Monday, January 29, 2007

Nickles and Noses...

Welcome to Center Church! Meet Pastor Control Freak, Elder Guilt Trip and Deacon Without Grace. It may sound cynical (and it is), but lots of people have been to that church. It makes we want to sing these lyrics to the tune of Home on the Range: Oh, give me a home where the sinners all roam; where the queer and the religious nuts play; where seldom is heard an encouraging word; and the guys are proud-y all day. Thinking about it kind of turns you off, doesn't it?

I find is amazing that folks that are desperate for answers in life go to the one place that should have them, and get some nutty version of the Gospel. I don't know how it happens... actually I think I do, but I am not entirely sure.

I feel horrible when I think of the clergy sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Boston Catholic church, the fall of a real leader like Ted Haggerty, who can't seem to tell anyone that he is in trouble until it blows up. Wow! There are folks going to church looking for something to believe in, and they get people. People are good, they are God's beloved creation whom He sent Jesus to die for. What happens is people promote themselves when they should be promoting Jesus. The new folks, and some old ones seem to believe in people, programs and preachers... who will always fail at some point.

While I am ranting, let me share some experiences that I have had. As always, these religious noodle-heads will remain nameless. I once was riding with a evangelical leader that got pulled over for speeding... like 85 in a 55. He hands the cop a business card along with his registration and says, "You know I am a pastor." What is this, an indulgence or a bribe! I fully expected it to be followed up by, "you know if you let this one go, I could put in a word with the Big-Guy for ya." The cop returned from the cruiser and gave him a rather large and probably well deserved speeding citation.

I was at another church and the pastor shared at a prayer meeting that the Lord said, "this church (of about 100) is going to have 300 members in three years. Can you imagine what the tithe is going to be on that!" Now before you think I am just picking on this guy, I do believe that God does share these kinds of things with us. The sheep should know His voice. However; it all sounded very greedy to me. And now it has been 5 years and they are still about 100.

I once heard a guy preaching about"My sheep pen!" Yikes, where is the dunk tank?

I belonged to one church and they thought AA was of the devil. Now I am not convinced that AA will get you saved like it did for me, but their purpose is the get drinking drunks to stop drinking. Period! That is why they exist. Now in a world with lots of New Age influences, one god fits all religions and persecution wrapped in the word "tolerance," I can understand why true believers would get a little "widgy" about it. My question is this: If the church is so ding-dang good at getting people sober, then why does AA exist at all? And Bozo the clown said, "Because it's a tool of the devil."

I once heard a preacher say, "if you look for imperfection, you'll find it in the church." I heard another speaker say, "We could conquer the world if we could just get past the brethren." Or my favorite, "Christians are the only army on earth that shoots their wounded." If you think I am being cynical, look at the world's perspective of evangelical Christianity. The Bible says, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." This verse is not talking about just believers. It says they, the onlookers of Christianity will praise God because of the love, character, and signs and wonders that follow us that believe.

It seems like power, prestige, notoriety and numbers are the measuring sticks of success. John Wimber once said, "if our job is to get people saved, how is business?" Are we going to blame our lack of success on someone else? If we are successful will it be "the man's" hard work, or God? If the pastor is preaching in such a way that people will give him good reports, or that important issues of character are side-stepped, then what?

Well, when will stop measuring success in "nickels and noses" and start bearing fruit?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Musings...

Today has been hectic for me... Wow, the finish to an endless week of quotidian events. I had breakfast with a friend of mine, someone that I am getting to know. Relationship is an interesting thing... it just takes time. Well maybe not in the movies, but in real life it does. I am learning that it just takes a long time to build something of value. I am looking forward to more of it.

As I approach 50 (I still have a few years left.), I am actually starting to think about growing old. I think the song lyrics that say something about "growing old together." I prefer the songs about romantic relationships... I am hoping to grow old with my wife... as long as I stay here on earth. I was also thinking about what I have not accomplished... hoping for a fresh start again... but I have had a number of those. You feel better for a little while.

Tomorrow I am planning on playing a little guitar, writing my Portuguese dialog paper, spending some time with my little one, getting together with a friend from church and having coffee with my wife before Charlotte is awake. It is a peaceful life and the lack of chaos is refreshing.

I think about all the things in life left to do. With one in college, one in high school and one in pre-school, there are graduations to be at, parent-teacher conferences to attend, driving lessons, the first day of kindergarten and possibly a wedding or three... grand children... That is what looks likely with three daughters. My wife and I have plans for Valentines Day and some friends are coming to visit for dinner next weekend. We have passes to the museum that we are hoping to use. Then there are the dreams... travel to San Antonio, Iceland, South Africa, Egypt and the Caribbean; again! We sure would love to own a hot tub! My wife and I would be happy to live on a farm with horses, but we don't see how. She wants to take care of them, Charlotte will want to ride them and I want to look at them.

Life is amazing when you think about the possibility that in the same way there is something, there could be nothing at all. Where is the end of the universe anyway? What's on the other side? Really. With so much apparently left in life for me... well unless today is the last day, what's next? Hmm.. my biopsy came back benign.

Have you ever thought about how many hours you have sat at traffic lights, slept... or how many pounds of red meat you ate... how many pounds of dust you have inhaled in a lifetime? How many keystrokes have I made on the computer since May of 1994? Wow!

It makes me ask what is my measure in life? What is success, money, friends, work, successful children, being good at what I do, staying married while so many get divorced... I am not really sure a lot of the time what real success is. What is my legacy; my epitaph? This following verse is truth, but I need to make it real in my life. How?

1 Corinthians 3:11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Now I wonder what are the works that are precious to God, and will that fit with what I want in life; the dreams that I have? I have some more musing to do. Sleep, now that's looking pretty good now too.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Name of Jesus

I don't know why it bothers me so much, but I caught a few blogs about Jesus... negative ones. I know that as we head towards the end of the age, however many years away that is, there will be more haters of God and lovers of self. But, I often think if these clods (the enemies I am supposed to love) had the same experiences with Jesus that I have had, they would just be in love with the Master. As time goes on it seems like there is another group that is offended by Christianity... or at least their perception of it.

These groups and individuals have decided that Jesus wouldn't want this one way, and that another way. Jesus wouldn't want war, Jesus would never want us to pay taxes, Jesus this and Jesus that! There are a lot of folks that would be happy to never see or hear His name again; except as a "mild" curse compared to the "f" word.

At one time I believed all the real haters of God lived in non-Christian countries. I grew up with Communism and the Cold War. As a new Christian I loved reading about Brother Andrew and his work behind the Iron Curtain. There were those desperate for God living in oppression. The truth is, in spite of those desperate for God, there God haters everywhere. Jesus gets blamed for lots of things that He didn't do... and rarely for the one thing He did do, die for our sins.

Having travelled to 42 states and 13 countries, I believe the men are basically the same everywhere. They will mostly operate on the outside trying to be good, and on the inside trying get everything they can in life them. Let me say that Jesus is not against us having things; no, just making them more important then He is, that's what bothers Him. The other thing that I have seen, is the power of God to break in to a man's life, and change it. So as the politically correct raise the intensity of their rhetoric over anything which offends their "everyone is basically good" theology, we'll see more of the same. In fact, I imagine it will get worse. I have heard predictions that, where about 80% of American claim to be Christians, only about 4% will in 20 years.

The problem is always going to be in what we claim to be, especially when it doesn't line up with what we really are. I am sure there are a lot of people hopeful, but unsure, about eternity that claim the name of Jesus. And I am not judge. I confess that I don't know who will be there. Here is what I do know, that name of Jesus is resilient. I don't think He is all that worried about what is said about Him. Even Paul believed that anytime the name of Jesus was used by both believers and nonbelievers, that is was a good thing for the kingdom. I heard a story, from a Moroccan missionary, about a Muslim man that worked as a Christian evangelist in Africa because the money was very good. He wasn't saved and didn't give a rat about Jesus. The funny thing about the story was that thousands came to Christ from His preaching.

If we are honest, it is not the name of Jesus that is a problem at all. It is the perception that others have of it. If "they will know we are Christians by our love," then how come they still don't know it?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Getting Real - More Relationship Stuff

The longer I am in the church, the more it seems like relationships can end up being about our "stuff". It seems that when we try to focus on others, something goes awry and we end up looking at us. I have heard sermons on "living stones with rough edges," word of faith stuff about miraculously "walking away from addictions, but not yourself" and we all sin, so just admit it preaching, chicken-walking; finger pointing fire and brimstone, "it' not about you" teachings; as well as loads of various and sundry plastic Christian tirades. I have even said, "the Bible says that the sick need a doctor and the church is full of sick people." I still think a lot of it's true...

My wake up call was a few weeks ago when someone said, "you talk to much about your past." My wife had planted the seeds of this idea on a number of occasions and I had been thinking about it for some time. Honestly, I was hoping to someday jettison the shame of things I have done over the years.... you know, that feeling of "uggggg" when you think about something that you wish hadn't said or done. I am not even talking about the ones where you got caught or someone called you on it. I am talking about the private inner dialog you have knowing that you are the one that did or said it, and the only one that knows the truth. My wife and I have talked about these types of things many times. Some of them came out during our first round of 1000 Questions. Real is as much about your favorite candy bar as it is about your most embarrassing moment, or most traumatic experience. I couldn't put my finger on this personal fascination with how bad I was, my testimony, my experience, strength and hope; it just seem to be the "real me."

So what is real? I have a conclusion. It is the exact truth, without rationalization, blaming, excuses, justifications, half-truths or pitiful redirections about who we are, what we have done and said... both positive and negative. We can be easily buried under a deluge of shame, hurt, betrayal or anger. And that's real! What I think is important is having someone that will take those things in confidence and love you anyway. The type of love the simply knows what it's like to be a sinner, not a gossip, and cover you. I have friend that in the midst of my continued failure some years ago, simply put his hand on my shoulder and said, "I happened again didn't it?" The "real" answer was "yes." You know, I haven't thought about that incident for a long time. Why? Because I gave the real, embarrassing, shameful, humbling answer. Once it was truthfully out, the inner dialog stopped. Confessing your sin can healing; really healing.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Relationship 101 - Common Sense

I often find that people are surprised by relationships and their inner workings. Yet, they think, we get along or we don't. It's all about chemistry and soul-mates. Truthfully, there are so many facets, both emotional and spiritual, to good relationships, that I wouldn't depend on luck. In the Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck talked about ego boundaries, right after he said, "life is difficult." Yes Virginia, relationships are very complex. However; I believe that most of the more complex problems can often be broken down into simple elements. Relationships are work even under the best of circumstances. But isn't there and easier way? Yes and no... none is without effort.

Here are, what I think, are some common sense actions we can take in any relationship. It has a bit to do with being proactive.

INITIATE - Be a friend first. Reaching out isn't easy, but it can be worth it. It doesn't matter what the relationship is; spouse, neighbor or church buddy, if we initiate it, it will often be a benefit to both parties. Some of my closer friends didn't approach me, but I have had a few for well over 20 years.

COMMIT - Give your relationship regular contact times no matter how busy you are. You'll be amazed at how many of your friends or relatives, so-called "friends" have been inconsistent or even betrayed the relationship for a "better deal." Be the "better deal."

COMMUNICATE - Call, e-mail, write, drop by, send a card. TODAY!

WATCH - Look for opportunities to do something out of the ordinary. People feel significant when you can meet an emotional or physical need.

RESOLVE - Do everything that you can to resolve conflicts. If you are bad at conflict resolution, learn! There are lots of good books. Remember differences are a blessing and a curse.

SHARE - look for opportunities to give/suggest and listen/receive.

END - End all emotionally intoxicating relationships before they end up in the ditch. Don't settle for less and don't subject yourself to continued abuse. If this happens to be a pattern for you, get some help.

ENJOY - Find ways to enjoy you family and friends that add to the relationship. If you don't like they way someone eats, then take them to a movie and not to dinner... it's just common sense.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Carter in Massachusetts - What Do You Stand For?

On the news this morning I heard that past president, Jimmy Carter will be speaking at a local college here in Massachusetts. He is promoting his new book about the Middle East. I haven't read it and I don't even know that title. I, like lots of Christians, am curious about Middle East policy because it appears to play a big part in the End Times. I am not a Dooms-Dayer, but I keep a spiritual eye open.

What I find more interesting then the Middle East topic, is that Mr. Carter is not taking certain questions during the discussion about his new book. Wow, you write a book, come 1,500 miles for a discussion about it, then you won't take certain questions. Wow times two. I would think if you were passionate enough to write a book, you would be passionate enough to defend it!

Often on college campuses you'll find more liberal mindsets; even in the Bible belt they are there. Here in MA, we have a very liberal state government, the most liberal in the country. Oh, there are a few cities that have us beat for the moment, but we as a state, we are the front-runners in ungodly legislation. The debate, however; is not liberal ideals versus conservative ideals. The debate that is worth engaging in is simple, do our laws and policies line up with true Biblical values?

I don't think that Mr. Carter wants to take any hard questions because they will make him uncomfortable. The truth is, most people don't want to answer for their ideas, their faith or their beliefs. It can be very uncomfortable to be outside the mainstream. How liberal can we be as Christians? Is it possible that Mr. Carter knows that his book is doesn't line up with his professed Christianity? Are we liberal enough to allow things in our lives that really don't measure up to what we profess? I am just posing a few questions that we might ask ourselves. Again, I have not read the book.

Here is another question, is this Christianity worth standing up for, taking the hard questions about our "moral values" and doing it with love? Even when it seems like Biblical Christianity is losing in public opinion polls, and everyone seems to be staying near the middle; trying to be politically correct long enough to move closer to an ungodly agenda, it is time to stand up.

Mr. Carter claims to be a Christian, He could have been a hero for the faith in our day an age, but he won't stand up. How about you?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Relationship 101 - Lesson 2

Last time I was talking about some basic principals and elements of relationships. I have decided that our relationships grow deeper because of the effort that we put into them. There is a physical element with a married relationship and an authority issue with parent child relationships. However; we can be close or distant in any relationship. Here are some thoughts on moving closer. I guess the inverse, growing apart, would be not to do them.

If the goal of relationship is to be close and feel it, then we need to work towards the goal. The goal of a Christian relationship is to serve one another. But let's start with closeness. I heard Jimmy Evans say that the commodity of a relationship is time. For many that is true, but for some that is only a small element of feeling loved. I think for most people love and closeness are synonymous. The ultimate target in a relationship is 100% transparency and emotional intimacy.

If you have read the 5 Love Languages, then you know that different people have different ways in which they feel loved. Some enjoy time together, some prefer to get gifts, others like be complimented and some prefer to have "works of service", while many are happy with simple (nonsexual) affection. If we are to look at 1 Corinthians chapter 13, we see that love is kind. I want you to consider this, what kind of kind do I need to be? One of the 5 kinds. Now love is a lot of other things, however; kindness will go a long way in building a relationship... especially if you use one of the five types we have talked about.

It is worth mentioning that people will often respond to most of the 5 different expressions of loving kindness. I don't know many woman that would enjoy getting married without the gift of an engagement ring. You would be hard-pressed to find a child that didn't look forward to Christmas or Birthday gifts. Most emotionally healthy people will readily accept a compliment while husbands and wives hopefully share affection with each otter. The point is this, which one or possibly two would make you feel the most loved in a relationship? If you can answer that question for each of the people that you love, you will have come a long way in becoming closer to them.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Relationship 101 - Lesson 1

Relationship is important to me, and as I talk to long-time church goers and non-church folks alike, I find that most of us are, or have suffered in this area. Each one of us has different types; actually depths to our relationships. The world seems to have a box for each type of relationship with their different elements. However; I am looking at the core of interacting with someone else.

When we look at that core dynamics of a relationship (Biblically), the only things that make a significant difference are the authority of a parent over a child, the authority of a superior and the physical part of the relationship between a husband and wife. Everything else requires similar attitudes and actions for the relationship to progress. IE: Being kind is being kind. It doesn't matter if someone is a stranger or a relative; husband or child.. kind is kind.

Normally our relationships should progress towards complete transparency and trust. It is a lofty goal; well worth trying, but still unobtainable. Here are some examples of the type of relationships we may function in: The cashier (stranger), an acquaintance; someone that we may see often but are not emotionally intimate with, a friend, a close friend and a lover. Each one enters the continuum from non-relation to 100% emotional trust and transparency. We have little capacity to have more then just a few on the most intimate and relationships - the inner circle. Jesus had 12, and I suspect most of us would have trouble with more just 3 or 4. Many readers would be happy with 1 really good one.

There are lots of elements that play into a relationship. They can be exceedingly complex. Here are some of the basic conceptual elements in real relationships. It is not a perfectly Biblical list, nor a completely psychological list. It is just some of the more important things to think about. They are not feelings because feelings are not reliable. Nor are they fact. However; good relationships bring a wealth of good feelings.
-1 Genuine Caring for Another - A growing love.
-2 Commitment - Even when you don't feel like it.
-3 Compassion - Accepting the fact that someone else feels differently then you do.
-4 Empathy - Overlooking shortcomings and glaring character defects in others.
-5 Communication - Finding the best way to express your thoughts, ideas and feelings in a way which the other person understands. Learning to listen in such a way that you understand the other person.
-6 Humility - Accepting the fact that you'll never get it perfect, but trying anyway.
-7 Selfless-ness - Focusing on someone else besides yourself.

I am sure there are more, but you get the idea.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Talent, Gifts, Purpose and Calling

Today I went to church. Yes I go regularly, and to what extent they will allow me, I am involved. Something that has been gnawing at me for some time is this matter of purpose. I know there is the age old debate, Armenianism vs. Calvanism. Is it decided for us by God (predestine), or do we make a choice? I think it's both. I think we have to choose God and I also think that God chooses us and initiates the relationship. When Jesus said that He wanted all men to be saved, I believe it. When they don't all get saved, I can't possibly believe that God would just make it so a select few would get the brass ring. How many chances do we need to get our hearts right? What happens when we run out of chances? I feel exactly the same way when it comes to purpose.

Now, back to purpose. Rick Warren wrote a few books about it, but I honestly think it is much deeper then what he covered. I am not saying that he is shallow, but I think deep down, really deep down, we need to touch the essence of our own DNA. If we are created for God's good pleasure and he delights in us, then we should be happy with that. Personally I don't find waiting a lifetime for eternity very exciting. If we look at our human purpose, we can see the impact that we have on the lives of others; both negative and positive. If our purpose is spiritual (supernatural), not like ladling soup for lunch, but something that only God can do through us, then many of us have a problem.

Here is the problem for me. Having a talent (the natural ability to do something which others cannot in the physical realm.) or gift (the supernatural ability to do something by being a vessel for God.) to share with others is not the issue for me. I am mediocre at a lot of things such as programming, playing guitar, graphic design, writing and being a dad. I work hard at them all, but there are others that can out perform me in a heartbeat. When it comes to gifts God has made me able to see things in the spirit; which no one can do with out a spiritual gift. Now there are others that can out perform me in this arena too. The difference is that I can't do it, and God does it through me. So, therefore; I can't really claim that it is something that I can do. As I have said many times, I am more amazed then the recipient. I KNOW I can't do it without God. That is the difference between a gift and a talent. I see a lot of talent in the church, but not always a lot of gifting. Gifting take obedience to the Holy Spirit, and you just can't fake that.

Now, back to purpose. Our purpose is not to have a talent or gift to share with the body; we all have them to some degree. You may read 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14 if you want to know more about spiritual gifts. Our main purpose is to please God... a very nice Christian sentiment. Purpose is the life target we are trying to hit while using our gifts and talents. Having purpose can come from a combination of gifting, talent, circumstance and anointing. It is the thing that makes us unique in this life and I suspect the next.

If purpose is the target (vision for the moment or the future), then gifting and talent is the ability to fulfill our purpose. Calling is the knowing-ness that God has work for us to do and anointing is God's fingerprint on the work, making it bear fruit. And faith, well that's believing that it is God in the first place. I have seen lots of Christians doing what they are good at, not what they are gifted at. To have purpose we need to do the God thing, not the good thing. What I long for is an opening in everyday life to get in there and do something that has purpose and bears fruit for the kingdom...to partner with God doing somethng that He is good at and maybe I'm not.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Give It Up!

The local news has run a few segments recently on heroes... real life life-savers. One story was about a man in NY City. He threw himself into the path of an oncoming subway train to save the life of another man, who; fell onto the tracks while having a seizure. The other story involved a state highway worker that pulled his "crash pad" truck into the path of an oncoming semi on the interstate. His vehicle absorbed enough of the impact, before it was pushed over an embankment, to save the life of a state trooper, who was also rear-ended in collision. Both of these heroes said they simply were responding to human need. I find it astounding as I just can't think that fast.

I know, you're probably thinking he is going to give me a metaphor for Christ giving His life for our sin. No, if you're reading this blog, then you probably know all about that. If you have ever been in a Christian church, then you have most likely heard that Christ died for our sins. My point today (When I studied homiletics I learned that you need a point.) is much different then that. I wonder how we would respond to laying our life down for another; for the Lord. 1 John 3:16 "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."

When you ponder your Christianity, do you ever think that you might lose your life? The thought of giving up our lives to martyrdom seems scary and foreign. At least it does to me. I am glad that we don't live in a society where death is seen in the street on a day-to-day basis. I guess what amazes me is this. Some other religions seem to easily embrace the concept of martyrdom. Just one look at the news in Iraq, or the West Bank, will illustrate just how willing the other team is to give up their lives for their god and their religion. We call it radical and crazy! Honestly; is it really foreign to Christianity, this martyrdom principal? I am sure we are all aware of the persecution that was leveled against the early Christians. But we are more civilized then that now. I am not so sure. Here is the story of a radical believer.

Acts 7:54 When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 55 But he (Stephen), being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" 57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul (Paul). 59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Putting out lives on the line changes the whole game, don't you think?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Second Best In the Popularity Contest

This past week my work computer caught a virus that was spreading over our network. It is amazing that a good company, with 2,000 employees; a software manufacturer to boot, was not well protected against such a threat. Now I certainly understand why they chose a product that, in this instance, was second best. It was a financial decision. For the five or so months that I have been an employee, there have been no problems with viruses. But, the problem is deeper then choosing second best for anti-virus protection. It began with choosing the more popular route... using Microsoft operating systems.

Microsoft Windows is not the best operating system, it is simply the most popular. Think of it like this. The Ford Escort is the most popular car in the world, but do you ever hear anyone saying, "I can't wait to buy a Ford Escort." No, never! They choose them because they are cheap and for the most part do the job... for the most part. For sure there are better cars out there. (I should know, I own an Escort. and I have driven a couple of luxury cars.)

Here is the parallel. In our lives we often choose second best. We may have given into any number of popular beliefs. We might even use our own intelligence to rationalize our choices, or worse, twist a Bible passage to make it right. It is like that child that wants a bike, but continues to spend their allowance on candy. They never get what they want, the bike. The choices that we make everyday impact our future and our eternity. The deeper issue is really this, have we chosen what is popular; the Escort, because we didn't know that there was something more precious? No matter what options we put on our little Escort, it is never going to be a BMW or Mercedes.

Is it possible that what we have chosen in terms of a spiritual life, friends, work, finances and the things we do when no one is looking, are second best? Even if we have chosen the best, are we protecting it with the very best?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

It's Still the Same

We have heard about Mary and Martha so many times I can't remember which one was too busy to enjoy the presence of the Lord. It still seems that it is basically an ignored teaching. We're still too busy as a people. I think it would be safe to say that we are often at church too much, or not enough. Maybe we just don't know how to stop the wheel of busy-ness.

As humans we have a need for something that fills a void within our soul. Without fixing this malady, we begin to medicate our loneliness with a host of other things. Maybe we're not addicts, but the record shows that we as a culture, indulge in entertainment, the pursuit of money, work-o-holism, overeating, the Internet, pornography, booze, sex, collectables, shopping... the list goes on and on. But what I find interesting when I talk to people; when I stop to say hello, ask how someone is, or invite someone out for coffee, I often hear the same response. They will tell how much they would like to get together, followed by a reason why they can't. I think they are just used to being busy. As a middle-ager, I am looking for less to do not more. On the other hand, I think people would be shocked if we just stopped everything for them. There is a basic need for fellowship, it is one of the things that makes us feel close to God.

The real question is what's missing? "Jesus" you say, and that is a typical Christian answer. For the record you are right, we all need Jesus. Now, let's get real for a minute. Most people that have seen an angel or the Lord Himself, have been frightened. You can find them in the pages of the Bible: Mary, the shepherds, John... trust me, that is not what's missing from most peoples day-to-day. Think about it, if your phone rang right now, who would you want it to be on the other end? If you were to receive a call every day this week, or an invitation for lunch or coffee, who would you want to spend it with? I think that's what is missing.

I often hear about balance, but the real problem is priorities. If you have read your Bible for many years, I think you will see that God wants to be number one. Go to church every day and I believe that you'll find that quickly that your spouse with hands on hips, will eventually be standing there at the door scowling. That's number two; spouse. If you have kids, you know the intense needs that they have. They need everything now! Even when they don't ask, they seem to be into some sort of mischief that needs our immediate attention. I also think that because little ones need so much nurturing, that being with them ends up higher on the list then spouses. But kids are still number three. The men will usually ask, "What about work?" That's number four as family always comes before work. And ministry, leading Bible studies, worship, and teaching Sunday school, that is five, which is followed by recreation, six. You may remember Paul talking about why it was good for him to be single, simply so his second priority could be ministry. Yet he even worked a regular job when needed. With demanding jobs and a plethora of needs, both perceived and real, priorities can be tough.

OK, so you have your priorities in order and something is still missing, then what? We're back to fellowship. God is a relational God. Some of us require more time with our brethren then others, but we all need fellowship. Fellowship is not a Bible study, it is church picnics, game nights, getting together to break bread, grabbing a coffee, working out together or simply hanging out. It might be ministering together at the food pantry, or serving the homeless, but it is engaging with others. It should involve something deeper then small-talk. Jimmy Evans said, "time is the commodity of relationship," How are we spending ours?

Monday, January 8, 2007

Overhaulin' - When You Need Everything Fixed

In one of those seasons of life, the kind where you have pressed in, stayed faithful and expected a lot from God; where you have not seen things change in the natural, that's where I found a series of miracles. I don't simply mean the coincidental kind of miracles, but the kind that you are totally awed by God. This is the kind of stuff that you tell a stranger on the street because you can't contain it. Let me explain.

I was told by a pastor to stop reading books by Kenneth Hagin Sr; I didn't. Those books, bad theology or good, really built my faith. I was later told by another pastor and friend, to read books about revival. He lent them to me and as I returned them, he gave me more. In between books, I was on my own.

One day I went to the mailbox. I honestly don't remember now if it was something that I did everyday or just from time-to-time. Because the mailbox wasn't right in front of the house, we often stopped at it when we were returning from work or some other errand; pulling up and rolling down the window. This particular day there was an oversized postcard from Marilyn Hickey Ministries. It said something about saving the family and I dismissed it; tossing it into the the abyss of coffee cups and empty cigarette packs on the floor of my pickup truck. I didn't give it a second thought.

I don't remember how much time had passed, but one day I hit the brakes hard and my Bible slid from the front seat onto the floor. When I picked it up, the "Save the Family Encounter" postcard was stuck to the Bible. My name and address was handwritten in the address block. Now, that's something that caught my attention. I was thinking about who might have personally sent this to me and how many thousand others? Who would have had my name?

As I was pondering those thoughts, I heard the Lord say, "you need to go."

Having the strong sense that I should go, deepened my interest. I read it in more detail. It was about 80 or 90 miles from my house, it was during the work week, and I had little kids that would need babysitting. And I wasn't going alone to some Family Encounter. I was discouraged before I drove the 50 yards back to my driveway.

The postcard kept haunting me. I had stuffed it in my Bible and took it out at church the next Sunday. I asked someone that I knew if she had ever heard of this Marilyn Hickey? Oh, she's got a TV show on at 6 am. She rolled her eyes and said, "she's no Baptist." There were a number of us undercover Charismatics there at that church. I think she was one of them. Actually that place more like a scene from the movie, The Brother From Another Planet.

Now I was more interested then ever. I knew I was supposed to go, I just didn't see how. Getting there was going to be a challenge I was sure. Finally, I just walked over to the head of the deacon's board and asked him, "can someone watch my kids on Thursday night from 5 PM until 10 PM, all day Friday from 9 AM until 10 PM and the same on Saturday?"

He replied with a gulp, "That's what we're here for." I will tell my wife. I am sure we can do the evenings at our house and I will round up someone for the daytime meetings.

Next the owner of the studio where I worked was at church that same morning. We had an agreement that we wouldn't talk business at church, but I am not too much for rules. Besides, I was on a roll. "Bill," I said, "I am going to need next Friday and Saturday off." I saw that look come over him.

"For what?" He asked.

"I want to go to this Christian conference," and I pulled out the postcard to show him.

"I guess it will be alright as long as everything is done before you go." he said.

Next I had to ask my wife. She had no idea what I was up to. I had learned a long time ago that there isn't really a way to approach people with things that they are not going to like. So, I simply pulled out the postcard and said, "What do you think about us going to this?"

"It will cost too much." she said.

"It's free," I quietly replied.

"You can't take time off from work." She said escalating her tone.

"Bill already said it was OK. I just asked him" I said.

"We don't have anyone to watch the girls." she fired back.

The deacons are going to pool their resources and do it," I said.

"Why can't we just go to church here?" she said, trying to change the subject.

"Because God said we should go," I said.

"Yeah right." She firmly replied.

"Everything is all set, I would like to go," I said.

"I guess we could go to one meeting." - a softening tone.

It's a conference, we should go to all the meetings," I said.

"I'll let you know." she snapped, and turned to walk away.

"Whatever," I said, nearly defeated.

The next Thursday I dropped the kids off and we headed for the first meeting. We enjoyed wonderful worship and some good word-of-faith teaching; enough for us to commit to the next days meetings. During the morning meeting someone felt led to buy us the workbook for $50, which we received with joy. We met people that felt impressed to share the miracle that God was about to do. Honestly I didn't have a clue. I just knew I was supposed to be there.

The last meeting on Saturday was called the Miracle Service. If nothing else happened, we were full from simply being there. The worship team was playing Are God Is an Awesome God. My knees were shaking in the presence of God. I had never experienced such awe, such power or felt such a reverence for God like this. King Jesus was in the house!

Marilyn started the meeting by asking if there was anyone that had been delivered from alcoholism or other addictions. I stood up. I was sober 14 or 15 years at that time. Then we sat. She said, "if you need to break the addiction to cigarettes, then stand up and claim your miracle." She walked between those standing and proclaimed victory over them. When she walked by me I heard a voice, which wasn't hers. It said, "You'll never have to smoke again." It was audible to me, but no one around me acknowledged hearing it. I have since come to know the internal audible voice of God. I had been smoking 2 to 3 packs of Marlboros a day for 20 years, and I have never had a cigarette since. Not one! I actually quit smoking in a house with another smoker.

Next she asked anyone with eye problems to stand up. I had worn glasses since I was in second grade, having a fairly typical astigmatism and some farsightedness. I stood up and she talked about faith for a minute or so. Then she said if you are healed keep standing. Feeling nothing, I sat down. She handed a Bible to an elderly man a few rows away and said, "Can you read it?"

He replied "No, things are actually worse." She pulled the thick glasses from his face, "How is that she asked?" He began to read John 3:16. People clapped as she went around getting testimonies. I bowed my head and closed my eyes and said, "God, I want that." I took off my glasses that night and have never had a problem with an astigmatism since!

I was on a roll. The next call was for ears that needed to be healed. I had played electric guitar on "10" for many years, and it had taken it's toll. I had persistent ringing and some other nerve damage that made it almost impossible to hear in a room where there was any sort of noise. I stood there and she said very little. She began to ask people to stay standing that were healed. She began to whisper and I heard it! It wasn't until the next morning when I heard the kids bare feet sticking to the hardwood floors that I realized how much hearing had been restored!

The meeting ended with anyone that had been healed standing. "Look around you," Marilyn said. "This is Jesus at work!" Then she preached the gospel for just a few minutes. "If you want Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, stand up." The room was full of new converts!

Our God is an awesome God!

The Cost of a Soul - More Supernatural Stories

T. Austin Sparks said, "We just don't know the opposition to a man's soul." What he meant was this, there are legions of demons and other demonic forces that keep us from salvation. And that's not including the influences of this world!

On my third trip to Brazil I was part of a movement to transform cities and countries by the power of public prayer and fasting. I was traveling with a ministry named: The Call. The event in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, was named "The Call Brazil." There were churches from all over Brazil that came to pray at their nation's capital. The informal national day of fasting and prayer took place from 6AM until 6PM on the "mall" surrounded by federal buildings.

We had arrived a few days before the event to pray and get to know the Brazilians that we would be serving. On a few of the days before the event, we prayer-walked the perimeter of the mall area. At one end there was bricked plaza near a museum and other monuments. It was nearly 90 degrees in the shade and probably 100 in the sun. At midday very few people ventured outside. We probably should have done the same.

I was teamed up with 3 or 4 others praying as the Holy Spirit lead. As we walked the square there was a lone ice cream vendor in the shade of one of the monuments, a few hundred yards a way. I decided we should probably get some water as I had run out in the intense heat. I approached the young man and spoke to him in Portuguese telling him that I needed a bottle of water. He took out one bottle and told me the price. "Duis reis (2 Reis)," he replied. I only had a $10 Rei bill and asked if he had change. He said that he didn't have any change because there was no business yet today.

I felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit. If you have read some of the other stories, you know I am not very good at talking to people in public about Jesus. Not to mention that my Portuguese is barely acceptable. I tried to remember some of my best Christian-ese in Portuguese. I told the vendor that he did have to make change for the $10 Rei bill if he would let me pray for him. He tried to offer me more water then I could carry. I told him it would only be a minute so he relented. I placed my hand on his shoulder and he bowed his head and closed his eyes. In Portuguese I asked God to bless Him and give him a drink of the living water (bebido aqua viva). I felt a supernatural heat in my hand and he started to shake a little. I prayed in the spirit for a minute or so. As I took my hand from his shoulder, he opened his eyes and there was a Brazilian woman standing there that we did not know. When I had thanked him for the opportunity I handed over the bill that I had promised.

The woman, waiting her turn, began to preach the Gospel to Him. She told Him that by the blood of Jesus, God would save his soul that day. "Agora! (Now!)," she shouted. "Aqui! (Here!), she said in a loud and passionate voice. He bowed his head and began to cry out "Jesus," as tears ran down his face. He accepted the Lord and gave her a hug. He turned to me and gave me the "thumbs up" sign.

5,000 miles from home, God was at work. The strange woman and the gringo... I believe the opposition can be beaten.

Supernatural - Braggin' 'bout Jesus

Writing this blog is a lot fun because I get to brag about Jesus. I really enjoy looking at times in my life where the work of God is undeniable. Sure I have my doubts at times. I am like Thomas; I want to see it now. Even Thomas was there when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. You would think that he didn't need too much else in terms of evidence. I think he and I are alike in this way; we want to see the Lord all the time, not just once in a while. I don't think that Thomas doubted the existence of the Lord. I think He was concerned that Jesus would be there for him right now, next week and the week after working miracles. It is a sign of immaturity, the need to have a parent close at all times. I can be like this with God. I am sure that it was especially hard after the crucifixion, which was a horrendous ordeal for all that were close to Lord.

After years of being a Christian I had allowed a great distance to come between me and the Lord. I was just busy with life, kids and work. My older brother had suggested that I get to a conference not far from my house. It was a very exciting few days of meetings. I remember walking in during worship and feeling completely and utterly sinful. The conviction was so intense that I found the first open seat and got on my knees. This was not guilt, not bad feelings, not anything emotional at all. I just felt the weight of sin in me. I spent a little time asking the Lord to forgive me. The preacher came on and spoke for hours about different topics... I cold only think of Paul preaching all night. The meeting ended with an altar call and people got saved, and others were healed. It was a very rich meeting.

The next morning I was off to my little Baptist church where I was scheduled to take care of the kids in the nursery. I remember trying to keep the door open so I could here the worship. I was so hungry for more of Jesus that I even took some of the toddlers up the hall so I could listen. When I went back, there were diapers to be changed, lessons in sharing to be given and kids that needed other types of attention. I was starting to resent that I was in there doing such unspiritual work. I had hoped to hear the sermon over the speaker in ceiling, but it was crackling and cutting out... besides the kids were just too noisy for anyone to concentrate.

Later, I was sitting in a toddler-size chair holding one of the babies that was crying when, all of a sudden, there was a lull in the noise. I heard that pastor praying at the end of the service asking for God to increase someone's faith today. I remember the feeling of a warm waterfall splashing down on me. Parents came to pick up their children and when I was finished, I walked into that sanctuary. As I walked toward the altar to say hello to a few friends, a woman that I know came towards me and said that the Lord had placed me on her heart during the closing prayer. She handed me a roll of $50 bills.

I guess it would suffice to say that receiving money in a time of need would be enough. But here is the rest of the story. I worked at a photography studio during that season of my life. I wasn't making all that much money and I was supporting a family of four. The week earlier my car went in for a routine state inspection and failed; it would need $1,300 worth of repairs. When they called with the estimate, I decided to call them back after praying. I asked a co-worker to pray with me. When I was done, I felt that I should approve the repairs even though I had $13 dollars in my checking account. My co-worker said, "Either you have faith, or you are crazy." The car was in the shop for 2 days, and when Friday came around I only had my $320 paycheck. I was embarrassed answering the phone and said that I couldn't get it until Monday. On Sunday the woman gave me almost a thousand dollars. I was short about $100 dollars when I went to get the car. The man at the counter just let it go because we had purchased the car there.

This amazing Jesus, now that is something to brag about.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

The Number of the Beast - More Supernatural Stories

The number of the beast (Rev. 13:18) seemed to be a popular fad in 70's and early 80's rock-n-roll. Idealized by bands like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, we got used to Satan Rock and backwards masking. Possibly the adolescent passion of a misguided rockstar or a grand marketing ploy by corporate America, it was successful in bringing the number 666 into the minds of the masses. The church railed against it from the pulpit and in books. Entire ministries were formed to combat the frenzied flow of evil. Groupies of the bands wore it proudly on t-shirts and tattoos. You can easily find reproductions of those album covers from that era on the 'Net today.

I didn't really want to ascribe much credence to the whole thing. I honestly expected that the number of the beast was something that we would hear about in the end times; if we lived until that time. I read the books that said it was the three empty bar-code separators on everything we purchased. But that was about all the attention that I gave the number until about 8 years ago.

At the time I taught computers a Christian High School about an hour from my home. On the way to work I would pray and listen to worship music with my then 4th grade daughter. We talked about the Bible, Jesus, church, Heaven and a host of much more important things like American Girl dolls, her pet rabbit and bicycles. We set aside one day to pray out-loud, one to listen to a Christian radio show and another to talk about anything she wanted to talk about. Friday was donut day and we'd stop and get a Boston Cream donut for each of us.

During that Fall I bought a new car as my old one gave out stranding us on the Interstate. I remember one particular "prayer day" my daughter was praying for God to heal her little sister's allergies and protect us all. A sense of darkness fell over the car. She hadn't finished saying, "Amen," when a pickup truck two cars ahead of us lost its 8' aluminum camper cap. It seemed to come from out of the sky, smashing to the pavement just in front of us. Traveling in the left-lane, I yanked the wheel to the right, cutting across the right-lane and into the breakdown-lane. The car behind us hit the cap head on on. With shards of glass flying everywhere, they were rear-ended by the two cars behind them. As we came to a stop in the breakdown-lane and caught our breath, my daughter looked down at the odometer and read aloud the mileage, "666," she said. Out hearts still racing we just sat for a minute or two stunned at the events that had just taken place. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Global Warming

Wow! Today it was 72 (22c) when it should have been close to 32 (0c). Some of the experts are blaming this unseasonable weather on global warming; others claim that it is just a fluke of nature. Well all I have to say is the ICE AGE ended! How do you think that happened? Global warming! The same experts insisting that global warming is the culprit also say that glaciers extended half way to Omaha during the Ice Age. Today, some of those regions once covered by ice might get snow a few times a decade. This was caused by, you guessed it; global warming. I find it amazing that we can ignore the fact that this happened long before man made hydrocarbons and greenhouse gasses. Now I am not against cutting pollutants in our environment. I think that we need lots more hybrid cars and wind farms. I would like to see us use very little coal and other fossil fuels.

What amazes me about these intellects and so called experts is that they are from the same group that teaches that the Big Bang Theory and Evolution are scientific fact and Creation is a farce. According the Webster, a theory is a guess, not a fact. Now I wasn't there, but I think it is funny that men have evolved and the monkeys haven't. My parents were told that the coelacanth (fish) was a prehistoric moniker millions of years old, and then one was caught off the coast of Africa; alive!

Last year I saw a television production about the life of Paul the Apostle. The producers claimed his "Road to Damascus" experience was an epileptic seizure! Honestly, from one evolved coacervate to another, I think my college professor was correct when he said, "An ex-pert is something that used to be a drip." But he voted for Jimmy Carter and we know how that ended.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Supernatural Living

As many of us press on in our faith, we come to points in life that we seem to have no choice in how things go. That seems to be when God shows himself to be the most faithful. I also find that when we are at our weakest, God seems to pour forth while I am in my most pitiful state. Here is what I am talking about. I was divorced about 6 years ago and left with very little in terms of worldly things. I had a car (for a few weeks) and a job (for a month or so) and my clothes, a bunch of CDs, a stereo and some personal artifacts that were worth something to me. Now not having things is not a bad thing, it was just a fact. For this American it was rather difficult leaving so much behind. Well, until I couldn't afford a car and I was laid-off from work it then seemed unbearable. And yes, it got worse.

These difficult times certainly kept me close to God. I didn't have a TV or a computer. I listened to worship music literally day and night. I looked for work and worked part-time during the day. I helped lead young adults meetings at night. I played guitar at home for hours along with the CD player... Pretty much just me and Jesus.

I was attending a church and the pastor left for another country. He and I had developed a wonderful relationship during our weekly counseling meetings. After he announced his departure, I was handed off to the "new guy." Wow! What a change for me... Mr. Grace (me) meets Mr. Pentecostal (the new guy); and the sparks began to fly. During his first week we had our first meeting. It was made clear that I wasn't going to be part of the ministry there.

I was really confused about things. In my prayer times, I told God I had been at the church a year and people knew me, and knew about me. I wanted to serve God, but not under this guy. Yet, I did not feel a release to go somewhere else. I guess that is why getting shut down bothered me so much. As you might imagine, I got angry. So I left for Florida.... just for a vacation to sort things out and get a little break from the "legal eagles."

Sitting in a small meeting of about 75, not far from Orlando, I was kind of hanging out in the back worshiping and just enjoying the presence of God. After a while, I decided that I wanted to get going. I was tired from traveling; from life actually. I was just about to get up and leave when this guy on the platform calls me out for a prophetic word. Man! I should of left a little earlier I thought to myself. But I got up and walked to the altar area. The man's name was Greg I think. And here is what he said. "You have the prophetic gift, and I want you to come up here and minister tonight. Just call some folks out and don't prophesy anybody dying." I have to say that is that last thing I wanted to do, be Mr. Church again. I did what he asked and called out one, then another. I think there were about six when he stopped me. He said, "God wants to build your confidence tonight." He asked the 6 folks to come up and give feedback. As always, I am more amazed then the recipients how accurate things were. I can't say how empty I was when I started and how full I was when I finished. I still had to fly home, but that is another story.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Political Rant

Today in Massachusetts our new governor, Deval Patrick is sworn in and Whitehouse hopeful, Mit Romney leaves. For me it is a sad day. Why? Because, for me, Mit Romney represented my Christian principals better then anyone that has governed over me. Oh sure, he has issues, but on all the big debates, ones where a Christian must choose a side, he worked hard to implement many things that I believe in. After 21 years living in a very liberal state where all the important Christian values from pro-life to embryonic stem-cell research have been trampled by landslide votes, it appears that things are about to get worse.

I believe that we reap what we sow. And I believe that there is grace for repentant people. The purpose of a savior is so that we don't get what we deserve... in the end anyway. Some call me a right-wing conservative. Others think that principled Christians like me are bigots. They use the word when their lifestyle doesn't line up with the Biblical "do's and don’ts". The truth is that this moral code was unpopular in the times of Moses, Jesus, Martin Luther and President Bush. And... it will be until the end of time. Some say the moral compass of the US has gone off course. I think it is happening in both the blue and red states. Sure there are some bastions of morality, but they are eroding too. Maybe it is because we took prayer out of school, legalized abortion and we are working towards legalizing other agendas that are certainly not Biblical. Oh yeah, we got to say Merry Christmas with less flack then last year, but was it truly a victory?

I guess the real questions are these: What is the church going to do when the laws change and we are required to hire folks that maybe do not believe in our beloved Biblical principals? How will we exist if we do not have a tax exempt status? What will we do when we are the minority? What about persecution? I don't think that we have really passed the test in round one. When divorce was made no-fault, Christians were running about 1 percentage point better then non-Christians. That's not even a close call. We should be 50 points better and we're not.

As sad as I am about the changing of the guard here in my state, I am more saddened by a church (global) that is still having major problems practicing what they preach... or at least perceived as such. When we turn that around we'll be able to offer something in the political realms. I don't believe we are beyond hope. Many cities have been transformed by the grace and power of a loving Savior.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Supernatural Events V - Full Tank

One of my favorite books is "Like a Mighty Wind" which takes place during the Indonesian Revival of the 60's. I found it exciting as I read about the miracles that took place during that time. Those testimonies really increased my faith. When I looked closer at the actual events I saw that God was not just doing magic tricks via the Holy Spirit; no, He was meeting the needs of His creation through the church. When the believers had a need they prayed and God met that need.

For a long time I wanted to see Jesus work in my life... not just in coincidental ways, but in true power that was undeniable. Here is what happened to me one day. Around the time of the 9/11 attacks, my mother was dying of cancer 900 miles away. Towards the end I drove there 3 times in 2 weeks. The cost of fuel and food on the road was a real hardship for me. On my second trip I stopped for fuel in PA on Saturday afternoon. My debit card was declined; I hadn't been really keeping track as my mind was on other things. I took my last $20 bill and put $15 in the tank and bought a couple of $1 hamburgers for the girls and myself at McDonalds. We had enough fuel to get back to Massachusetts.

The next morning when I awoke I heard the Holy Spirit say, " I am going to fill your tank." Wow, that was a relief as the fuel light had come on a few miles before I pulled in the driveway. Immediately I tried to determine just how that would happen. I assumed that someone would slip me some cash because the Lord had put me on their heart. Maybe the Lord would just fill the tank and the fuel gauge would be on "F" when I got in. Possibly the car would just not run out until pay day. I was wrong on all counts.

I got to church a little early, talked with some of my friends and introduce myself to a few new faces. I enjoyed the worship and the word. At the end of the service I began to think about the empty tank again, but I felt reassured that I heard God correctly. I spotted a woman that I knew, maybe she would give me some cash for gas. But today that Lord asked me to pray for her. I asked her to step to the altar area and started to pray. She fell under the power and I stood near by as I waited for her to come back the natural. My kids played in the hallway and waited for me. The woman wasn't moving very fast... as a matter of fact, she wasn't moving at all. 20 minutes later she started to recover. By this time my girls were rolling their eyes waiting to leave. And, everyone had left the church. The woman's son took her to the car and I headed for mine.

As I turned the key I remembered that I didn't have enough gas to get home. I began second guessing my ability to hear God. Why hadn't I just asked someone for $10? Maybe the pride of neediness took over. But I had a real situation on my hands, an empty tank. I began thinking over my options, searching the console and the ashtray for change. I came up with almost $3. I decided that would at least keep me from being stranded on the side of the road. As I slowly made my way to the main road and a gas station, trying to conserve what fumes were left, I decided to go the station where the gas was the cheapest. I was weighing the odds of going the extra 3 or so miles to get there. As I neared the first and most expensive gas station in town i decided to get the gas there. Sitting in front of the pump, I was trying to convince my daughter to go in and start counting pennies for the purchase. She was reluctant and said that I should do it. I decided to pump first and pay after. As I pulled the nozzle from the holder, I heard that Lord says, "Use you debit card and press credit." So I did. I figured it would be declined just as it was the day before. The pump flashed, "BEGIN FUELING." As I pulled the trigger I was thinking something was wrong. I decided to put in $5 just in case. But I heard the Lord say, "I promised that I would fill your tank." And so He did; nearly $25 worth! I hung up the pump and shared the good news with my girls.

A few days later I went to deposit my paycheck and there seemed to be a problem with the balance, as it was less then the check. I asked that teller what the problem was and as she looked at my account she said, "The computers were down for about 20 minutes on Sunday morning and your gas purchase was approved during that time. Because it was our fault, there will be no overdraft fee." I blessed her and left in awe of God.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Supernatural Events IV - Being Unknown

I think one of the greatest benefits of being used by God is that sometimes only you and He know. On my trip to Norway I was on the ministry team for a conference the Americans presented there. I had a chance to minister to many people over the few days that conference ran. But my favorite experience was with a man I met in the hallway just off the lobby. I don't remember his name; actually I may not have asked him. I do remember asking him if I could share a few impressions with him. I don't know that he really knew what I was talking about. I began sharing with him that I felt he had a huge change of course in his life. I saw that he was a computer programmer and that he and I had that in common. Actually I was able to tell him what language he programmed in. I think that got his attention. I never met him before, so it didn't mean a whole lot to me. I was just going on faith and the flow of the Holy Spirit. I spoke of the teaching gift that he had and some other details of his life.

I just love how God gets involved in people's lives. I don't know why this man decided to wander in. He was just going about his day-today business and bumped into me. It was like the story of the woman at the well. She perceived from Jesus' words of knowledge, that there was something very different about Him. This man perceived that some of things that I knew about his life in the Holy Spirit were things that I could not have known. God often does this so that the receiver knows that the future events that are spoken over him are from God.

When I finished, he shared with me that he was in fact a computer programmer and God had changed the course of his life when he received Christ a few years earlier. I think it was Billy Graham that evangelized him. He went on to say that he slowly became excited about Jesus and was now attending an evangelical seminary in Oslo; not far from the conference. It appears that some of his classmates had not had much good to say about some of the conference speakers because they were known to be Pentecostal and Charismatic. He admitted that he was skeptical about it all, but he decided to check it out quietly by himself. That is why he was in the back... so he could make a quick escape. Now I don't know that I did all this perfectly, I just blessed him in the name of the Lord and wished him well. He was a bit in shock and I am sure that he never asked my name.

On our team we had partners that we were with for most of the events. At dinner that night, my partner said that he and a select group of teachers were going to minister at a local seminary and would not be joining us for one of the morning conference meetings. When he returned that evening I asked him how the teaching time went. He said, "They didn't want us to teach at all. One of the seminarians had met someone from our team that knew everything about him. The man was so excited about it, that he convinced the president to allow our team to come and prophesy over all the students there.” My partner said, "We were kind of shocked at the request. The man thought that the entire team had the same gifting and wanted his classmates to see that God was good."

Often when I travel, I only tell people my first name. It is a wonderful thing to let the Holy Spirit simply do his job and bring forth the things that God has for an individual. I don't rely on men for invitations, for speaking engagements or ministry trips. I do my best to minister in humility where ever I am regardless of who is looking, or who will know when I am done.

Supernatural Events III - God Had A Plan

I was in Norway a few years ago and I found the country in general was not really open to hearing about Jesus. It appeared that years of Socialism had taken it's toll.

Our team of about 30 Americans and 20 Norwegians was to be on the street inviting people to the conference that was to take place starting that evening. I am not personally very good at approaching people on the street to talk about Jesus, but I was there and I assumed that I had a purpose for being there. I remember simply praying in my room that I would be able to be effective during the 3 or 4 hour outreach in Oslo. It was just way out of my comfort zone. I actually considered telling that team that I would stay at the hotel and pray for them. During my prayer time, I decided to simply ask the Lord for a number; the number of people that I would actually talk to on the street. At first it was the number 3. I was so relieved and then there was a 1... 13, well I could do that.

At the beginning of the outreach we were worshipping in the rain downtown. Then it was time to disperse in small groups and hit the streets. I took 13 invitations from the outreach leader. I was one of 2 adults in a group of 3. We stood on a busy sidewalk and began to approach people. Many of them did not even respond to our gestures. I started to pray and ask the Lord who He wanted to reach today. Miraculously, everyone that I talked to was engaging enough to take an invitation to the conference. Within an hour or less, all 13 invitations were gone. I began talking with my 2 team mates thinking that I was done. God had a different plan, He impressed on me to keep praying and reaching out even though I was out of invitations. I used up all of mine as well as all of those that the 2 gals I was working with had. With still over and hour to go, I reached in my pocket and for some reason I still had 1 more left. Maybe I misscounted, I thought. I gave that away and reached in my pocket and there was still 1 more left. As you might imagine, I was pretty surprised as I had counted out 13. This happened a few times and 3 of us were amazed at what God was doing there on the rain-soaked street corner in Oslo. We just began to praise God for His provision.

The outreach leader happened to walk by to see how we were doing. What a wonderful testimony we had to share. That evening I saw that faces of some of the folks that I had talked to on the street that day. Many of the others from the team were disappointed that no one they had talked to showed up at the conference.
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