Amidst an increasingly secular Western world where God is assumed to be dead, or a figment of one’s imagination, it’s time to celebrate – and probably reprint – a book published 40 years ago.
Appointment in Jerusalem charts the incredible story of a young schoolteacher who had an encounter with Christ every bit as dramatic as the Apostle Paul’s and went on to fulfill her destiny in a city she knew nothing about, allowing the Holy Spirit the guide her every step.
Lydia Christensen was in her mid-thirties, living very comfortably in her native Denmark as her local school’s head of domestic science. But she was searching for God, whom she couldn’t find in her Lutheran surroundings. She even turned down a marriage proposal for fear it would detract from her determined quest to discover whether Jesus was real. And when He appeared to her in a vision, her remarkable journey of faith had begun.
Other visions followed, she began to speak in a language she had never learnt and was soon baptized in the sea by a Pentecostal pastor, sparking much ridicule and scorn from her colleagues and pupils.
It was through a vision of people in Middle Eastern dress that she felt a call to Jerusalem. She gave away her possessions and set off, in 1928, for the ‘City of the Great King’, as the psalmist describes it (Psalm 48.2). Like Abraham, she didn’t know where she was going to stay or how she was going to make ends meet, especially as she had no work permit. She only knew God had called her there. At one point she was down to her last 86 cents and went without food for four days, but it only deepened her trust.
Her first task came as quite a shock. A Jewish man, having heard that she was a kind woman, came to ask her if she would look after his dying baby daughter. Initially protesting her inexperience, she took her in and anointed her with oil as she prayed for her healing in Jesus’ name. Tikva (meaning ‘hope’ in Hebrew) made a remarkable recovery, so much so that her parents wanted her back, by which time Lydia had grown to love her as her own. But she realised she had to offer her up as a sacrifice, as Abraham had done with Isaac, and just as in the biblical narrative, she did receive Tikva back as it turned out her parents were unable to cope.
And when serious riots broke out between Jews and Arabs in 1929, she was forced to run the gauntlet of no-go areas in order to fetch water, which had been cut off by the fighting. When she struggled to get over the barricades with Tikva on her shoulders, suddenly – out of nowhere – a man came to her rescue. When she told her friends what had happened, they were all convinced it must have been an angel!
Others were leaving the city because of the tension, but Lydia believed God was calling her to be a “watchman on the walls” (Isaiah 62.6), praying for the peace of Jerusalem. And in the ensuing years she continued to mother scores of abandoned Jewish and Arab children. She also realized the city held the key to the world’s future and that Christians need to do all they can to help Israel.
We owe them a huge debt which has gone unpaid for too many centuries, she wrote to her mother. “It is to them that we owe the Bible, the prophets, the apostles, the Saviour Himself.”
Perhaps if such calls had been heeded on a wider basis, millions of Jews could have been saved from the Holocaust which was to come.
At the end of World War II, Lydia married Derek Prince, the well-known Bible teacher, and Appointment in Jerusalem was published by Kingsway in 1975 with Lydia Prince as author “as told to her husband Derek”.
The Charismatic movement, of which Lydia was clearly a pioneer, was in its early stages then, and in fact flourishing. But it has lost its momentum, its certainty, its confidence. Tragically, the Western church has lost its focus on the gospel, along with the Holy Spirit whose empowering we need to proclaim it. And with it, we have also taken our eye off God’s end-time purposes for Israel and the world.
A group of evangelical preachers, in their so-called Berlin Declaration of 1909, decided that the Pentecostal outpouring at Azusa Street in Los Angeles (1906) and Sunderland, England, (1907) was not of God. I’m afraid this amounted to blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and paved the way for the Holocaust. Some churches need to do a lot of repenting. They neither have the Spirit, nor any understanding of what is happening in today’s world… when all the while the Bible is there to tell us! The prophecies of Scripture should light up our paths in a dark and oppressive world (2 Peter 1.19-21). We ought to know the meaning of all the chaos, anarchy, bloodshed and terror raging across Europe and the Middle East. We ought to be able to instruct others, and warn them of the judgment to come. As Derek Prince writes: “For the unbeliever, the world around is getting darker… For the believer, however, the light of prophetic revelation, like a lamp, shines more brightly by contrast with the surrounding darkness.”
When you are led by the Spirit as you study the Word (bearing in mind that the Spirit leads us into all truth – John 16.13), you will understand the signs of the times, especially as they relate to Israel, God’s chosen.
There is a consistent, and indelible, link between Holy Spirit revival and the cause of Zionism, by which I mean the restoration of Jews to their Land and their God. The Pentecostal outpouring to which I have already referred followed closely on the heels of the beginnings of Zionism under Theodore Herzl while the Spirit-led influence of the Wesleys, Wilberforce, Simeon, Spurgeon and Bishop J C Ryle had all helped create political sympathy for a Jewish homeland.
I am encouraged, however, that amidst our backsliding, some movements (such as the Keswick Convention) are working towards a converging of the Spirit and the Word, a notion that would have gladdened the heart of Pentecostal pioneer Donald Gee.
And I conclude with a testimony from sixty years ago, when R T Kendall (who graced the pulpit of Westminster Chapel for 25 years) had his own Damascus Road experience, which he says has preserved him from liberalism.
Many of his colleagues from his days with the once-influential Nazarene denomination no longer believe in the infallibility of the Bible. “Some orthodox people poke fun at the idea that ‘a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument’. Cold, dead orthodoxy often depends on argument or reason to support Scripture. But I have both – thanks to the Holy Spirit unveiling truth in the Word of God. I can defend what I believe; I would go to the stake for what I believe. This is why we need the Word and the Spirit together.
The quotes from Sister Joela have been taken from the booklet Where is the King of the Jews? published in Darmstadt, Germany, by the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary. See www.kanaan.org