Wednesday, August 15, 2007

It Happened Last Night

Last night, I had one of those moments of clarity that sharply brought into focus the “why” of what I do. It was one of those poignant moments that make what is worthwhile incredibly clear and what is worthless terribly dim. It’s moments like these that rekindle the passion in your heart as you watch Jesus do what He loves to do. It was so simple, yet so profound. God @ Work. Driving home, I was so touched by God’s goodness that I called everyone I could think of just to tell them what had happened. It wasn’t something spectacular, like a blind person seeing or lame person walking, but for whatever reason, it rocked me to the core more than any of those things.

Yesterday, my Dad spoke with his hairdresser about her Mom. Her Mom had been through several rounds of chemotherapy and was declared to be in remission from three different types of cancer. My Dad had prayed for her previously and she had received some good reports. Recently they found spots on her brain that they believe to be active cancer and she is gearing up for another round of chemo. We got permission from the hairdresser and her mom to stop by and pray for her before her next appointment with the doctor. At the church we had five different teams going to five different places in the community. I took Stephanie with me and off we went to find and pray for the lady with brain cancer.

We found the place pretty quickly and were invited inside to pray for her. She was obviously in a rush and almost before we got there she was asking us to leave. We quickly gave her some scriptures about “On earth as it is in Heaven…” and encouraged her that cancer is not from God, but from the enemy! She was with us, believing God for a miracle. We prayed for her. Nothing spectacular, just commanding the cancer to leave by the blood of Jesus. We felt the presence of God, but nothing over the top. We quickly wrapped our prayer and walked out the door.

It went by so quickly that we had more than an hour of daylight left by the time we left her house. I had one of those quick decision moments: do we head back to the church and call it a night? Or do we drive to the other side of town and hit a neighborhood for only 20-30 minutes? You see, this stuff is now a lifestyle, we do it all the time. To have an early night would be great. I’d get to see my kids before bed and have dinner with my wife, etc. But what would we be missing? I quickly chewed it over until I got to the end of the street. Decision time. Take a right and head back to the church? We’d be back around 8:00pm instead of our normal 8:30pm… Or take a left and preach?

We took a left.

We headed into the lower rent district of Marietta where our work is now centered. I had scouted several new neighborhoods and we drove though them quickly to determine where to go. After ruling two out (mainly Spanish speaking) we found a place that looked promising. We got out of the car and immediately were being suspiciously watched by the tenants through windows and doorways. This is one of those horrible, run down places where people are paying the cheapest rent, yet in front of one house is a $75,000 BMW. How does that work? D R U G S.

So we are no more than 30 steps out of the car and we see a shorter Latino man just kind of walking around the common area. I spot him because he has a VERY swollen cheek and that presents an opportunity to see God do the miraculous! Stephanie and I walked up to him and said hi. He was very friendly and greeted us warmly. I told him, “I’m here to tell you that Jesus is King and His Kingdom is here on the earth. And we are looking for opportunities to prove it.” I asked him what he thought about that and he was like, “Sure man, yeah, Jesus is great”. Very typical what we hear in the south. EVERYONE is a “Christian” around here. Yet not everyone has made Jesus their King and Lord and lives a laid down life of service to Him!

I pressed him, asking if there was anything we could pray for to demonstrate the power of the Kingdom. He told us that he was fine, etc. I asked him point blank about his swollen cheek and he told me that he was born with it, like it was a birthmark or something. He said it didn’t hurt and actually seemed quite proud of it. Quickly I’m seeing that healing won’t be the doorway to his heart and I silently begin to ask God to show us something that will get his attention.

The daylight was fading and the apartment started to buzz a little, people were milling all around us. I stalled for a minute, asking him if he lived here, etc. but all the time I was listening, “Lord, what do you have to say to this guy?” In my spirit I saw a quick picture of a spider’s web. In the past when the Lord has shown me a spider’s web, He’s given me some understanding about what it means. We call it our personal prophetic “language” that God begins to develop with us as we start to listen to His voice. The Lord speaks many times with pictures for a very simple reason. It’s been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Well, that’s true! When God wants to speak something, many times He will simply show us a picture. In the picture, there are many “words” to speak to others!

So, in my personal experience, when the Lord shows me a spider’s web, what He’s saying is that this person is trapped in a “web” of circumstances, decisions and addictions and they are very close to being devoured by them, much like the spider devours its prey once they become trapped in the web. So I began to share the meaning of what I had seen. You could tell instantly that it had impact. This gentleman, Thomas, was absolutely trapped and was close to being devoured by his decisions, addictions, etc. he started saying, “This is amazing, this is incredible!”

We had his attention.

Stephanie spoke up and gave him a very simple word that God wanted to restore a broken relationship with his daughter. He froze, mid-sentence and said icily, “How did you know that?!” We explained that God knows everything and He was showing us these things to get his attention and that he would listen. As it turns out, Thomas does not have a blood daughter, but has a very close friendship with a 13 year old family friend whom he calls his daughter. He started weeping and sobbing. In a moment we went from simply having his attention to unlocking his heart. He was heaving and sobbing almost uncontrollably. We told him of the love and kindness of God that draws him to repentance and he readily accepted everything we had to say. He was convicted and convinced in just a few minutes. The secrets of his heart were laid bare and he literally began to worship saying, “Thank you God, thank you Jesus!”

We led him to Jesus, barely ten minutes after we met him. The presence of God was so strong in that moment! This guy got BORN AGAIN. You could literally see the transformation from darkness to light! His face brightened and his eyes shone! He was trembling all over his body with the presence of God and started to just exude joy. We prayed for the presence of God to increase and honestly, I thought that he might pass out; he was so happy and full of the life of God! He invited us back to check on him and showed us where he lives. I gave him an anointed hanky to keep as a reminder and instructed him to call on the presence of God whenever, wherever. Walking away, Stephanie and I were totally blown away at how awesome God is!

Barely 10 minutes after leaving him, he called me just to thank us. His literal words were, “Thank you SO much for coming…This is amazing! Thank you for Jesus!”

Thank you for JESUS… Nothing in the world makes me as happy as hearing that.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

From Gangster To Godly

For the last few months we have been sending teams into “The Hood”. These areas are mainly section 8 housing, or low rent apartments where crime, addiction and sin thrive. It’s not unusual in these communities for people to get shot, cars to get stolen, houses get broken into and to have almost daily police interventions. We started going there when it became obvious that much of our message was being trodden underfoot in the trailer parks that we have spent the last several years evangelizing. We went looking for the primarily English speaking poor in our community and found these “honey holes” as I call them for bringing the Kingdom of God. The response has been tremendous. MANY have met the Lord, MANY have been healed and disciples are being made. Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound!

One of the most exciting things for me is to transcend cultural “limitations” as our teams, who are mostly white middle class invade predominantly poor black neighborhoods. The reactions upon us entering a neighborhood have run the gamut from total shock to anger. Already this year, we have been threatened with being shot, threatened to get beat up and had a bunch of folks attempting to intimidate us and shut us down. That is, until we get the opportunity to preach the Gospel and demonstrate the power of the Kingdom. I’ve been told for years by the theorists and philosophizers of evangelism that you have to “relate” with folks in order to have the “equity” with them to preach and share your faith.


What in God’s name do I, a middle class, lily-white, churchgoing gospel preacher have in common with a poor, black, crack-addicted alcoholic? The answer? Nothing. But does that preclude me from preaching the gospel to them? No way! I am commanded in the Bible to preach the Gospel to ALL CREATION. Not just the ones that I have things in common with, EVERYONE! If I take a powerless, American gospel to them that is based more on my personality or some program then I will HAVE to have something in common with them just to open the door. But when you walk into unfamiliar territory with unfamiliar people and cultures that you are clueless about armed with the Gospel of the Kingdom and a demonstration of God’s power, you’re fine!

A couple of weeks ago, I was with a small team in a nearby low-rent neighborhood. I’m with my buddy Tommy, and he takes me a few buildings down from his house to preach to a few guys that are known for getting into some trouble. These guys are just flat out thugs, living out every rap stereotype I’ve ever heard. Smoking blunts, drinking 40’s and doing their best to get rich! They were standing by a car with the music blaring and they were practicing freestyle rap to the beats playing over the stereo. It was actually very cool, these guys had talent! They could pick up on a theme and just spit out these incredible rhymes (laced with obscenity of course) effortlessly.

While they were rapping away I was asking the Lord to show me something about them to get their attention. One of the guys had a full wrist and forearm soft cast, wrapped up real tight. I started by asking him what was wrong with his arm and he told me that he had just broken a couple bones. I asked him if he had any pain and he just blew me off. Undeterred, I started in on his friend by telling him, “Hey, sometimes, God shows me stuff for people and I believe the Lord is showing me something for you, do you want to hear it?” He was like, “Sure man, cut loose!” I could tell he was high AND drunk. It would take a miracle just to get him to pay attention and listen through his cannabis and alcohol induced haze. So I told him, “First things first, I’ve got to tell you that Jesus is King and His Kingdom is here on the earth. You’re going to have to change the way you think (repent) just to see it.” He showed his annoyance at once, who do I think I am, talking to him like this?

Then I started in to what the Lord showed me. When he was rapping with his buddy, I was asking the Lord to show me something and in my mind, I kept seeing him playing a keyboard, picking out melodies and working with beats. So I told him, “Right now, you’re sitting here rapping with your buddy, but I think that your real talent and where the gifting is at is in writing and working out melodies on the keyboard. I also see you programming beats into a keyboard. Let others do the rapping, you should spend time working out melodies and beats.” He went silent and still, no longer screwing around and acting like an idiot. Then what we call “automatic mouth” started. It’s when you start to prophesy with a little bit of information and then God just takes over and you’re talking to them, telling them all sorts of stuff about themselves.

I told him, “On one side of your family there’s this Rastafarian thing going on and the other side, it’s Islam. You have never been able to get into either religion and it’s because you have never had the anger that your family has. You’ve always been at peace with the world and never gotten real angry, but your family doesn’t understand this and has been aggressively trying to get you into Islam and Rastafarianism.”

He was shocked. Instantly I commanded both of their attention. They both knew each other pretty well and apparently what I had told him was spot on. I used the opportunity to preach the Gospel to both of them and began telling them that Jesus knows everything about them and that He was revealing these things to get their attention. Now they needed to listen to me! I told them Jesus was King and they needed to serve Him. I told them about the Kingdom of God and how it’s a Kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. I told them about miracles and the power of God. We confronted their spiritual apathy and in a few short minutes, both of these guys were confessing their sins to us. The guy with the brace opened up and told us that he had just broken a couple of bones in his hand and wrist when had put his fist through a car window in a fit of rage. We wanted healing for the wrist and deliverance from the anger.

We prayed for his wrist and he took off the brace. Instantly, much of the pain left and he began to open and close his hand, marveling at what God was doing. It wasn’t quite a 100%, even after we prayed several times, but he was grateful just the same. We prophesied that it would be 100% by the time he woke up in the morning. By the time we were through with them, both of these guys were rocked by a demonstration of the power of God to them and prayed with us, committing their lives to the Lord.

The next day, my buddy in that neighborhood saw the guy with the brace from the day before and he wasn't wearing the brace! He talked to him and when he woke up that morning, he discovered that all pain and immobility had left his wrist and forearm! He was 100% and took off the brace, never to put it on again. Within the week, he was picked up by the police for something he had done a few weeks before and spent a few days in jail. This proved to be the best thing in the world for him as he saw it as a sign from God to get his life in order. Between the prophetic words we spoke over him, his wrist being healed and being picked up by the cops, he was broken! The very next Sunday, he showed up at my buddy Tommy’s church and has been going faithfully since, pursuing God.

The most relevant thing in the world, to every culture and to every demographic is the love and power of God revealed in the Gospel of the Kingdom!