Monday, May 22, 2006

Infinite Grace

I recently had a dream in which the Lord asked me to invision in my mind a line drawn to infinity. I immediately thought of the verse "far as the east is from the west" and began to imagine a wide band running from my left to my right as far as I could see. Then the Lord said to turn and view it as if the line ran in front of me toward the horizon... this was far more impressive because it gave the impression of such enormous distance running forward forever. As I was marvelling at this he said "You must remember that as much as you can see... as far as your mind can comprehend... that is just the beginning... there is far more there that you can't see than that which you do see." He continued, "That is how my grace is. As much as you think you understand my grace there is far more there that you don't see... my grace is infinite... my acceptance is total... and just like the line you think you see when you look forward into infinity... the part you don't see of my grace is much bigger than the part you do see."

Watch How You Aim That Thing!

Another cool story from one of a friend of mine. Chris works construction and its not unusual for him to find himself in an environment that is rather vulgar. This particular day the painting crew was listening to a very raw comedian and Chris said it began to really get to him... making him nauseous. Trying to decide whether to say anything or not he went to his truck to take a break and pray. In his truck he said, "Lord, I can't handle this much longer. Help me to find a way to deal with this."

About 5 minutes later he walked back into the house. There was a bit of commotion around the boombox as the crew were all standing chattering. When Chris asked what was going on they pointed... the boombox was on fire... it had just started smoking a couple of minutes before and burst into flames.

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Another Cool (Holy) Ghost Story

Another great story from a close friend...

About a week ago I walked into a Mexican restaurant to eat with two of my friends (neither are practicing Christians). As we were being seated at our table, I noticed an older couple. The wife was clearly upset. She was crying and due to the puffiness of her face I could tell that she had been for a little while now. I tried to do the "polite" thing by ignoring it and sat down. But I couldn't let it go. So I left my friends and walked over to her table.

I greeted her and asked her if she was alright. She said "no" and proceeded to tell me that her mother was in her late 80's and in the hospital with dementia and other disorders. She was afraid and her heart was broken due to her mother not recognizing her. I could tell that the emotional pressure had finally cracked her.

I sympathized with her a moment and hugged her and told her how sorry I was for her pain. I could feel the Holy Spirit all over both of us. Her husband was rather dumbfounded by all of this. He shook my hand really big, however, and introduced himself.

I went back to my table. But I could not stop the feeling in my chest. To say that I was overwhelmed with compassion for her doesn't cover it- I was blinded by it. It was obvious that the Holy Spirit inside of me really wanted me to talk to her some more. It just wouldn't let go.

I saw them get up and walk out... but I still didn't get up. I didn't know these people... they were twice my age and then some... who was this young girl to help them get through something that in the natural she really couldn't sympathize with? Well, the Holy Spirit didn't seem to care about that... a minute or so after they walked out, I realized that I had to go pray for her.

The scene must have been hilarious! My friends, all this time, had been staring blankly at me. I had just gone over and hugged a strange woman as she cried on my shoulder. Once I was back at the table, the poor waiter came and I completely ignored all of them and then I sprinted out of the door to chase down some grief stricken lady?! Yeah, my friends weren't too thrilled about it.

So I ran out into the parking lot just in time to catch them backing out’s quickly ran to the car window and knocked on the passenger side. She opened the door and I asked if I could pray for her. She said "please." I held her and prayed for all kinds of things, including the division and hurt in their family... I felt how open she was. The Holy Spirit was literally pouring into her chest. Her husband was more receptive this time as well. I finished praying and he thanked and thanked me. He said that I had no idea the impact of my prayers. I later found out he was once a pastor. For some reason he wasn't any longer and it seemed to be a pretty bad situation. Their older children were hurt, everyone was hurt etc.

I'm not sure how they are now or how her mother is, but i just thought I'd share the story because, i feel safe to say, that night the Holy Spirit really did something inside of both of them and it was really neat to see.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Man-Room!

This is one of those things I have been reluctant to write about for some time... not because its not important... on the contrary... its among the most important things going on right now... but because I don't know how to describe or explain it adequately. I am referring to "the Man-Room".

This is the best explanation I've come up with yet... this is an invitation to someone I sent out inviting them to participate.

What is the Manroom?
The manroom began as a small mentoring group but it quickly developed a life of its on and morphed into much more than that. It is a gathering of men (much too informal to be called a meeting) every 2nd and 4th Tuesday night at my house... out on the back porch... it has no real start time and no real finish time... most people start arriving around 7pm and hang out usually until after 11... there is usually something to munch on and always something to drink... it can be hilariously funny and turn deathly serious in just seconds... it is sometimes a touch crude (think jr. high humor) and always irreligious... I think of it as men being men... unapologetically... unashamedly... men! And in the midst of this atmosphere God shows up... always... powerfully. I can also say that not one person who has made the manroom part of their life is the same as when they started. There has been impressive individual spiritual growth.

It is not an open group and it is NOT something people can invite their friends to.... I am careful about who is invited for a few reasons... 1) I see the hand of God on you in a unique way that makes me think you will benefit from this, 2) Because of the irreligious nature of the group I control the invites for fear of offending those who are sensitive to that, and 3) I guard the mix of personalities in order to preserve the openness and interaction in the group.

The group is not for you if you can be offended easily... if you expect a bible study or formal mentoring... if you need to be in bed by 9pm (the good stuff rarely starts before 9)... or if you are afraid to urinate in the woods (this makes more sense once you get here)!

We decided to open up the invitations this year a little... it has potential to get a little crowded and since we meet on a screened porch (with some heat and windbreak) you will need to dress for the elements somewhat.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Help Desk

M. works for a rental car help counter. She gets to talk to those people who are already having a bad day. Last week M. received a typical customer call but as she spoke to the woman on the other end the woman broke down and began to tell M. about all the problems and issues going on in her life. M. then offered to pray for the woman. The woman agreed until she realized M. meant RIGHT NOW, ON THE PHONE! She couldn't believe it. She said, "Nobody has ever prayed for me before" She then asked her to wait a minute... she then put the phone on speakerphone in a busy school office and asked the office staff to come listen because "the car rental lady is going to pray for me."

M. began to pray and as she did the spirit of God came over that office and people began to sob. The presence of God filled that office. The lady has maintained contact with M. via email and M. is continuing to draw her to the Lord.

An Appointment by Accident

C. was driving to work on Cooper road near the church a few days ago when he came upon a serious accident. He felt impressed to stop and pray for the injured but the police were just arriving and he talked himself out of getting involved. As he drove away he became more and more convinced that he had missed a "Divine Appointment" and began to pray for God to give him another chance to minister to the victims.

C. called a couple of hospitals asking about the Cooper road accident victims. He finally found a nurse who was willing to help. He simply said he was wanting to pray with them. "I am not supposed to tell you anything," said the nurse, "but the lady just asked for a chaplain and we have nobody here right now... you can come and pray."

When he arrived they asked him to wait in the crowded waiting room... then they brought the lady out to meet him. C. said, "Ma'am, I know you don't know me but God sent me here to pray for you." The woman began to sob... then fell out in the Spirit... the Spirit of God came on that waiting room and people all over the room began to cry and pray. When she came to she shared some of her history with C. She was a godly woman and was encouraged by C.'s prayer... then C. said "I have a word for your son... God says, I saved your life so you wouldn't have to lose it." (C. didn't know the woman's son was the other accident victim at this point) The woman again began to cry and went to get her son. He was in emergency... the doctor working on the young man brought him out to the waiting room... head bandaged and bloody.

By now those in the waiting room were totally involved... people sobbing all over the place. The mother introduced C. to the boy and told him he wanted to pray with him. The boy told C. that he thought that he was dead... and at the last second before hitting the tree a bright light came over him... the next thing he knew he woke up in the hospital. C. gave him the word... "God says, I saved your life so you wouldn't have to lose it." The boy said "I'm ready... what do I need to do?" C. told him, "Your mother knows the Lord... she will tell you how to turn your life over to him." Then C. turned and left the room.

As C. walked out the door he overheard the woman saying to her son, "I don't know if he was an angel or not, but he left me his phone number"

C. says he could have given an alter call in the waiting room if he had wanted, but sensed that he had done what he was supposed to do so he left.

Where are the Fireworks?

I have often stated that leaders don't go to church to receive... they go to give... to work and serve. That is a difficult concept for many people. Our consumer mentality has permeated the church so completely that most people attend with the expectation that they are supposed to get something. I am of the opinion that those who are mature should be serving those who have yet to receive anything.

This idea was echoed last week by a friend of mine through an analogy that I loved. He was commenting that he had been somewhat disillusioned by the fact that he often failed to see the spiritual fireworks that he experienced when he first became a christian and first started coming to church. For a long time he thought the church had really deteriorated... but he was still hearing the stories of God moving in people. It finally connected with him that the people coming in who were seeking were experiencing an overwhelming sense of God's presence... those people coming in at the same place spiritually that he was in when he first came were seeing the fireworks. He said, "I realized that I had matured to a different place now... and that my job was no longer to watch the fireworks but to light the fuses!"

I have nothing else to add to that... light some fuses

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Back is Healed

A testimony I just got from somebody... this occurred in the Sunday morning service on the 19th. -- Duke

Two Sundays ago my boyfriend, Shannon was healed! He's had a back problem for 4 years. He has a herniated disc that causes his left leg to go numb if he stands too long. We were worshiping and he could no longer stand because of the pain. So... I started praying the hardest I have ever prayed for anything. Well, we listened to the service, and I'm still praying for Shannon. Asking God if he hears me. (everyone wants a sign, you know?) Well, after the service there was an alter call and we stood there. That's when God gave me my sign! A gentleman went up to the podium and said "There is someone with a hip or leg problem on the west side of his body." I looked at Shannon and said, "That's You!" Shannon asked me to go up to get prayer with him and I did... happily, I might add! Well, his back hasn't hurt since and we are so grateful for God's blessings! We went home and told everybody! God is awesome!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Recognizing the Move of God (part 2)

Sometimes I think we dishonor the current move of God by constantly talking about the next one. When we say things like "this is good but it's nothing compared to what's coming" I think we are showing tremendous contempt for what God is giving. What can be more awesome than God's presence? More presence? Don't show contempt for the current by comparing it to something we haven't yet seen. I understand that there is always something more of God that we have yet to experience... and much of that we won't get to see until the Kingdom has come in its fulness... but be sure to stop and appreciate the awesomeness of God's presence and current move among us.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Few Power Stories

M. had been having some rough nights... not sleeping well. The problem was that he was waking in the night with a strangling sensation and it would keep him up. He asked for prayer from some men and one of the men went home and told his wife of the issue. The wife, who is prophetically gifted and had never seen M.'s house, called M. that night and said, "There is a full length bookcase in your living room... look on the third shelf from the bottom on the far left... that is where your strangling is coming from. M., who has been walking with Christ for a couple of years now, went to the full length bookcase in his living room and as he approached the area that she had identified he felt his throat begin to close. He immediately saw a book from his college days that he had forgotten he owned... it was on vampires and werewolves. He destroyed the book and the strangling sensation ceased. He has not had any sleep problems since.

On a different occassion M. was ministering to a young woman in his home group when she began to manifest. M. took authority over the spirit and commanded it to leave her... suddenly six people in the room began to hack and heave... all responding to the command. M. quips that he's going to have to learn to aim better... you have to be more specific when addressing this stuff.

A man entered the church a couple of weeks ago as worship began. When he crossed into the sanctuary the spirit of God overpowered him and he fell out on the floor right in the doorway, blocking the entrance. When he got up he was delivered and accepted Christ. Another man accepted Christ in the foyer as he was going to the sanctuary... no invitations... no prompting... just spontaneous responses to the presence of God.

A local hospital called the church 4 or 5 weeks ago and asked us to do deliverance on one of their patients that wasn't responding to treatment. The family had requested the 'more radical option' and had signed a consent and waiver, so the hospital sent her out. The woman manifest in some dramatic ways but when it was over she walked out in her right mind. She has since suffered some setbacks but they have rescheduled to bring her back in so we can deal with round 2.

A minister in St Louis called and asked if they could bring someone to us for deliverance because they were having trouble finding anyone with experience up there. They are coming in a few days.

There are many more stories like these (I'm actually leaving out a couple of the most dramatic) just from the past couple of months... there is a clash of Kingdoms occurring and God is winning.

Does Focus on Demonic Increase its Occurrence?

Somebody came up to me this week with a concern that in this current move of God it seems that we, in their words, spend an inordinate amount of time chasing demons and in their opinion should be focusing more on God's power than on Satan's. The premise is that by dealing with the demonic we give it attention and encourage it to manifest.

First off... I don't know anybody who 'encourages' the demonic... nobody I know particularly likes dealing with it. It logically holds that anywhere God is moving in power you should likely see a corresponding increase in demonic activity. All wars have battlefronts and the enemy rarely deploys where there is no advancement. Kingdoms clash and there are confrontations.

Jesus said to do deliverance... right there in Mark 16, next to the "go make disciples" command he adds, "And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons" It is part of the Kingdom work we are called to do. When you look at the acts of Jesus it appears that fully one-third of this ministry was dealing with deliverance.

I think much of our reaction to the demonic comes from bad training which results in fear. Most of our problem is that we've been taught to be afraid.

I grew up going to charismatic and pentecostal churches and all I ever heard about demons and deliverance was that it was only to be attempted by the most holy of the super-christians, and then only if they were really "prayed-up" and in the spirit. This mentality eliminated the possibility of ministering deliverance from almost everybody.

And yet, here is Jesus saying that this will be something we do as we "go and make disciples". "Those who believe..." I think that means everyone who calls on Christ... those who believe on him for eternal life... those who believe his words are true, not just for salvation, but for life... and I don't really think you can believe him for salvation and not believe him for the rest of it.

So, do I really believe deliverance from demonization is something every Christian should be involved in.... YES!!!!! There is training to be done just like in most other areas of Christian life... but there is nothing in scripture that makes me think this is not supposed to be a normal christian's normal occupation... at least as normal as making disciples.

I dare say that if your church is not seeing any demonic activity it is likely not doing anything else that is gaining the attention of the enemy. The issue isn't whether or not the demons are acting out in order to get our attention... its whether or not we are doing anything that gets their attention.

Some Numbers For You

In the summer of 2002 the church had recently moved into an old supermarket... bringing approximately 125 people with them. When I got here in the Fall of that year there were 150 in regular attendance.

In the Fall of 2004 we moved again into our current facility on the busiest street in the state... a beautiful location. We brought over around 175 people and last Sunday had 295. We had already seen an increase since the first of this year of almost 20%.

Since December we have seen at least 25 new decisions... probably more like 35-40... representing nearly 10% of our attenders.

There was a prophetic word given over this church in December of 2004. Bill Johnson said, "God said that 25-30 years ago a fresh wind of the spirit moved into this community through this church. But, because of the injustice of unacceptance of the community, the people that would not accept the word that God was giving through this church. Now, His justice is restoring that word, and the original call is being restored. "

Bruce came here to plant almost 30 years ago with a dedicated group of people who toiled in obscurity for years. Now God is bringing the harvest that has been sown into for almost three decades.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Incredible Sunday Service

This past weekend was one of the most rewarding and exciting Sunday services I've ever participated in. So much happened leading up to Sunday that it is impossible to discuss it without giving some background.

We have experienced about 2 months of gradually intensifying worship. Each week seems to grow in power... like it picks up each week where the last week left off.

The previous week had been spiritually hot with "Holy Ghost Stories" abounding... people telling about God encounters all week. This had created an expectancy already.

A couple of weeks back, during worship, I had a brief glimpse in the spirit of a transparent sheet or veil hovering just over the heads of the congregation. I am not prone to these kinds of images and didn't mention it to anyone at the time.

Early last week I had someone who is very prophetic say that there was a "veil" between heaven and earth that had become paper thin and that God was going to tear it down this week. This kind of language would usually not mean much to me but in light of the brief vision I had received it made me take notice. Later that same day I had another person tell me (unprompted) that God showed him a convergence occurring between heaven and earth and that God was ready to breakthrough (good Kingdom language there ;-) Now my expectancy was high so I went to Bruce to suggest that something was building toward Sunday. We agreed to plan the service as usual but expect the unusual.

The last piece was a word from someone I trust that said we were to blow a shofar (ram's horn) during worship to initiate this 'breakthrough'. Now this for me was over the line... I HATE spiritual hocus-pocus and this was pushing me way too close to charismatic witchcraft and I didn't want to do it. I have many reasons that the shofar in particular is a hot button for me, and maybe I'll write about that some day, but suffice it to say I don't like them (only slightly less than tambourines, however). But I sensed God challenging me to be obedient to the word I had been given... and I was fairly certain that it was from God... so I called a lady in the church who owned a shofar (and had asked if she could use it sometime in worship just a couple of weeks earlier) and had her bring it sunday.

As far as Sunday's service went... it was awesome. From the first note of worship it was electrified. About the third song I invited the shofar blower up and had her sound it in the midst of one of our more powerful songs... it brought goosebumps to my goosebumps... and people started coming to the alter. There was no alter call... no instructions given... people started coming. At one point there must have been 30 or 40 people up front being ministered to or ministering. Then we began to receive testimonies of what God was doing. One woman came and stood alone in front of me (I'm at the piano) and I thought she wanted to give a testimony... I went down to 'intercept' her from getting on the stage... and ask her what she wants... she say "I'm tired of my mess... I want Jesus" Between the worship and the testimonies Bruce never got up to preach... the service was never chaotic, scary or unsafe... it was not overly charismatic (by my experience, anyway) but was very intense, emotionally charged and exciting.

The stories are still coming in... I know of 6 people who made first time decision to accept Christ... several received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit... there were lots of stories of "experiencing God" for the first time.

The one unexpected and cool thing that happened and almost slipped by unnoticed was that on this rainy, cold last Sunday morning of spring break we had BY FAR the largest attendance in church history. Our previous high was 272 people and last Sunday we had 295 in church. That's 7.5% increase over our record high! GO FIGURE!

Power For the Harvest

power is not seed...

A friend of mine who is spiritually sensitive was talking this week about a church he attended a few days ago while out of town. He had heard of the church before and wanted to go and experience it. The day he was there they were having a special joint service involving six different churches from the area... he estimated there were around 500 people in attendance.

The worship was exhilarating... It seemed like every other person was waving a flag... there were dancers everywhere... artists painted in the aisles... the spirit of God was so thick that he said you almost couldn't breathe... one of the most spiritually active and intense places he had ever seen.

In the course of the morning service, however, a very interesting event took place. The speaker asked the crowd, "How many here have accepted Christ within the past month?" There was silence... then he asked again, "in the last three months?"... again, silence. "How about the past year"... there were two hands raised. "last two years?" ... same two hands... "Past five years?"... this time there were twenty or so hands. It was a sobering and almost depressing admission... so much power... so little fruit.

As I've thought about this conversation I have come to a few conclusions.

  • Evangelism does not happen by accident. It must be intentional.
  • If evangelism isn't everything it usually isn't anything. A church that doesn't see its primary purpose as evangelistic will almost certainly have little or no harvest.
  • Power does NOT equal evangelism... power is for harvesting... not sowing
  • Sowing requires an intentional decision to accept anyone, show them compassion without restriction, demonstrate the love of Christ and extend his mercy and forgiveness
  • A church that sows mercy generously will harvest generously when the power of God is manifest.

I haven't had time to think these things out fully, yet... but I am certain that we will see more fruit by focusing on the unchurched. I don't fully embrace the 'seeker' church model but I do see an awesome opportunity when we receive everyone and make their safety and security (emotional and spiritual safety) a priority and then we receive and demonstrate the presence and power of God to them in a non-hyped way, natural way.

Recognizing the Move of God

We are in the midst of a full blown outpouring of the Spirit of God here in our church. It is beginning to rival the experiences I had in my early Vineyard days as we would go to Costa Rica and Colombia on short term mission trips. I always wondered why God seemed to move so much more dramatically down there and yet here in the home church we would typically see only sporatic demonstrations of power. Here lately, though, we are hearing powerful stories almost daily.

What is different however is that these events are usually done and seen in quiet corners and out in the streets where the members are ministering and therefore are not often very visible. Being one of the pastors allows me to hear the stories as they come in but if you weren't in my position you might not know anything unusual was going on. We talk it up from the pulpit and we hear the stories in the home groups but it still is amazing how often I still hear people say "nothing seems to ever be happening in this church".

I have often marvelled at how the Jews had an entire religious system built around a coming Messiah and yet when he came and went they missed it... and are still looking. And yet we are in danger of doing exactly that... The biggest hindrance to the next move of God is the last move of God... we keep expecting it to look like the last big thing... and it usually doesn't. Or, we have a vision of what the move of God WILL look like and then it comes and goes and we are still looking.

We have to keep our eyes and ears open and receive the move of God as it comes in whatever package it appears through. This move we are experiencing is nameless and faceless... it is not loud or demonstrative... but the power is amazing and the consistency is exciting.

Friday, February 3, 2006

Cool Experience Sunday

This past Sunday during our morning service I had just stepped down from leading worship and the Pastor had just begun his sermon. As I went into the lobby to get a drink a young man followed me out of the sanctuary. He was a big guy, 6'4", around 25 yrs old and he look agitated. A friend of mine began to talk with him and asked me to join the conversation. The fellow was saying how much he hated church... he said, "I just don't get it... how can these people act happy when it is so boring. Some of them even have a 'shine' on them... but I don't understand."

I asked him if he had ever had any kind of experience with God... he answered that he hadn't but occassionally he feels goose bumps on his arms during the music. I told him that it could be the Holy Spirit he is feeling and that it was the spirit of God trying to get inside of him. Then my friend asked him if we could pray for him. He reluctantly said ok.

We took him into my office at the church and I simply said "Come Holy Spirit." The young man looked uncomfortable and had his eyes open, scanning the room when suddenly he convulsed like he was hit in the stomach... "What was that?" he asked. I said I didn't know for sure but lets pursue it... again, "Come Holy Spirit". The guy doubles up in a sustained groan... he asks "What are you doing to me? this is weird"

"nothin', I haven't touched you yet"

again, "Come Lord, reveal yourself"

The man is now holding his stomach and groaning, "This is the weirdest thing I've ever seen" he groans. I then said "I bind the spirit that is resisting God and tell it to leave" Just that quick he lets out a yell and then begins to dry heave... three times he heaves loud, labored responses then its like the air leaves his body and he is limp... the fight is gone out of him and he is relaxed... the permanent scowl that had been there is gone.

"How do you feel?" I ask him. "Floaty!", he says trying not to laugh... "Do you guys have drugs in here or something?" I assured him it was just God at work in him.

I then asked him if he wanted to commit his life to Christ. His response, "I guess I ought to considering what he just did in me"
He then prayed one of the simplest and most sincere prayers to accept Christ I've ever heard.

I encouraged him to go back into the service and see if it seemed different now.

At the conclusion of the service I saw him again in the lobby... he is laughing... hugs me and says "I still can't feel the floor." He staggered out the door with his girlfriend helping him... walking like a drunk man.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

What is the role of a church leader?

We have to become thermostats, not thermometers... we have to set and maintain the atmosphere of the church, not just reflect it. So we need to keep 'gossiping the good' by bragging on what God is doing, and what the church is doing well... and we must refuse to entertain negative perceptions. I'm not talking about avoiding real issues here... I'm talking about defusing the doom-and-gloom nay-sayers who always seem to focus on the problems. We aren't blind to the problems... but we don't focus on them... we focus on what is good and what is working.

If we focused on the negatives in our spouses we couldn't stay married long... we learn to focus on the positives and why we love the person and let most of the negatives slide because in light of that love the negatives aren't that important. Likewise, there will always be problems in a church because it involves people... but we can't allow the problems to consume our thoughts because what we think on will affect what we say and do... and nobody wants to hang out with negative people.