss because so much of our identity, sense of security, concept of self-worth, and how we view the future come from our source of income. If it's severely threatened, the insecurity, pain and fear that people feel is real.
But, then the book deals with all these other things--don't get bitter, encourage yourself, get a word from God, reorient vision, regain passion--there really is a process. [The book] is kind of a prophetic template we can lay over our lives. There is a way to recover. I mean, there really is--it's not the end.
I'll say this: Because we believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, we have every right to believe that we will recover. What does God raising Jesus from dead have to do with that? Everything. It says God will intervene in our lives, that if we will continue to trust Him we can expect recovery.
Charisma: Some people get mad at God when circumstances get tough. How can we avoid that reaction?
Zahnd: The inclination to go in that direction is somewhat understandable. You see it played out in the story of Job. But understand that God Himself is no stranger to loss.
Let me put it this way: David comes to Ziklag and finds the city on fire, his possessions stolen, and his family taken captive. Well, God comes into the Garden of Eden and finds His creation on fire, His world stolen, and His sons and daughters taken captive.
He is not standing aloof from the experience of human sorrow and loss. His participation in our suffering is not an exercise in empathy; He is participating in the process to bring us to a place of full recovery.
Sometimes it's easy to think, If God is God, then why did He allow this to happen? If God prevents everything from happening, then are we nothing more than an extension of God's thought-life? Are we simply puppets on a string? If we are going to be authentic entities, then the risk of loss and pain and suffering has to be present.
So, I think it's part of God's project--to create authentic beings who have capacity for free choice, so that they will be their genuine selves. There's risk involved in that, but if we will continue to trust God, I think the rewards far outweigh the risk.
Charisma: How does a person "encourage himself in the Lord," as David did at Ziklag?
Zahnd: Psalm 34 is the very famous psalm of David, which starts out: "I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth. Oh, magnify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together." The incident that inspired David to write that psalm had to do with his escape from Gath and King Akish. It had happened about two years earlier in David's life.
He talks about "magnifying the Lord." Now, magnifying doesn't actually make something bigger or smaller. It doesn't enlarge it in reality, only in perspective. The key is that what we will focus on-for example, talk about, pray about--that thing will become larger in our perspective.
And if we will begin to praise and worship God, even when we don't feel like it--understanding that we don't feel like it, but we do so anyway--it has a way of connecting us with the power, potential and reality of God in such a way that it really does encourage us. Though God knows what it is to suffer, and though God does participate in sharing sorrow with us, God is never discouraged because God has a plan and a way of recovery. And as we focus on Him, we begin to see that maybe there is a way to go on in life and recover.
Charisma: Some people describe the current season as the "perfect storm." Things are shaking economically, politically and in the church. Why do you think this is?
Zahnd: First of all, I don't think there is any one cause. Everybody remembers the famous quip from James Carville when he was advising former President Clinton: "It's the economy, stupid." It was shorthand for, "What matters more than anything else to Americans is the economy." I think that's an astute observation. an accurate observation, and an observation of idolatry.
I think part of what is happening is, we are seeing a judgment from God. Now, "judgment" doesn't mean that God is necessarily personally, actively manipulating things to go wrong. God has created a moral universe--so an economic system that is built upon and fueled largely by avarice and greed eventually will implode. You can call that "judgment"; it's a course corrective--because God has created a moral universe.
Throughout the Old Testament you see the prophets proclaim that the one thing false gods never fail to do is fail. In the end, false gods will be proven to be false by the fact that they will fail. I think that if there is any hope for spiritual renewal in America, America is going to have to find a way to be wooed away, or torn away, from the false idols of consumerism, economy and worship of our security.
I also think one of the false idols the evangelical church has been guilty of putting too much faith in is a political process. We think that a certain party has to be in power for the purposes of God to be accomplished.
We are taught to pray: "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done." Let's say it this way: "Thy government come. Thy policy be done." Now, I would certainly fall within the camp of a social-conservative, but I think that maybe if we don't have our hands upon the reigns of power, politically, it's not altogether a bad thing because Jesus did not give us the sword of political power; He gave us the keys of the kingdom. And we should learn from history that the church has a rather dismal history of wielding political power. Maybe we need to get back to the keys of the kingdom and an emphasis on that.
Charisma: David recovered everything he lost at Ziklag. Do you think America will go through economic recovery?
Zahnd: First, I'm not an economist, so I don't know. Second, not only did [David] recover all, he actually came out ahead--he ended up recovering the Amalekites spoil, and Nathan [the prophet] said, "This is David's spoil."
But, the true value of David's recovery is not that he has more flocks and herds and silver and gold than before Ziklag. [It] is that 3,000 years later we are still telling his story and people are deriving hope from this seemingly catastrophic episode in David's life that turned around and became a good thing. I think that is David's true spoil.
So, what I'm convinced of is that no matter what the economy does, we can still pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." We can still believe that God is our provider and that we will come through this with a story, with a testimony, with--as Peter describes it--"faith that has been through the fire," whose authenticity can be vouched for because it's actually been tested and tried.
Economically, my guess would be, yes, [America] will recover, but I wouldn't say to anybody, "Trust me on that." I would say, "Put your faith and trust in God, and He will take care of you, and you will come through this with a story and a testimony of how God has cared for you, which will be more valuable to you than any 401(k)." I mean that deeply and passionately and seriously.
Charisma: In order for people to praise God in the midst of difficult times, is there a secret about praise we need to understand?
Zahnd: I don't know if there's is a secret, but it's helpful to understand you can praise God beyond your understanding and that praise is a choice. It's not based on whether or not you feel like [praising].
Paul and Silas in that prison in Philippi at midnight--they had a dream, of someone saying, "C'mom, help us." And so they come and try to help people. Eventually they are arrested, beaten and thrown into prison. You know, the natural human response would be, "If I'm doing God's will, then how did I end up in this mess?" Yet, at midnight they sang hymns of praise. I don't think they felt like it.
When Job says, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him," he's expressing trust in a form of worship to God beyond anything he can understand because he doesn't understand the back story--a challenge between God and Satan. It would have been very helpful for him had he known that, but he didn't.
So, there is a leap of faith we make when we say: "Look, I believe that God is good and is worthy of my adoration and my praise whether I understand what's going on in my life or not." If we can do that, I honestly think that it causes things to begin to happen, and it activates God in a certain way that doesn't happen otherwise.
Charisma: What do you consider to be the worst day of your life?
Zahnd: What I would say is, that to be a pastor my most painful days--what I would describe as my worst days-- have to do with people you have helped. I know a little bit of the pain of what I would call "the knife wound of betrayal" from people you have helped and people you have done your best for. I would have to say, the betrayal of personal friendships.
Brian Zahnd is the founder and senior pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri. You can find out more about his ministry here.
Luz Saavedra sensed the call of God on her life when she was just 15 years old. “I could see clearly the moment God called me to the ministry,” she says. In that moment she was overwhelmed by the great need for workers in God’s kingdom and committed to being one of them.
Saavedra was not raised in a Christian home but asked Jesus into her heart on a visit to her grandmother’s at the age of 11. A few years later, after dedicating herself to serving God, she began to prepare for ministry by attending a local bible school in Monterey, Mexico. Her plan to work full time for God was delayed by marriage and starting a family, but in 1979 at age 22 she took on her first pastorate as an ordained Assemblies of God minister in Chihuahua, Mexico.
“We were there for about eight or nine years,” she says, “and God moved in extraordinary ways.”
But it was also hard because the people were needy and the church was not growing as Saavedra hoped it would. Finally she flew to Las Vegas to stay with a family she knew there and seek God about her situation. As the plane was descending, she heard His voice in her heart saying, “This is the city where you will lift up My work.”
In 1996, she and her family returned to Las Vegas to start a church. They began in a home with just a few relatives but quickly added to their numbers through cell groups. “From the beginning it was difficult – without friends, without knowing the city, without work, without the language, without the help of any organization,” Saavedra says.
Yet today, Centro Evangelistico Palabra Viva is one of the largest Hispanic Churches in Nevada, with 1,300 members and 910 cell groups. Senior pastor Saavedra recently completed the purchase of a multi-million-dollar complex to further expand the church’s influence. Her goal is to bring not just revival but also reformation to a place known as “Sin City” and “The Entertainment Capital of the World”
Luz Saavedra is senior pastor of Centro Evangelistico Palabra Viva Las Vegas, NV read more
What’s the most encouraging sign you see regarding women in church leadership?
“I think people today are hungry. I believe that they’re seeing God do some things through women, and they can’t deny the power of God that’s there. They can’t deny the results. … I think because they are seeing that, they’re having to say, ‘Hey, we need to take another look at these Scriptures and what they really mean.’”
What was the largest obstacle you personally faced in becoming a woman leader?
“Well I think that the largest, greatest thing that I had to deal with early on was what I called the fear of man. That doesn’t mean male gender. I’m talking [about] people. I didn’t really know that that was the problem. All I knew was that I couldn’t speak to many people without my voice just shutting down.
“I was in a meeting a few years after I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and I heard Joy Dawson, and she made a statement that changed my life. She said, ‘You will never walk in the fear of the Lord until you deal with the fear of man in your life.’ Well, for the first time in my life it was like I knew what I had, it was called the fear of man. I remember just falling on my face crying to the Lord for hours on end, ‘Lord set me free of the fear of man, I want the fear of the Lord in my life.’
“And so God just began to do some things. So every time I’d get ready to speak to a few people … I would hear the Holy Spirit say to me, ‘Barbara, is this the fear of man or is this the fear of the Lord?’
I had to make a choice, and I would say, ‘Lord, with everything in me I choose the fear of the Lord. If I fall on my face, make a fool of myself trying to please You, I’m willing to do it.’ Because so many times we want to be perfect and we want to look perfect. And I knew I had to be willing to be a failure in front of everyone if I was trying to please God.
“So I would just say, ‘I choose the fear of the Lord.’ The more I did that the less hold that other had. It didn’t go away overnight, but it did go away. Today I never even think about it. In fact people say I’m one of the boldest people around. So that was a hindrance in my life.”
Barbara Wentroble is founder International Breakthrough Ministries Web site Phone: (972) 870-0208 Fax: (972) 753-0208 read more