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Rain in Rubirizi

It has been a long journey with dozens of obstacles to get here, but I have finally started the first conference of my last visit to this country. It is bittersweet. I can’t even remember all the miracles that have happened here nor all the exciting services we’ve had when the Holy Spirit would electrify the room and you would be literally swimming in the glory of God. But at the same time, it is hard to hand this commission to others who have heard the message and have taken up the challenge. But it is time.

The first set of meetings on this campaign are in Rubiriza, a small town on the edge of Queen Elizabeth National Park. They have set me in an exclusive Safari Lodge in the midst of tourists who have come to see all the Big Five animals that are here. This place has really cool African style rooms, complete with incredibly tall thatched roofs, luxurious bathrooms, soft Master beds, and a glorious view of the park laid out along the escarpment below us. It was either this or one of those $10/night African hotels. Guess which one I chose.

I am pretty tired from traveling for three days but we still have to drive for 5 hours, then pick up the 100 Bibles we just purchased and the 300 revival books that we had printed, and then drive another hour or so to where the meetings will take place. It feels like we never stopped going, but first thing in the morning it’s showtime, so we push through to get there.

In the morning, I head to a large cement building with over a hundred souls waiting for me. And then two hundred. They keep coming. This is “arrival day”, which means people will be arriving all day long. None of them have a vehicle, so they walk, some of them for 8 to 10 hours just to get here. We saw one group riding in the back of a large dump truck heading for the church. It reminds me of the herds of animals heading for Noah’s Ark, streaming in from every direction. They are hungry and are expecting to be fed. They are desperate for revival.

As usual, services in both the morning and evening were great. I have brought this message close to 1,000 times and have seen the Lord work amongst them the same way almost every time. The Anointing will build as the Holy Ghost conviction begins to work, leading up to the climax of victory on the last day.

This is just the first day. Tomorrow it will heat up, and the third day should be explosive. Then we move on to the next conference and do it all again.

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I love mornings. I usually sit outside and pray on my porch at sunrise. As the rays of morning sunlight begin to peek over the trees, they cast a golden sheen across the lawn that glistens across the lingering evening’s dew. As the morning sunlight starts pouring over the trees, it highlights the little gnats that are swarming around over the grass like a cloud of tiny pinpoints of light tumbling around in the beams of sunshine. There’s thousands of them over the whole property, but they can only be seen where the sunlight hits them and lights them up like sparkles against the dark contrast of the tress that are still hanging on to their early morning shadows.

It doesn’t take long before the dragonflies come. First one, then another, and soon the whole gang arrives for the feast, twisting, turning and dive bombing like tiny fighter planes in dogfights scooping up the little gnats, extinguishing the little sparkles one at a time.

This morning, however, the dragonflies had not shown up. There were gnats everywhere, but no dragonflies. I waited for the word to get out that the buffet was spread out and it was time to come and get it, but there was no response. So I prayed.

I was having one of the quiet, intimate prayer hours with the Lord. We were so close that our hearts were touching each other. I love prayer hours like that. It is not a time for contending in battle or laboring in agonizing prayer, but it is a time of quiet fellowship with your Heavenly Father. He’s right there, sitting next to you, listening to you pour out your heart in secret communion.

Since I was so close to Him at this moment, I thought I’d just ask for a little answer to prayer, “Lord, send the dragonflies.”  No big deal; just kinda for kicks, I thought it would be a neat thing to have Him answer such a small thing right while He was sitting there with me.

I waited. And waited some more.  No dragonflies.

“Lord, You there?”

Still none.  I went back to praying for a while, wondering if I did something stupid. Again.

After a while, lo and behold, what shows up but a single dragonfly. And then after 10 minutes, another one. By that time the morning mists were lifting and the day had begun. Soon they’d all be gone.

I wondered what the lesson was here. One was that, yes, God can and will answer even dumb requests like sending the dragonflies, but He doesn’t always answer right away. Sometimes the answer has to come through a process before you are ready for the answer. And sometimes it is you that needs to go through that process. He will send it when it is time. We have to wait.

But the other lesson I came away with was that God is sovereign. He is not at our command to jump through hoops and roll over for us when we call. He is God and we are at His command, not the other way around. There are rock solid promises in the Word of God, but every promise of God has conditions – nothing is free, and rarely cheap – but in the end, God is sovereign and will do as He pleases.

He did send two dragonflies, though. But he sent them in His own time, just to give me a lesson of faith and patience on a misty morning.

 

I’m sitting in the Brussels airport on my way home. This has been a hard trip. I’m not entirely sure why, but the two weeks I have spent here have felt like two months. True, the pace was intense, but it was more than that. There was an oppression in the air that weighed heavily on us that made everything harder.  I was so exhausted most of the time that I could barely manage.

But it didn’t affect the services. They were great. Each place we went to lit up like they were on fire. I would step into each meeting with a bit of apprehension because I never seemed to know what the message was going to be, and each time in less than a minute, the Holy Ghost would click on like flipping a switch, and away we would go.

Even though I was bound up in exhaustion, there was a complete freedom for the Spirit to move throughout the messages. Most of the time, I felt like I was riding a wave as the Lord shaped, molded, and turned the message in the direction He wanted it to go.

And the response was great. The pastors were rejoicing for the tangible hope for a real revival from God. They now had the blueprint for revival in their hands and they were excited. I watched as they sat on the edge of their chairs with eyes wide open, shouting their “Amen’s” every time something new was revealed to them.

It’s funny, but after having preached over a thousand messages over the last 16 years, I still feel apprehensive going into each service. It’s as if, even though God has been there every single time for me, I am still afraid that this time I will fall flat on my face.  God and I have a little running joke between us, like a little dance that we do. He will remind me as I am sitting there, that the deal we have with each other is, “You lead, and I’ll follow.”

“Yes, Lord. I know. I’m just a little scared that I’m not enough in the Spirit.

“Have I ever failed you?”

“No. I’m just afraid I’m not good enough.”

“You aren’t; I am.  I’ll lead; you follow.”

And every time, He does. He goes right around me and deals personally with the hearts of His people.

I really believe this is the way it is supposed to be done. Let God do the work. He does a much better job than we can. My job, oppression or not, is to show up

… and then get out of the way.

Stones

“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;  They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mark 16:17, 18)

I’d like to clarify one of the things I wrote about yesterday.

I have started doing something new in my revival meetings. I used to have healing lines where almost the whole church would line up to get prayed over. I’m not sure about the early years, but for the last 10 years, everybody that would get in line would get healed. Sometimes, they would get healed while still standing in line before I got to them. Sometimes they would get healed when they stepped inside the door of the church or under the canopy. I know because I ask them.

When I pray over someone, I first ask where the problem is, and then we pray over that spot. If it is a woman, I ask her to place her hand where the pain is and I place my hand on top of hers. If she does not get healed, we pray again. Either you believe or you don’t. If she doesn’t get healed the 2nd time, we pray again. Rarely have I ever had to go more than three times.

Once the people in the meeting see others getting healed, guess what happens. The line goes out the door, and it usually takes over an hour before we get to the end. Everybody has something they need prayed for.

All that is great, but what happens when I leave? Do the promises leave with me? I believe that it is important for these people to realize that they have the same access to the Throne of God that I do, and that if they begin to take hold of the promises God has given them, they can start performing miracles. When that happens, what do you think the unsaved community around them will do? They will come. When they see that the power of God is real, that it can deliver them, it can heal them, and it can save them, then the wheels of revival will begin to turn.

So I am doing a new thing. I am making them pray over the sick themselves. I start by getting someone that has a pain or a headache to stand up. Then I look for an unlikely candidate to pray over that person. At first, many of them are looking away, or down, or hiding their eyes, hoping that I don’t call on them. But those are the ones that I’m looking for. I bring them forward and tell them to pray with authority to cast out the sickness and take power and dominion over all sickness, pain, and weakness. Pray like Elijah! And they do!

Guess what happens. That’s right. The sick are healed! And THEY did it, not the white guy from America. Then I do it again with another set of candidates. And again. You can watch the realization dawn across their faces that this power is not reserved for special people or big shots, but it is for them. God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the mighty.

There are two things that I want them to understand. One is that once the miracles start flowing, the unsaved will begin to believe in the gospel once again. Right now, they have dismissed church as something good people do, but that it has no power and is not for them. All that will change when they see and hear the power and glory restored to the church.

The other thing is even more important than that. I want them to fully realize that they can change the world. Not somebody else. Not some well-heeled preacher from the West. Not the apostle or the bishop or the big-time VIP, but them. The little people. The foolish things of the world. The fishermen at the Sea of Galilee. The little shepherd boy. The widow with two mites or an alabaster box.

Once this concept awakens in their heads and they rise to the challenge that God has placed upon them, they will be the stones that God will raise up to change, not just their community around them, but the entire world.

Stale Bread

It feels like I’ve been in a whirlwind here in Liberia. After a quick introduction on Sunday, I was launched into a fierce set of meetings, morning and night, for three days.

I am not a calm and casual preacher. I pour my heart and soul into the message the entire time I am on my feet. Actually, it is more a matter of allowing the Holy Spirit to pour like a river through me. When I am done an hour later, I am completely drained, soaked in sweat, and barely able to stand. This is how it always is for me.

After the morning service, my driver takes me back to the hotel where I collapse for a couple hours, shower, and head back for the evening session. Then back to the hotel when we are done and repeat. I’m okay, but I’m getting a little fuzzy.

But the response is great! The Spirit of the Lord connects with everyone immediately. It’s as if they are already prepped and ready with open hearts to receive everything God has for them, and He rejoices in giving to them. I rarely know what I am going to say before I get up, but as soon as I do, I can feel the Lord turn me into His message for the service. Then it is a matter of just hanging on and following the flow of the river that He pours out. For the next hour, I am in that flow and am barely aware of anything else. And then when it is done, it is done.

I am told that this is the way preachers in America used to preach back a generation or so ago. It was never a matter of preparing your message, but more a matter of preparing yourself to yield unto the leading of the Holy Ghost. Open your mouth and He will fill it. But now, Bible colleges teach our young all the methods of outline and organization to fully prepare your speech or lecture to the congregation. And if you feel lost, that’s okay because you can simply purchase your message off the internet for a small sum, complete with video, outline and bulleted points. How convenient! Maybe they also have the canned applause.

But stale bread and sour wine will never inspire hungry souls.

There’s no faking it here. The Spirit of God is moving too strongly with these people. I am continually told that they don’t like American preachers because we do not preach the same message we did 50 years ago. I have literally heard that hundreds of times. They like our money and will come to the great mega crusades because we pay their pastors to bring their churches, but the next day after they are gone, everything goes back to the way it was.

Is it a small wonder that we are seeing so many miracles here and so few in America? Yesterday, just to make a point, I had one person who was in pain stand up and another person come over to pray over her. Healed! Then I did it again. And again. Each time the healing was immediate. I can do this all across Africa, from Kenya to Liberia any day of the week.

Why is that? Maybe they just expect a miracle. Maybe they just need God more than we do. Maybe a lot of things. I honestly don’t know. I will leave it to the smart theologians to write a book on how to do healings – they’ve never done it themselves, but I’m sure they can tell us all about how its supposed to be done.

What is my point? Theology and modern religion has lost it’s heart. We’ve become institutional and programmed to the point that we have lost the art of surrender. We know too much. The Bread we bring forth is no longer fresh from the oven of the Altar. It’s stale, hard, dry and tasteless. Our wine has gone sour and is more like vinegar than the wine of the Holy Spirit. We need revival so bad that it hurts.

But we are the last to realize it.

Fourteen Souls

There’s not much to write about so far. We had a rush of an airplane ride, hopping from one plane to another, almost missing our flight in Chicago, but we are here in one piece. With our luggage! That’s a nice relief.

Our first service is on Sunday at a little church nestled in the back dirt pathways just outside Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. To get to this tiny church, we have to drive through some enormous puddles — no, they’re not puddles. They’re great big mud craters 10 feet across, filled with a foot or two of water. This is the rainy season, and let me tell you, it rains buckets every day, so these mini lakes will not dry out for a couple months.

After we have successfully negotiated the mud waterways, we are led down some dirt pathways through the neighborhood to a colorfully painted church. Some folks are outside waiting for our arrival and we are greeted with huge smiles, waving hands, and gushing displays of greeting. The first thing I’m wondering is, do these people even know who I am? What are they expecting to initiate such an overwhelming response? Just exactly what did my host and friend tell them about me?

I have been through this before. You just smile, wave, and keep going. I have a message that I have to deliver. Whether it is to a mighty church of thousands or some tiny congregation nestled in the back pathways of a slum in Liberia, it does not matter and neither does it change the focus of this message. I have found that God can save by many or by few (1st Samuel 14:6). As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure He favors the few.

As you can expect, services were great. They were on top everything that I had to say. The “amen’s” were loud and clear. This was not the seminar where I would lay out the plan of revival that is in the Bible, but was just supposed to be a normal Sunday service. But I touched on different points of the seminar just to whet their appetite. And they were hungry. This should be a really good seminar. How we will fit the expected150 people into a church that only holds 70 will be quite a trick.

I almost always end my messages with a call to corporate prayer. I try not to lead them in prayer, but I try to encourage them to do the praying. It’s too easy to hide in the crowd and just let the pastor do the praying while you skate in the background, so I make them do the praying. And they did. Loud and intense. These people were serious. If God really does have a revival for them, then they want it and are ready to go up and take it off the Altar of God.

Before closing, I had a quick altar call. This was not an evangelistic crusade, so I did not expect a crowd of sinners coming down. This was to the church. I have found that in too many of our churches, both in America and across Africa, sin has a way of hiding in the shadows,lurking in the recesses of the souls of the Christians who come every week, struggling to get free from their sin.

All it takes is a call to come down. As soon as I called for them to come, they were already scrambling out of their chairs. Fourteen people came to the altar to free themselves from whatever was weighing them down. As they closed, they started praising and thanking the Lord, and didn’t stop. They just kept going and going. They were changed. They were set free. They were alive again. What a wonderful gift is Salvation!

I sometimes read about objections that some Christians and would-be theologians have about the Sinners Prayer. Let me tell you without hesitation that in 50 years I have seen countless thousands set free by that little prayer of repentance to God. I’ve seen the overwhelming changes across their faces as they receive new life at the altar.

As usual, theological scholasticism would eliminate this wonderful experience because it doesn’t fit their intelligent carnal reasonings. Eating off the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil has not made them wise like they thought it would, but rather has allowed spiritual pride to make them stupid.

The proof is in the pudding. Fourteen people were set free today.

“And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.”  Acts 8:1

I threatened them today.

Well, actually the Lord threatened them. Acts 8:1-4 talks of the persecution that came upon the early church at Jerusalem. God had commissioned them to go into all the world and make disciples, but they were comfortable right where they were at and were not in any rush to leave. Life was good. Thousands were getting saved. Miracles were happening daily, there was joy in the streets and real love amongst the brethren. Why would anyone want to head off into the world of the Gentiles?

Because they wouldn’t go forth out of Jerusalem to preach the Gospel, God used persecution to chase them out. Don’t believe God would do that? Compare that to Egypt. They were there in slavery for 430 years, but when they finally cried out to God, He sent the Deliverer. Why did it take so long for them to cry out to God? I don’t know, maybe they just got used to the way things were. Maybe the slavery you are used to is better than taking a chance on a liberty that you don’t know. But when their babies began to be murdered, they started crying out to God. And when they did, God sent Moses. I gave them a chilling prophesy of what is coming to them if they don’t get out of their lazy white plastic chairs and go make disciples. You could feel the cold seriousness in the room as they sat on the edge of their chairs staring at me. It happened then; it could happen now.

Yesterday was also question and answer time. Boy, they came up with some sharp questions — they always do— and kept me on my toes. But I answered everyone one of their questions, even the tough ones. I will be first to admit that I don’t know everything. One of the most important lessons I ever learned was that is it okay to say you don’t know. But I have one advantage in these sessions — I got God. I’m not just saying this cause it makes a good sound byte. No, it is true — He gives me the answers. I might stumble around for a minute or so, but it always comes. And when it comes, it is always perfect. That’s how I know its not from me.

One of the questions was about how to tell when the Spirit that leading you and when it’s your own spirit.  They are very aware of the dangers of the false prophets that plague their churches as well as ours. Just like us, they have a whole raft of well-known personalities posing as “God’s Generals” to hand down meaningless prophesies of peace, prosperity, wealth, and blessings. Never about repentance or about holiness. How is it that they are so much more aware of this than we are? I can only guess it is because they are more spiritually sensitive than we are in the West. So this was a big question for them. And yes, God gave me the answer.

I can’t remember the other questions. Maybe in the next couple days, I’ll write them down in another column. And maybe not. I’m so tired, I don’t think I can remember them anymore and, anyway, I’m not sure I care.

We’re almost done, and I am tired. (Can you tell?) My voice is so hoarse that I can barely speak, but somehow, I keep punching out one more service. You’ve seen how it works – when there is no strength, the Anointing carries you. They have seen that and they realize what it is.

It just makes for the message so much more important to them. God is talking to them. And they are listening.