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.