Thursday, December 28, 2006
I often think about how that Body of Christ needs to work together to accomplish that which God wants to do. For years we have heard all the big names in Evangelical, Charismatic and Pentecostal ministry circles. From Benny Hinn to Ted Haggerty, we have seen them perform and in some cases fall. What we haven't seen very often, is a team approach; a body of many parts working together for the Kingdom. I confess that I was part of the superstar or rock-star generation. In some cases the athletes of my day were one-man teams such as Michael Jordan. Rock superstars like Sting, could make CD's with anyone they wanted. They only required some assistance, not a team. God has a way of dealing with each one of us individually; here is what happened to me.
One of my Brazilian friends got me an invitation to minister with him on the South Coast of Massachusetts. Our team consisted of a preacher, my interpreter; an evangelist, another friend with a healing gift and me. The church where the service was being held is where the famous evangelist D. L. Moody had once preached. As I read the plaque on the wall I felt humbled by his accomplishments for the Kingdom. He was a superstar in his day. I met the pastor and his wife along with some of the members for the small congregation of about 40. The service began with worship and during that time a drunken man came in. I was impressed with the pastor as he and some of the members ministered to him. I think it took the man a few minutes to understand that the service was being held in Portuguese. Once he discovered that, he left quietly. My friend the preacher took to the pulpit and spoke about the "Spirit and The Bride", a favorite worship song of mine.
It was my turn to take the platform when I stopped and asked the worship leader to play another song and then I stopped to pray. My friend who was interpreting looked at my like, "this isn't the order of the service." I remember ministering to one, maybe two members when a man with a guitar came in shouting in Spanish. The interpreter told me that he wanted to use the sanctuary and had a document saying that he could do so. He actually wasn't scheduled to use it for about 45 or more minutes from the time he arrived. He continued shouting and engaged some of the members in an argument. There were threats from both sides. It was like a soccer match in South America. My Korean friend stepped right in the middle of it all and rebuked the man in Jesus' name. The pastor suggested that we all leave and join him in his apartment a few blocks away. It was so crazy, they even left the offering basket on one of the pews.
Back at the apartment, I simply began to minister pretty much where I had left off. What interested me was a man that was from the other church, the one the screaming guitar player was a pastor of. He came to the apartment and began to point his finger and poked me in the chest. He said, "You are a false prophet and the gift is from the devil." Wow, in the natural I was a bit frightened as this man was 100lbs. heavier, and about 4 inches taller then I am. All of a sudden I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to me, "Tell him he has 2 sons." So I did, he stopped for a moment to listen. Then I felt the Lord prompt me to tell him about one son here in the US and another In Argentina... one in jail and the other with troubles. "And your wife," I said. "What is wrong with her back," I asked? "Where is she," I said?
"She is in the car, I will get her."
His wife came in and my friend with the healing gift prayed for her. God un-fused the vertebra in her back that she had previously had surgery on. She fell to the floor under the Power. When she arose, she could touch her toes! The man was so convinced of the presence of God he began to cry. He said "Mouchos gracias Jesus!" The power of the Holy Spirit then came on Him and it took three men to catch the bookcase and steady the TV as he fell to the floor.
Mouchos gracias Jesus!
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
There is one thing that bothers me about this endeavor, and that is in some cases I have had the opportunity to deliver a message, or other form of ministry to another person. Being a vessel for God is the greatest privilege of my life, however; I am always amazed at how many people will never give credit to God for a word, a healing or some other form of Holy Spirit ministry. I wish, like Smith Wigglesworth, that I would never have to tell those stories myself. It would be an honor if the testimony came from the receiver, not the minister.
At this juncture of my life I honestly don't see any purpose in wasting my faith on a God that can't perform Supernatural acts according to His Word. I may never have touched the actual wounds of Jesus' resurrected body, however; I can certainly say I have seen Him at work in amazing ways! I don't have energy to waste on little coincidences; it is just not enough for me! I am in love with a Savior that can do the impossible and perform the mundane in spectacular ways.
Let me add, that I myself am often more amazed at what God does through me, then the one that receives the ministry. I have often retreated to my room, or some other private place to just say to God, "WOW, you were so awesome!" I usually end up crying as I am humbled beyond belief. This is one of few places, maybe even the only one, where I never feel misunderstood. Almost 20 years ago I was inspired by a book called "Caught Up Into Paradse" by Dr. Eby. It is in that same sense that I feel compelled to brag about my Jesus.
Let me begin. In the Spring of 1999 I met a Brazilian pastor who became my closest friend. He invited me to minister at a church where he was the Youth Pastor. I remember struggling in prayer for 2 or 3 hours before the Sunday evening meeting. I just seemed to be fighting with something, so I continued to press in, and finally I had a vision. I pictured a balding man in his late 50's to early 60's. The picture in my spirit was rather distinctive and I took note. After the short vision I felt the Lord impress upon me 6 things I was supposed to share with this man. Again, I took note and ended my prayer session.
That evening I drove to the meeting at a church not far from my house. As I stepped to the platform for my portion of the meeting, I saw the face of the man from my vision. What was confusing was that he looked younger and had thin, but rich black hair. I thought, I will just wait for his father to come and deliver the message. After 30-40 minutes, no one else showed up. I decided to take a chance and asked the man to stand up. I told him about seeing his face and the 6 things that I felt impressed to tell the person from my vision. I told him that I sensed that he had been in Brazil for a few weeks and just returned. He nodded in agreement. Each of the 6 topics seemed to hit home and he became tearful as God encouraged him. I then told him how I puzzled about the vision, the age of the man and the hair; for he had hair. There were some muffled snickers and then I end the meeting and the man sat down.
In the kitchen after the service, the pastor and a my friend came to me almost laughing. They told me this man had in fact just returned from Brazil where he received a hair transplant!
Saturday, December 23, 2006
In one scene Ben, the father, balls out the son for being irresponsible and careless after surfing (with an ice block tied to the bottom of the surfboard) with his friends outside the barnyard fence. Ben talks of his adoption of Otis years before; the day the "stars danced in the sky." Ben, like most parents I am sure, is really asking the question many parents ask, how did this child get to where he is, and what is my part in it? After the lecture Otis, the son, takes a stab at maturity by actually showing up for his night-watch hoping that his father will let him attend the Barn Boys party. After a little schmoozing from Otis, and a heartfelt dissertation on strong men, dad gives in an lets him go. It is the last time they'll see each other.
What I found interesting was my kids reaction to the film. The scene depicting Ben's death at the hands of the evil coyotes, takes place while and an eerie rendition of "I Won't Back Down" plays in the background. It was very sad for them. At first you feel badly for the character and then you look at your own life. Otis, he is like all of us, looking for things that are fun and avoiding responsibility. His dad passes away and he is forced to grow up and face the evil coyotes. His father's spirit encourages him at every step. I don't think it was an accident that Ben is really a god-like figure in the movie. I think it has many layers of meaning and I saw that with my kids.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Christians claim they have the answer to everything. "Jesus," they say will cure all your needs. But is that really true? I believe that it is. But wait, how come it doesn’t seem to be working. We had the Massachusetts Clergy Sex Scandal, the Ted Haggerty fall from grace and I am sure you don’t have to look far to find more. I hear the shouts now, Hypocrites!
I would ask the church these questions. If we have the answer to addiction, then why is AA so popular? If we have the answer to loneliness, they why are people going in droves to see psychologists and psychiatrists just to talk? If the church has healing, then why does it seem that everyone is taking medication? If we have the "answer," why is the church seemingly so ineffective? If the church has the supernatural, why are Christians reading horoscopes and going to psychics? Honestly, do we have faith, or have we become accustom to simply giving lip service to religious ideals? All tough questions, but well worth asking.
I have a few thoughts. First of all, the answer to hypocrisy is always sin. We all sin, even Christians. There is no such thing as a good person; not Hitler, and not Mother Theresa. We certainly applaud Mother Theresa for her humanitarian and spiritual contributions during her life time. However; even she sinned and needed a Savior. The world can certainly use more people that serve others. She is a Christian that "got it." What is sad is that we sit around comparing ourselves to others. You know, we'll always find someone who behaves worse then we do. Even Donald Trump talks about the drunken Miss America as a "good person." I assume that he wants to believe that.
AA works because those who go there have a common goal, to stop drinking. The church might take note, they to have a common goal. Mark 16:15 And He (Jesus) said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." And that's not all, they are to take care of the poor, visit those in jail, bring healing to the sick, support the widows and the be a friend to the downcast. Now that's a common goal!
The verse from Mark brings up that fact that the church requires the presence of a supernatural God. Without it, they are doomed to fail! Only God can heal and empower miracles. Oh sure there are Satan's counterfeits but we don't need to worry about that. If you are not seeing the fruit of the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22), then I suggest that you look elsewhere; or ask a lot of questions where you are. If you find these things, you are getting warm.
The last key to seeing the church work is relationship, loving relationship. Without it, the church or members will be clanging gongs. As a body we all have a part to play, when it is about one man, one person, it is not going to look like Jesus. I believe that when we really surrender to the "body mentality', real relationship and a hunger for the supernatural God, then we'll see Jesus everywhere. After all He did not come to make bad people good, He came to make dead people live. I believe that's what's really missing.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
America, my country, was founded on these Christian principals. I don't think that the founding fathers ever intended that religious freedom would include persecution of anyone for their faith. I believe they intended for religious expression to be public and personal, while allowing all men to have their own expression. But they did not intend for the moral code of the Bible to be eroded in such a way that it simply became a debatable philosophy akin to pop-psychology.
So, here we are faced with many social challenges and no moral compass that works. How do I know? I can read the FBI stats for violent crime, see the number of unwed mothers, homeless families and divorce grow. But we are still winning for now, unlike most of Europe. As you'll see in the following letter from Senator Kennedy, we are a long way from where started. The issue is not allowing people to have their own beliefs or not. It is allowing the country to slide into political correctness which in itself is intolerant of many Christian values. America and Israel are the only countries founded for God the Creator.
I personally complained to Senator Kennedy that I did not think it was a good idea to have a Muslim sworn in using the Koran. Why? Because it is not a symbol that is understood in this country and it erodes our cultural foundation. I am not against other cultures at all, I love them. But this is America where we require people to speak English and drive on the right side of the road. Not because we are arrogant, but because this is our culture; the American culture blended from many others. So, then why is using the Bible as the text for swearing in our public servants a problem? I guess I could use an example from church, do you think it would be a good idea to use Coke and potato chips for communion? It is amazing how we can see the use of a book as an issue but miss the motion of our Christian culture to move towards destruction. Just one little book... then what happens when the language changes? Maybe Spanish will become more popular then English. You see where I am going and here is a letter from one is accelerating that day.
Dear Mr. Johndrow:
Thank you for your letter on the oath of office that all Members of Congress must take. Religious freedom and tolerance are among our nation’s founding principles. The first settlers of Massachusetts, the Pilgrims, arrived in this county seeking the opportunity to follow their faith, free from persecution. That freedom is so important that it is enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The First Amendment, with its freedoms of speech and assembly, has helped guarantee the rights of all Americans for over 200 years.
Requiring Members of Congress to swear an oath using a text that is sacred to a faith other than their own would violate the basic principle of religious liberty. The Constitution clearly states that all Members of Congress “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support and uphold this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to an Office or public Trust under the United States.” No mention is made of using a particular text for the oath, and no Member of Congress can be disqualified because of his or her religious beliefs.
All Members of Congress promise to uphold the Constitution, including freedom of religion. If Members are required to place one religious text over another, they violate the very oath they take as they take it.
My colleagues and I take our oath of office very seriously, and I will continue to uphold and defend the Constitution, and all that it stands for.
Edward M. Kennedy
Monday, December 18, 2006
Thursday, November 23, 2006
I am always surprised when people are so surprised that others, even leaders, fail morally. What happened to Ted? If confession is the answer to maintaining personal purity; and I think it is, then we need to look closely at those barriers. All things being equal, some of those barriers include personal pride and arrogance, lack of transparency (fear of being judged or ridiculed), the sin nature itself and the direct attacks of Satan. Every believer suffers from both the inward and outward pressure of all of these. There is one more barrier worth mentioning which needs a closer look; the "church." In nearly 30 years as a believer, I find that it can often be an unfriendly place to confess anything. I am saddened to say that rarely did I find people being transparent about poor marital relationships, addictions and various and sundry other moral failings. So I did the same. The church has not always been a safe place for the nitty-gritty of honest and regular confession.
How did we get there? So what keeps us from uttering the words, "I failed," "I was wrong," or some other phrase that leaves us nakedly reciting our struggles? What concerned me then, and still does today, is the lack of relationship in the church. If the key to confession is intimacy; and I think it is, then it, coupled with the power of loving-kindness should make it the healing power that James said it would be. Where is the wine, the oil and the salt? In our busy lives we don't have time for much more then small talk. Many of us spend more time at work or school then we do with our families. Church on Sunday can be a whirlwind of kids, coffee and klatches. Kinship for the daily commuter is just another chair to sit in after a long day at the office.
I often think of King David. He didn't find it easy to confess his sin. I guess what amazed me about King David (and Bill Clinton) is that God had the grace to leave them in power. Wow! God, he doesn't judge us. He doesn't even give us what we deserve. I might note that neither of them ever seemed healed after their failures. Why? Because it is confession, not humiliation that heals us. Loving-kindness that is what brings us to confession. It is the love of God, not the judgment of man the heals us.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Cape Cod, MA
I hope this letter finds you well.
The reason that I am writing, is this. Today our pastor was talking about evangelism and he asked us to think about how we got saved. During his talk he reminded us how God had first pursued us; most likely using someone else, as opposed to a divine encounter such as the one which Paul had on the road to Damascus. I began think about how the road to my salvation unfolded, and continues to do so.
As the pastor spoke, he gave us an assignment, which was to write a letter to the one that made that most impact in our decision for Christ—in my life that was you. There were others involved in the process from Cursillo. But it was you who said the words that made me believe in Jesus. Possibly you remember the struggle I had with all of this.
I hope that you’ll indulge me for a moment while I recount the story. In 1978 I came to believe. Then there was the first Cursillo which was a disaster for me. Before the second Cursillo, you and I talked for hours—possibly days. You patiently told me about Jesus. At some point you said, “Just believe and He will meet you where you are.” Silently, quietly, as I lay in bed one night, He did. I suppose it would be fine if the story ended there, but it doesn’t.
You encouraged me to read 9 o’Clock in the Morning, and gave me a copy too! I wanted faith like that, faith that believed in the supernatural. With the help of Father Hank, I became baptized in the Holy Spirit. You were there when I gave the Study rollo on my third Cursillo. I am not sure if you are aware, but that same day God called me into ministry. I didn't really get it then, but I do today.
The Lord led me to the mission fields of southern New England, Brazil, and Norway. In Brazil I preached to 18,000 people in 21 days. Thousands received prayer, got healed and came to know Jesus. There is so much more I have had the privilege of being a “vessel in the Kingdom” to do.
So, thank you JD for being the most important messenger of God to me.
In awe of the Master,