Beyond the Mountains

Recent Posts: The Path of Life Daily Devotions

Expecting the Supernatural in Public Worship

From an address to the Faculty and Students of The University of Valley Forge

Psalm 121 NLT

A song for the ascent to Jerusalem.
I look up to the mountains — does my help come from there?
My help comes from the LORD, who made the heavens and the earth!
He will not let you stumble and fall; the one who watches over you will not sleep.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel never tires and never sleeps.
The LORD himself watches over you!
The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not hurt you by day, nor the moon at night.
The LORD keeps you from all evil and preserves your life.
The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.


Beyond the Mountains
Mountains are impressive. I had the joy to fly over Mt. McKinley in Alaska, the tallest peak in the Western Hemisphere. Even from the plane its top was covered in clouds. I have stood on the Continental Divides in both Colorado and in North Carolina. It is most likely that the psalmist was looking at the hills around Jerusalem, Mt Moriah where Abraham had tied his son Isaac to the wood of an altar, now called Mt. Zion where the Temple represented the dwelling place of God. Impressive mountains indeed are these of geography, history and tradition. Yes, let us look to these mountains. They inform and inspire us. But does our help come from them or from a higher source? “Does my help come from there?” asked the Psalmist. Pilgrims used this psalm as the hills of Jerusalem came in sight as they journeyed there for the annual feasts. This psalm was written for that very ascent up to Jerusalem. They would see the mountains, then the holy city, finally the temple. But these material wonders were not the source of the help they needed. There source and ours is the One who made the hills, the One who made heaven and earth, the One who designed the Temple as His dwelling Place.

At this moment in history we, the leaders of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, struggle to find and define 21st century Pentecost. Some of us are tempted to look to the mountains, the wonderful and impressive ways God is using our Evangelical brothers and sisters to do His work today. Others prefer to look at older mountains of 20th century Pentecost. They are impressive too, for we all stand upon the heights gained by charismatic climbers of that century. But that century is past. Neither the solemn hills of 19th century holiness, nor the exalted vistas of 20th century Pentecostalism, nor even the highly polished high plains of late 20th century Evangelicalism will provide us the help we need in this, the 21st century. We need to lift our eyes beyond the hills of history and the mountains of this moment to the God of Eternity, the Spirit of the Living God who waits for us to seek Him out, whose power is poised to flow through us in our day in fresh new ways.


We must look to the mountains around us—we must understand the culture. Histories live on in the deep-set attitudes of the people. Embedded theologies lie in wait to ambush our teaching and leadership efforts. Personal histories and embedded theologies become the subject of prayer and meditation. These are mountains in our own lives that need constant exploration.

We must understand our moment in history. The song says, “We are the laborers in Your vineyard!” We must be aware of the end of modernity and beginning of post-modernity. We must realize the dying influence of the Enlightenment and open to the opportunities afforded us in the contemporary world—a world open to sign and symbol, to image-based communications, to art and enigma, to paradox and mystery. Why? Because Pentecostal Christianity is a thing of sign and symbol, (the cross, the dove, the flame) powerful imagery, (the Lord’s Table) anointed art, (the worship arts) intriguing enigma, (gifts of the Spirit) powerful paradox (servant leadership), and meaningful mysteries (direct leadership of the Holy Spirit, the manifest presence of the Lord)

Not all mountains are the same. We are Pentecostals. We are not like other evangelicals. I say this at the risk of exercising Pentecostal Pride. But we do appropriate scripture in a different way. It is called the Pentecostal Hermeneutic. We take doctrine from histories (Acts 2:4). We Embrace both the “plain meaning” and the “deeper meaning” of a text—what it says in context and what it says to me. We also continue the Apostolic practice of allegory and metaphor. And, we are Biblicists—the Bible is our primary source.

Seeker-Sensitive Ministry is a wonderful mountain. But is it our mountain? Historically, have Pentecostals been dependent upon their presentation for ministry? Throughout our history we have been dependent upon the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon our presentation—He breaks down the cultural walls. We must understand and minister within the culture (“look to the hills”) but we must never think that our grasp of the culture and the resulting excellence of our presentation is what gets the job done. The job is still done by the Holy Spirit, (“My help comes from the Lord.”)


Think about your ministry in the future—30 years? 20 years? 10 years? Many of the surrounding mountains will be different then. How will you lift your eyes beyond them? Switching metaphors, let us consider a different verse, Rev 2:7 NIV “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches…” as we ask a different question, “What is the legacy of Pentecost?”

The first part of the legacy of Pentecost is to possess the inner ear of the Spirit. To Hear from God! Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path (Ps 119:105). The Spirit speaks through the Written Word—the light for your path. The Spirit also speaks through the Living Word in our hearts—the lamp for our feet. We must always be careful to test the second by the first. Let’s review the promises from the mouth of Jesus in Rev 2 and 3 to those who hear the Spirit and overcome:

  • I will give the right to eat from the tree of life (2:7)
  • He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. (2:11)
  • I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. (2:17)
  • To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations-
  • I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. (3:5)
  • I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Rev 3:11-13
  • To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. Rev 3:21-22

The second part of the legacy is to have the power from on high to believe what the Spirit has told us and to obey what the Spirit has told us to do. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

2 Peter 1:3-4 NIV

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises,

so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

The legacy of Pentecost is to hear what the Spirit is saying and the power to obey His Word. But how do we hear the voice of the Spirit?

A Method of Theological Reflection
I want to share with you a method of theological reflection that will serve you now and then, 10, 20 or even 30 years from now—The Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Here are four questions to ask concerning an issue:

  1. What does the Bible say?
  2. What does Christian History tell us?
  3. What does Experience reveal? And
  4. What does Reason Dictate?

This method emphasizes the primacy and authority of Scripture, the relevance value of history, the processing of Experience, and the renewing of the Mind. (Romans 12:1,2) In my teaching, I have adapted the quadrilateral to my Pentecostal Hermeneutic this way:

Here are four questions revised to the Pentecostal Hermeneutic:

  1. What does the Bible say?
  2. What does Christian History tell us?
  3. What does Experience reveal? And
  4. What does The Spirit Say?


Pentecostal Worship Is a Witness to the Lost.
Let us discover in our generation the Evangelistic power of Pentecostal Worship! Pentecostal Worship is worship as the NT dictates: The gifts connected and expressed in love and holiness. The gifts are in operation, (1 Cor 12 and 14) when love is in charge. (I Cor 13). Paul even predicts the Evangelistic result:

1 Cor 14:23-25 NLT
Even so, if unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your meeting and hear everyone talking in an unknown language, they will think you are crazy. But if all of you are prophesying, and unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your meeting, they will be convicted of sin, and they will be condemned by what you say. As they listen, their secret thoughts will be laid bare, and they will fall down on their knees and worship God, declaring, “God is really here among you.”

“God is really here among you!” See the power of Pentecostal worship! Harvey Cox, in “Fire from Heaven,” listed three reasons why Pentecostalism takes root in every society in the world.

  1. People find a primal speech.
  2. People find a primal spiritual power.
  3. People find a primal hope.

This was true in the Bible. It was true in the early church and in the Patristic Age. It was true in the 20th century and it will be true in this century.

Let us have confidence in the distinctives of Pentecostal Worship: powerful congregational worship, anointed preaching of the Word, life-changing altar services, anointing the sick, the laying on of hands (body ministry) and the scriptural operation of the gifts of the Spirit.

Let us learn from the historic church how to do things better:

  • how to celebrate the Table of the Lord in the power of the Spirit;
  • how to employ water baptism as an opportunity for discipleship;
  • how to live and walk in the power of the New Covenant;
  • how to speak truth to an unbelieving world through the arts;
  • how to heal a hurting world through social action;
  • how to walk in the footsteps of Jesus through a Christian calendar; and
  • how to rehearse the revelation of who God is through Scripture prayers.

These ancient wells of spirituality serve contemporary Pentecostal worship well for these things are centered on Jesus and that is the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

In a little more than one century Classical Pentecostal worship, including its late 20 century charismatic renewal, has become a major force in global Christianity. This has happened as leaders have engaged in worship with an expectation of the supernatural. In Assemblies of God efforts, public worship has been led in this structure:

Worship: the ministry of the people to God
Word: the ministry of the Word of God to the people
Altar: the ministry of the church in corporate prayer

The world has yet to see the full power of this paradigm.

  • When the people of God are taught to and allowed to minister to the Lord in True Worship,
  • when the Word goes forth with unction of the Spirit, and
  • when the altars are open and all join together in sweet seasons of prayer, a church will impact a community.

Lives will be changed. Marriages restored. Relationships healed. Ministers called. Sick folk delivered. Hatred halted. Anger quelled. Miracles will be known once again.

Why? Because our help comes from the Lord in whose courts we worship, before whose Word we tremble, and at whose altar of grace we attend.


The LORD himself watches over you!
The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not hurt you by day, nor the moon at night.
The LORD keeps you from all evil and preserves your life.
The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.

It takes courage and confidence to do the work of the ministry in the power of the spirit. We need to expect this courage and exercise confidence in the Lord Himself. He watches over us as we plan, stands beside as we lead, and protects us from harm by day and night. He keeps us from all evil and preserves our lives as we come and go on our various assignments, always under His attentive care.


Mountains are impressive. Look at them, measure their height and grandeur, appraise their strength and appreciate their testimony of the greatness and goodness of God. Look also the natural phenomena around you—the way God is working through others, the way other leaders think and the choices they make. Look to these hills as well.

But then, look beyond these hills.

Your help doesn’t come from the works of others alone. You are filled with the Holy Spirit. God has called you into the ministry. You know the Shepherd’s voice. You can hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. You can be an over-comer now, early in your life and ministry and later when age begins wear you down, and the culture perplexes you, and the kids are singing songs like you would never want to sing. Even 30 years from now, you can still ask the right questions and God will still give you wisdom.

Look beyond the mountains. Your help comes from the Lord!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2019 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

Beyond the Mountains

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.