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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mikey Preaches

Thursday afternoon my 8-year-old, Mikey, heard my wife Cathy talking about Elizabeth leaving her position as worship leader at Grace and how hard it was to understand, and the spirit of Preach came all over Mikey! I asked him if he had anything to say on the blog, and here's his response...

We gotta stop working in our bubble. We've gotta start getting out there, we gotta start filling the gaps. First we gotta make sure that our church is ready to get out there. We gotta make sure everything is good at our church, we gotta make sure everything is right. Until we get to that point we can't do it! And if we get to that point Satan will not be able to stop us, 'cause we are undefeated! Satan will not be able to stop us. We got a new trick up our sleeve, and God is with us, and He will always be with us! We've gotta go places where people don't know Jesus, where we're not allowed to speak Jesus. God gave us our life so that we could preach, and He gave us our life because He loves us, and He gave us our life, and no matter what, we'll always go to heaven. If we risk our lives like that, you know, we're gonna go to Heaven and we're gonna be there forever. We gotta work where we're not supposed to work. We gotta do what we got to do. We gotta make sure that everyone hears this, everyone's heard the good news, everyone has able to hear God and feel God. A clock has to have all the cogs to work! We've got the cogs. They are the clock. They won't work until we put the cogs in! We've gotta make sure... like in Mama's dream, only the littler rooms were sinking. The large rooms were fine! Our church is like the large room! We're a really wealthy church, now we've got to spread it out where everyone can have it, everyone can be able to know the Lord! We gotta make sure that everyone hears it... EVERYONE. And we will not stop until we get everyone to hear it! We gotta get our of our own little bubbles and start working the gaps! We gotta get out of our shell and go out there and make sure the world knows Jesus! That's what we have to do! And if we don't do that, it won't work. We gotta have everyone doing a specific thing, but it won't work unless everyone wants to. They have to want to do it. They have to not only say, "Oh, I'll do it." They've got to say, "I want to do this! I know that God is always with me, and I want to do this!" They shouldn't just sit there... like in choir, we could do something like this: "We're not gonna do it until everyone's ready. We can't do it until everyone's ready! It won't happen if everyone's sitting down in the middle of praise and worship." Everyone's got to be standing up, everyone's got to be working, everyone's got to praise the Lord or it won't work! Just like if you've got a car and you hit a rock, you gotta get a new tire. And what about if there's a square, it doesn't have a top... it's not a square! We got the top. We got everything the other people need, and we've gotta give it to 'em! We've got to let them have what they need. Not like, the bad let's give it to 'em, but the good, let's give it to 'em, let's give Jesus to them. We've gotta make it happen. It won't do it by itself. We got to make it happen. It's a choice that we have to make, and if we're not ready yet, we're not ready yet; we can't do it. And if we're ready, we'll do it!

I actually cut Mikey off knowing that if I let him keep going he could easily preach me down for an hour and I would never have time to transcribe it all! This is VERY lightly edited from what Mikey said. The boy was on a roll!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Backyard Barbecue

I learned this weekend, to my horror, that backyard barbecues are an abomination to God, but only if you've got a fence. I learned this during Pastor Bob's message, but he didn't say it; I just saw it in the Bible verse so now I know it. Check it out in your own King James... it's in Romans 14:20!!!

(Hmm... now that I think about it, if you've got a fence maybe you could grill outside and then eat inside. That seems like it would be OK.)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sarah Palin

Interesting video that I found via Pastor Mike Goolsbay's blog. I think it speaks for itself.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
     And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
     who does not lift up his soul to what is false
     and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
     and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
     who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah
If we are going to be worshippers that go to "higher places" in the Spirit, personal holiness is a key. Our salvation does not depend on our actions, but our advancement in spiritual things clearly does. How badly do you want "more of God?" Badly enough to abandon sinful habits? What about bad habits that are not sinful but that distract you from the things of God? What does "lift[ing] up his soul to what is false" mean? It seems like this passage is about being a person who can be trusted, who always tells the truth and knows it. That's awfully hard to do in this life. Have you ever told someone that something was happening where you were, even though maybe it wasn't, just to get off the phone? Ever said a check was in the mail when it wasn't yet? Ever told the officer that you didn't know you were going over the speed limit when you really did know it? I've done things like that any number of times, and I'm sure you probably have too. But this passage doesn't seem to leave any room for "white lies."

How badly do you want more of God's Presence in your life? Badly enough to tell the truth?

Friday, September 12, 2008

My Dream Of Jesus' Second Coming

Last Sunday as we were discussing the events of the week before in Sunday school, I was reminded of a dream I had last summer. I dreamed about Jesus' Second Coming. The next day I mentioned it to my Sunday school teacher Shelley, just offhand, not even thinking anything of it, just that it was a cool dream. She immediately emailed me back wanting to know the details; she said she thought it might have significance to what was happening at Grace Church. When she said that, I immediately knew she was right; I don't always have "spiritual" dreams (last night, for example, I dreamed of throwing rolls of toilet paper at people's heads!) but occasionally I do, and it turns out this was one of them.Here's the dream, as I described it in an email to Shelley on July 1:
In the dream, Cathy and I and John and Sheri (our friends who have been coming to Sunday School lately) were at a restaurant. I never knew what restaurant it was, even while I was dreaming it, and I don't remember what we were doing exactly (I don't remember us eating anything). My kids were not with us (not unusual, since they hang out with their Meme sometimes when we go out.) Suddenly in the middle of whatever we were doing, there was a loud BANG that I thought of at the time as a "sonic boom" but it was extremely loud and sharp, like a gunshot from a really high-power gun. Not like a long BOOOOOOOOM but like a short POW!!! that went right through us. I looked up, and I could clearly see the horizon as though there were no wall any more to the room we were in. Not looking out a window; just no wall. The sky was bright, although not painfully glaringly bright; I'd say morning-like, although there was no indication one way or another whether we had been at breakfast or up early. I remember fluffy white clouds. I do not remember seeing the sun or any sun rays, but the sky was definitely lit. Between the clouds and us, far in the distance, I could see Jesus. He was a cartoon character! He was flat like a cutout, and looked sort of like anime, although He was so far away that He was tiny and I couldn't make out too many details. He was smiling and very happy. He was not animated like a cartoon on TV; He was motionless, not even visibly getting nearer. The light in the sky did not appear to be coming from Him. I got SO excited when I saw Him that I was jumping up and down, and you know I'm not generally the jumping up and down type. And that was the end! I woke up excited and happy! In the dream there was no indication at all that the cartoon character was not actually Jesus, and although nothing else in the dream was a cartoon, it didn't seem strange to me at all at the time that He was a cartoon. In the dream I was definitely positive that it was Jesus Himself. The overall impression that I woke up was that Jesus is on the way, not any feeling of seeing a counterfeit Jesus or anything like that.
The interpretation that I received after praying about it had to do with the fact that we had been studying a book about how God should move in miracles in our daily life as a sign to unbelievers. Inspired by the Lakeland revival that was occurring at the time, we had been praying for a revival move of God at our church. The meaning of my dream was that when God moved, it was going to look totally different from what I expected... as different as the real Jesus would be from a cartoon character version of Him. The things that happened two weeks ago fit that bill... I would have never predicted that a move of God on our class would be quite like that one was. It was amazing! And the next time, I expect it will be more amazing and unexpected still. We serve a God of endless creativity; I can't wait to see how He will surprise me next!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sometimes It's Juuuuust Right

Sometimes worship just clicks. Sometimes you get into the service and the songs just seem right, and you feel how in love you are with God, and your voice seems to sing all the right notes, and you don't get distracted, and tears are streaming down your face and your heart is full and it's just amazing. Those are of course everybody's favorite kind of worship time, and I believe we should work hard to learn to do that every time if possible. Does that mean there's something wrong in times when it's too "easy" or too "hard" and you don't reach that place? Well, maybe, or maybe not. Maybe it's just that sometimes the Holy Spirit chooses to move in certain ways, and sometimes He chooses to move in other ways.

Actually, maybe the real deal is that we need to be ready to worship God in whatever way it comes. Maybe it's part of "being ready in season and out of season." One of the main things about sacrifices in the Old Testament was that they be perfect, pure. Lambs had to be spotless, no bones broken, nothing physically wrong with them at all. If praise and worship are to be one of our "sacrifices" that we offer to God, I would say that the main qualification is that the sacrifice is pure. Offer your worship with a pure heart, pure motives. I'm sure sacrificial lambs often got dusty on the walk to the Temple; sometimes we pick up crud in our daily lives too, and sometimes it's tough to shake. But God can see what's in your heart, and if your heart motive is pure, your sacrifice is pure. Even if you get the words wrong and sing the wrong notes. Even if you find yourself thinking about lunch buffets halfway through the last song. Even if you yawn during "Open The Eyes Of My Heart." Approach God with a pure heart, and when you get to the top of the mountain, He will be there to meet you!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sometimes It's Easy

Sometimes I get into worship and I'm SO excited! I sing, I shout, I even dance a little. Maybe I jump; we do that at our church and it's OK. I get so into the music! And then I realize something: I'm totally into the music, but I'm not really focusing on God like I think I should. Then I have to figure out what to do.

Do I keep jumping and dancing and singing? Do I stop, close my eyes and refocus? Do I quit entirely because it's a failed attempt at worshipping? Well, sometimes I do stop momentarily and try to refocus, but sometimes I refocus on the fly. Do you know why? Because if God didn't want us emptionally involved, He wouldn't have couched worship in music. Music is there for emotional manipulation of human beings, period. We can worship God with words only and no melody; I've done it lots of times. But God has ordained music: singing, musical instruments. They're all through the Bible. Sometimes I wonder if there is really a spiritual dimension to music itself, or if it's just the key that unlocks the door between human beings and God's spiritual reality.

7So I firmly believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting emotionally involved with the worship music you are singing. But I do think if you allow yourself to be emotionally involved with the music only, you are on shaky ground, so when I find myself going there I make a great effort to focus my heart on what the music and lyrics are saying and not just the sounds themselves. I would say that if you are singing worship songs and enjoying the music, but your focus is not 100% where you would want it to always be, you are far better off than if you sat down and didn't participate. Yesterday my post talked about obedience; we worship partly out of obedience to God, and that is what the "sacrifice of praise" is. It's okay to enjoy the music! It's okay to have fun in the worship service. That's what music is for! But struggling shouldn't be part of it. If you're fully engaged in the song service but feel like you're struggling to get in touch spiritually with what's going on... sometimes it helps to just stop struggling. Participate with your whole heart in the music and remember what you're there for. Sometimes you'll find that God comes to you instead of you struggling to break the surface and get to Him!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sometimes It's Hard

Sometimes worship time is difficult for me. I get into church and sing along, but my mind is somewhere else. Someone hurt my feelings or did something that upset me... something is bothering me... there's something I need to do after church and don't want to forget... there's someone I'm looking for in the congregation. Sometimes I just can't focus for some inexplicable reason, and my mind keeps wandering. You would think that someone who has spent as many hours talking about worship, rehearsing worship, and doing worship as I have would have it all together by now and it would just snap in every time. No such luck. Some days I struggle just to remain interested enough to keep singing. And sometimes I find myself singing on auto-pilot, thinking about something totally different.

I've heard lots of people reference the verse that talks about the fruit of our lips being a "sacrifice of praise". I think maybe we take the word "sacrifice" in that verse into a modern context, when the Bible is an ancient book, and we really have to understand the context the writers were in. A sacrifice to them was not necessarily something difficult or painful (although for a poor person it probably sometimes was). Do you think it was painful for King David or King Solomon to give up a sheep? Ten sheep? A thousand sheep? Of course not. They had tons of stuff; sacrificing one sheep was not a painful thing for them. The sacrifice, to the ancient people, simply was something they brought to God out of obedience. It was worship.

If you're getting the idea that I'm saying it's OK to let your mind wander during worship, you're incorrect. God deserves our full attention and adoration. What I am saying is that if you bring your worship in obedience to God and offer it the best way you know how, to the best of your ability, I am positive that God still accepts it, even if you keep having to drag your sheep out of the bushes and back onto the road and away from something that's distracting him on the way to the temple!

Don't not worship because you think your worship isn't good enough. Keep trying. Keep focusing. The struggle isn't the "sacrifice"... the obedience is.

Monday, September 8, 2008

One Week Later

Yesterday was "Super Sunday" at Grace Church. We don't have Sunday night service every week, but about once a month we have a special speaker for the evening service, and that's Super Sunday. This time the speaker was Mario Murillo, who is a gifted evangelist and sort of a friend of our church. He spoke in both services, which is kind of unusual; usually Pastor Bob speaks in the morning as always and the guest speaks in the evening. Anyway, Mario was excellent; check out his messages on the church service audio page when they go up later this week!

But this post isn't about Mario; it's more about the follow-up to what happened to us last week. Again, I can only kind of tell my story; it wouldn't be fair or accurate for me to try to tell someone else's story too much. What God is doing is too multifaceted for that. But I do know what has been going on in my own heart.

Worship in both services was terrific; I would say it was comparable to the week before, although it did not end in the same unusual time of intercession as last week. In Sunday school instead of a "lesson" or a teaching time, we took the time to kind of "debrief" on what happened the week before. The class was packed; I think everybody wanted to see what was going to happen this time! What happened was that we talked about the events of the week before, kind of got everyone on the same page (because the events happened in service, in Sunday school, and later at Brad & Hayley's house, and even the Friday night before, not everyone knew what all had occurred, although there was no attempt to give a detailed account of every minute of what had happened). Some of us commented not only on the previous Sunday, but on what had happened in the week after. There seemed to be a general sense of being intent on making sure that this didn't stop on Sunday August 31, but that the experience we had there would make a difference in our everyday lives. I know I spent last week in some serious prayer times. My prayer life has been transformed; I pray with more fervor and more life than I think I ever have before. One person told me that the word "sustain" has kept coming up for him all week in conversations and everywhere he looks. Several people seem to have been kind of "buzzing" all week. One couple pretty much lost their desire to do much else other than spend time with God and fellowship with others from the group! Truly, the Sunday school class and the rest of WAM feels more like family now than ever; whenever we get together it has the feel of getting together with a big tight-knit family for a holiday.

A few people have experienced intense attacks already. One woman found out immediately after the second service last Sunday that a friend of hers had passed away, for example. I think other attacks are bound to come, but you know what? I think God steers us around the worst of it if we listen to the Holy Spirit.

We didn't suck carpet this week. But when we were speaking out in Sunday school about what God was doing in my life, and particularly when it was my turn to share, I could feel his presence begin to rise up in me. Oh man, He's not done yet. Mario Murillo's message in the evening service was about how "the best is yet to come." One of the other men in Sunday school shared that he believes that life in God is like a big tall building with elevators; you can go up to the second floor, but there are always higher levels... the third, fourth, fifth, and sixtieth! ... there are always higher levels to go to. We're on the way up!

Thursday, September 4, 2008


It could be argued that the fireworks that happened last Sunday actually started the Friday before (although there have been rumblings for some time). This summer in June, July and August, WAM set aside the last Friday night of each month as semi-private worship nights. Anyone was actually welcome, but private in the sense that it wasn't something publicly advertised to the rest of the church. The reason was that our leadership felt that we needed some time to worship and draw close to God not as worship leaders, but just as a team of worshippers (if you've ever tried to lead worship, you know that it's not really quite the same thing). Each of those nights has been powerful, and I believe each was a step toward where we are now and where we're headed.

This particular third WAM worship night, Cathy and I had brought our two kids along. The other two times they had stayed with their Meme, but this time we kept them with us. Mikey (the 8-year-old) was pretty good, mostly keeping quiet and either playing his Nintendo DS or joining in on the prayer time. Hannah, the 8-month-old, was kind of a different story. Of course you can't expect an infant to be silent! Most of the night I was holding her, keeping her plugged with a binky ("pacifier" to those of you who may be binky-impaired!), and just walking with her. I was participating in what was going on, but I was physically sort of separate most of the evening. Which was OK; I really felt impressed that Cathy needed the time to be involved without interruption. So I was praying along and praising along and whatever, and something kept coming to mind. As I worship God, I try to let my spirit flow out with things about God from the Word... "Lord, you are beautiful, and You are powerful. Lord, your presence is here to heal. Your presence is here to supply all of our needs according to Your riches in glory..." and on and on. Well, this night I kept saying "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." I couldn't even remember if that was actually a praise and worship Scripture. I couldn't even remember where in the Bible it was! But it kept coming up. Afterward I looked it up, and it turns out it is right in the middle of Psalm 139:
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. -Psalm 139:14
So it is a worship Scripture! I began to read through the rest of the passage, which is along similar lines, and I realized that although the rest of the passage is about "me" (about how God made "me" and about how I could never hide from the presence of God even if I wanted to), that is the first verse in that Psalm that begins with the word "I". And what does "I" do? I praise Him, but I don't just praise Him because I want to. I praise Him because "I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

Suddenly it struck me... I don't just praise Him because I think it's cool that I'm around. I praise Him because I am a fabulous, God-created creature, and one of the "wonderful" features that is built in to me is that I have the capacity to praise Him! How amazing is that? I praise Him not just because I like to, but because it is a primary function of me as a human being. When I praise God, I am doing something I am explicitly designed to do. Isn't that cool?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

August 31, 2008 AFTER Grace Church

(This is a followup to a previous post... if you haven't read that one you might want to check it out before reading this one. It'll make better sense that way.)

After I had brought the children back to the choir room and everyone had finished praying, a few people were still just visiting. My 8-year-old son Mikey loves to talk to people, and especially about spiritual things, and he started telling Shelley about a dream he had which he believed to be a spiritual dream. He based that belief on something I had said: when I remember a dream in vivid detail hours and days after I wake up from the dream, that's one thing that alerts me that it may be a spiritual dream. Anyway, Mikey's dream was about him trying to get through a life-sized maze, but he couldn't do it. Shelley told him basically that she believes that God is teaching Mikey at a very young age that Mikey can't do what God has for him to do without God's help. She also spoke a little bit about that anointing God has on Mikey's life. This wasn't an OOOOOO-SHALABABA heavy-duty IvegotawordfromGOOOHD type of time, but more like casual conversation... I'm not trivializing it because Shelley wouldn't say she believed God was showing her something if it wasn't true. I'm just characterizing the mood in the room at the time. It was all very conversational. Maybe God made it non-threatening for a kid's sake. Mikey doesn't scare easily when it comes to that sort of thing, but it might have been a distraction to him if it had happened a different way.

We left at the same time as the rest of the congregation, went home and changed clothes, called my parents to make sure they were OK (usually they are at the early service and pick up the kids after, but they had had a rough night and didn't come to church at all. They were fine), and then decided to grab some pizza at Cici's Pizza Buffet. We knew we were going to go over to Brad & Hayley's house that evening and frankly, we wanted to eat a whole bunch of pizza in the middle of the afternoon to cover lunch and dinner both so we wouldn't have to worry about it later! At Cici's I was at the buffet getting some pizza and a little girl in her Sunday dress came positively flying past me, and I spoke up to one of the girls who was working behind the buffet, telling her about something funny Robert had said to me at church... Robert's little granddaughter and her friend, who are both roughly Mikey's age, had been running around in the church sanctuary during our choir sound check. I said to Robert, they still run around like crazies even if you put them in a dress, huh? He said, I think that makes it worse because they can feel all the air up in there! So I was telling that to one of the young ladies working at Cici's, and she kind of grinned about it, and another one of the young ladies piped in and asked me what church I go to. I told her it is Grace Church, which used to be called Grace Fellowship (I usually sort of qualify for people who don't know about the name change). She asked what kind of church it is; I told her it's a "non-denominational" church. She said, I was asking because I go to an Adventist church and the name of it also has "Fellowship" in it.

I went back to my seat and told Cathy about it, and we decided that on our way out we would buzz by and invite her to hear Mario Murillo next week, so we did that. She told us she works on Sundays so she probably wouldn't be able to make it; Cathy mentioned the upcoming Saturday services to her and we went out. Unless the Holy Spirit creates some other opportunities for her, I doubt she'll ever come to Grace, but it is very unusual for me to feel comfortable inviting someone to church. I'm a very shy person and I don't like to "intrude" into people's "business". So for me to be that aggressive about something like that, and to feel comfortable while doing it, is honestly not too short of miraculous!

The afternoon for us was uneventful; Cathy took a little nap (and overslept, which made us a few minutes late to get to Brad & Hayley's house... D'OH!) and I just kind of hung out with Mikey. The kids went to Meme's house and we headed all the way down to 131st & Elm to pray with everyone. Cathy and I were discussing the evening prayer time last night; again, it's hard to remember exactly all that happened. First we spent some time talking about some of the things that had happened that morning. Linda spoke up about something that had been on her heart, and we all gathered around her and prayed about that situation, and then Hayley put on some music that she said had been recorded in a meeting where the Holy Spirit was just sort of flowing. It was very repetitive, soothing music, and it was perfect for the time that came next... a time of "soaking" in the presence of God. I spent the whole time sitting on the floor, which is kind of where I like to be when the Holy Spirit is moving. Not "eating carpet" but sitting or sometimes kneeling. I sat there and just relaxed in God's presence. My body actually felt a little bit tense, but it was from the physical exertion that morning plus a lack of sleep in the days before; my spirit was at peace.

After our time of "soaking" Shelley spoke up and reminded us of the word Jerry had given that morning... that if we would spend the time from then until midnight releasing to God long0standing things that have stood in our way, starting at midnight for the next three days God would work those things out for us. So we spent the next little bit of time in prayer "releasing" those things that had been hindering us. Now, this was all very personal time, not really human to human, but human to God. I don't think I spoke to anyone the whole time until Cathy came up to me. She walked up and hugged me very tightly like she had that morning backstage when everyone was still praying after the first service, and then she spoke some things that are personal about goals we haven't been able to reach as a couple, very personal things about herself, and some very personal things about me... in fact, she hit some things on the head about me that I wasn't even aware of myself until she said them. We have been married for nine years, and until now I have never heard her speak to me or anyone the way she did Sunday night, even when she was speaking by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. She was very direct, very articulate in a way that she usually isn't, and frankly, she seemed totally broken before God. I didn't say anything back; she didn't require an answer. It wasn't time for me to talk to her; it was time for God to talk to me and her, through her. It was just a minute or two, but it's my most vivid memory of the eveining.

After that we prayed for several people, and some of it doesn't belong in a public forum and some of it I wasn't close enough to be totally privy to so I'm going to be a little bit vague here. One particularly intense episode was when we prayed for someone who was dealing with some family issues in her past. At one point I walked out of the living room and out onto the porch (in my socks... most of us had taken off our shoes in the entryway, which was fine by me because it was comfy) to call my mom and dad and ask if it was okay that we stay a little bit longer (Mom said it was fine), and as I walked through the areas between the living room and the porch, everywhere I looked there were people on the floor praying. It was the most awesome experience! I felt positively honored to be in a house full of so many people who were desperately seeking God's will for them. Many people never get to have that kind of experience.

Eventually Shelley said "Well, let's seal this up," and everyone came back into the living room and got in a circle holding hands (a couple of people weren't holding hands because they were still praying about something else, but they were inside the circle too). We continued praying, and then Chris began to sing something and we joined in with that, and there were several more words from God that came forth. I have to apologize for not remembering the content of those very well; I believe that they were for the moment, they had the impact on us that they needed to have, and whether I can remember the words or not, they did what they were supposed to do.

After that, as I remember it, things kind of came down and people began to trickle out. There was a lot of visiting on the way out and talking about what had happened. Cathy and I left and went to pick up the kids (actually we just left Mikey sleeping, so he stayed over, but we took sleepyhead Hannah home), talking all the way. You would think we would be so excited that we wouldn't be able to sleep, but in actuality we were too pooped to NOT sleep. Once we got in bed and shut our yappers, I think we were both out pretty quickly.

As a postscript... Monday we didn't particularly do much; we mostly kind of rested. But this morning when I got up I had a task in mind. I ride the bus to work, and when I miss my regular bus there is a second route that is close enough to walk to that leaves about 15 minutes later. Twice when I've missed the bus and went for the backup plan, I've wound up waiting for the bus with a man named David who is there because the bus goes by the VA clinic, and from the VA clinic there is a bus that will take him to Oklahoma City to the VA hospital. He has throat cancer; keeps asking me if I know anyone who smokes, and "tell them to stop it!" I haven't ever prayed for him; I've been really intimidated by people and I seldom just reach out like that. This morning I decided that I was going to take my hands that God has anointed with power, miss my bus on purpose, and see if I could run into my friend at the bus stop. I spent the walk to the stop in prayer, not specifically for him but for all of us, whether we had been in Sunday school or at the evening time or even the congregation members who had just been in the services (which in themselves had been phenomenal!) to be strengthened against the attacks which surely would come from the powers of darkness. And I prayed specifically for myself that I would not lose ground but that I would keep whatever ground I had gained in one whirlwind day, and move on from there to even more incredible things by the Spirit of God.

I got to the bus stop. David wasn't there.

So was all that faith wasted? No, it was not! I believe that the faith I released in seeking out a meeting with him to pray for him and invite him to church was not at all wasted, and that he will see the fruit of that somehow. I can't miss the bus on purpose every day... that wouldn't be honest dealings with my employer... but I can believe that laborers will reach him, and the next time I do accidentally miss the bus, if he's there, I can follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit and do what I knew the first time I met him I should have done... lay hands on him and pray for his healing. And invite him to church. Maybe that will happen this week; I don't know.

The miracle, for me, is that I was willing. I was totally, 100% ready to lay hands on a stranger and pray for his healing. Without reservation. That is as much a change in me as growing back a finger would be. I've been praying for that boldness to come on me for months now, and it is finally here. All I have to do is remain plugged in to the power source, and I believe God will finish the work in me that he has begun.

And I believe the same for WAM, the not-officially-WAM people who were involved Sunday, and the whole church body at Grace. I'm so excited! I can't wait for Wednesday night and next Sunday!

Monday, September 1, 2008

August 31, 2008 at Grace Church

Yesterday was a wild and crazy day for Grace Church, particularly in the Worship Arts Ministry ("WAM" which consists primarily of the worship leaders, choir and band). I think there are as many perspectives on what has happened and what is happening as there are people who were involved, but I'll give my perspective. Maybe I can get Cathy to post hers on here later, too!

(I'm going to name people's first names here if they are relevant and if it's not something personally embarrassing to them. I'm not going to give last names. You members of my WAM family, if your name appears here and you are embarrassed by it, email me or call me and I'll take if off immediately.)

At Grace we have two roughly identical Sunday morning services, one at 8:30 and one at 11:15, with about an hour in between for Sunday school classes. The song set is the same, the message is the same... the only thing different in theory is the people in the congregation. In practice, with different people and at a different time of day, and since God knows every person in the congregation and what they need to receive from Him, the services are sometimes radically different. This particular morning, worship in the first service was an incredible experience... and not just for us on the stage. People we talked to in the congregation had similar stories to tell. The atmosphere was positively charged with the presence of God. At the end of the last song, something happened that is rather unusual... the band quit playing, and the whole congregation was praying out loud in tongues. I don't remember hearing anyone singing at all; just speaking. There was a brief misstep when a video got played while we were still praying; I think maybe it was supposed to occur on Pastor's signal or something. At any rate, it didn't seem to stop the flow of prayer from the people. We prayed for maybe a minute or so after the video, maybe not quite that long, and then Pastor came out and moved on to the next thing.

Once the music is over, the people in WAM exit the stage to a hallway in the back, and then we are free to go to our seats in the congregation for the message, or after the second service, most of us go home (we've heard the message already at that point). Since I stand on the back row on stage and usually near the end of the row, by the time I get down there, the hallway is usually mostly clear of people. Not this time. When I got back there, I saw my wife Cathy with Stacy (her buddy from praise team), and also Amy and Mike (not Amy's husband). I also saw Shelley, who is a very intense spiritual leader in WAM, on the floor. She told all of us later that she basically was just glad she could make it off the stage and onto her face back there. She was praying in intercession, and she was pretty loud. The others were in prayer as well. I kept praying myself, but I wasn't really tuned in to what was going on so much. Cathy came over and hugged me tightly. I actually wondered if our friend and co-member of the choir who is in the hospital, Jimmy, had taken a turn for the worse or died! He hadn't; they were just praying. Cathy and Stacy and I, who had saved seats for ourselves together, left after a few minutes and went into the service, but we found out later that Shelley and Mike and the other Mike (who is married to Amy) and Amy went back into the choir room, where our choir director Cheray had gone and was playing softly on the piano. They were there for the rest of the service praying.

After first service at Grace, we have tons of Sunday school classes. There is an informal Sunday school class in the choir room; it's not part of the official Sunday school curriculum, so we are free to study about worship or read the same book the "regular" classes are reading, or just pray. It is mostly attended by members of WAM, but others are very welcome and WAM members are also very welcome to attend other Sunday school classes instead. This morning when we got to class, Shelley was intense still (remember, she and a few others had been praying during the whole rest of the service, probably something like an hour doing what Shelley described as "eating carpet"). She said that what she wanted to do during Sunday school time (she's the teacher of the class) was to continue in prayer and see what God wanted to do for us. What occurred after we started praying I think maybe if we all got together in a room we could map out a timeline, but I honestly only remember it as kind of a series for vignettes. I remember that we started out basically sitting in our circle of chairs, like we do every week. We were praying and praying. I remember that I started physically experiencing the power of God in a way I haven't before; always before when I've sensed the presence of God as a physical sensation, it felt kind of like electricity, like a vibration. This time I felt that, but I also felt something else; I felt the power of God in my hands. It felt like a tingle, like when you sleep on your hands or arms and they get numb. Now I'm no Oral Roberts and I don't think I need to buy a tent and set up healing revival meetings, but I think God was telling me that I need to not be afraid to put my hands on people and pray for them. It was positively like He was saying, I've anointed these hands to work for me. The same hands that are typing these words right now. I found out later that not only had Cheray also felt the power of God in her hands during that time, but Brad had also. I also had another sensation that Brad described later; I felt the presence of God in the part of my body where my stomach is. It was not uncomfortable at all, but if I hadn't known it was the presence of God I might have wondered if I was going to throw up. Have you ever seen a special effect in a movie or on TV where they superimpose what looks like a galaxy in someone's stomach to show that something supernatural is happening? That was what it seemed like in my mind's eye. A very strange sensation.

Anyway, I felt the power of God in my hands, and I looked down at them... I don't really know why. I don't know if I expected them to look different somehow, but they looked totally normal. But I just wanted to make sure I didn't disrespect and misuse the anointing that I felt God had put there, so I tried to listen really closely to the Holy Spirit inside of me to make sure I put my hands and that anointing on whoever God wanted to touch through me. The first person I touched was Cathy. I grabbed her hand and held it; later she told me that my hand felt warm. After that I got up and walked to another part of the room, and immediately after that Shelley called on Cathy, who had been on my right before I got up, to pray for and speak over Mike (Amy's husband), who had been on my immediate left. It was like a chess game where I was moved out of the way so that Cathy could make the move she needed to make! When she (and a couple of others) started praying for Mike I came and put one of my hands on him as well. Cathy had some pretty interesting things to say to Mike; we didn't know until later just how relevant those words were. But that story is Cathy's and Mike's to tell.

After that as I continued to pray, I walked around a little (I've always been a pacer, and especially when I'm praying) and touched several people, usually not even as a "laying hands on" gesture but just casually shaking a hand or whatever. I remember at one time squeezing Silvia's hand the whole time Jerry (Shelley's husband) was giving a word from God for the whole group. Someone called me over to put my hand on I think it was Christina's back while she was being ministered to; I actually put one hand on her and the other on a guy who was there who isn't in the choir who happened to be sitting next to Christina at the moment (he got ministered to formally by someone a few minutes later).

A while later Shelley called on all of the men who were present to come into the middle of the circle of chairs and begin to pray together. When we grabbed hands and began to pray it was an incredibly intense time in that little circle! Brad, who is very sensitive to the Holy Spirit and who spent a good bit of the morning (both in Sunday school and in the main service!) "eating carpet", was basically being held up by the circle... I had Mike on my left hand, and I was pulling on him and he was pulling on me because Mike was holding up Brad. Someone was on the other side of Brad, and Jerry was on the other side of that person, and Jerry was about to fall down too! Brad was leaning backwards, Jerry was leaning to his right, and the rest of the men were not letting them fall down. It struck me as a cool example of us giving each other strength in ministry. My prayers during that time were something about strengthening us as strong soldiers for the Kingdom. All of a sudden Brad sort of pitched into the circle and began laying hands on the guys. I grabbed him around the chest to hold him up while he was doing it; the other guys were holding both of us up or I wouldn't have been able to stand up either. Brad was just almost not supporting his own weight at all. Later Brad said that I kept putting his hands on each person, but I need to tell him the next time I see him that I actually wasn't doing that! I had both hands around his chest. I don't think anyone else was moving his hands either; I didn't see anyone touching his arms. I think the Spirit of God, or an angel, was moving his arms!

Brad laid hands on all of us, or almost all of us (I'm not quite sure if he touched everyone; I think he did), and then we let him collapse into a chair, and then put him on the ground so he wouldn't fall out of the chair. He laid there on the ground on his side with one foot on the ground and the other food about 12 inches away from it, up in the air. :) After that I just remember praying and praying. Then I remember noticing that it was almost time to go, and I was afraid that we wouldn't make it out to the stage without help, so I went to look for Elizabeth, the worship arts director at Grace, to come get us. Elizabeth had been busy with some other responsibilities of hers; later Cheray told her what had occurred and she was like, oh MAN why wasn't I THERE!!! :) Anyway, she was nowhere to be found, so I came back to the choir room. Shelley and Cheray were aware that it was time to go out, but they weren't aware of much more... they were so deep into the Spirit that neither one of them could really walk very well. But they said let's go out, and I put an arm around Cheray so she wouldn't fall and got her moving her feet, and I think someone else propped up Shelley, and we all got out to the backstage hallway somehow (Rhonda came up on the other side of Cheray at one point, so that helped; I'm glad Cheray didn't fall because I wasn't sure I could find an... ahem... "appropriate" way to catch her if she did!)

So we all got to the hallway, and we went up to the stage. I remember Cheray was mostly just standing there for the first few songs, sort of leaning on the music stand, then she started to become more coherent and started to direct us a bit, and by the end she was "sobered up" and didn't have any trouble getting off the stage. I didn't see how Shelley managed to get up onto the stage, but she was there. Some people later reported hearing angels during that service; all I remember was I was so charged up that I was singing as loud as I could and still be able to call it "singing," and I wasn't sticking out at all. The whole worship service seemed so LOUD! It was like a roar the whole time! By the end I was totally spent; the whole morning wore me completely out physically. We left the stage (that service had ended similarly with a time of speech prayer and no singing in the Spirit at all, and this time there were two words of prophecy as well) and went on to the choir room. What generally happens after the second service is that people go to the choir room to pick up Bibles, purses, whatever we had with us that we had left back there during the song service. Usually there is a little bit of chatter and laughing and sometimes there is a SHUSH! or two because we are right next to the sanctuary with just a little bit of acoustic insulation and a wooden door separating us from the service. Today, though, it was the most unusual thing... there must have been twenty people who just walked in there, sat down, and didn't say a single thing. I think we were so overwhelmed by what had happened that morning. We sat there for several minutes, not saying a word, then Shelley quietly spoke up and said that Hayley and Brad had extended an invitation to everyone to come over to their house that evening to pick up where we were leaving off. After that we prayed for Jimmy who is in the hospital, and then we started praying for people who were in the room and some people who weren't. I went over and picked up our two kids and came back and they were STILL praying! By the time we finished and left the room, the service was over and the congregation was leaving too!

There's more to tell... a conversation Shelley had with my 8-year-old son Mikey when we got back to the choir room, what happened at Cici's Pizza that afternoon, and especially what happened that evening at Brad & Hayley's house... but honestly, my anointed hands hurt and I need a break. Stay tuned and I'll blog the rest in another post!

(Click here for the followup post about that afternoon and evening)