Regarding spiritual things, our son Brian was a typical rebellious teen until the Holy Spirit got ahold of him. Generally, he would good naturedly put up with Mom and Dad’s almost manic obsession with the presence of God. Being our child in these days meant four hour round trips multiple times per week to the nearest “hot spot” where God was pouring out His Spirit. Once arriving at said spot, our children had to endure meetings that would last sometimes three or four hours in length.
A typical renewal meeting would include about ninety minutes of singing, half an hour of testimonies, and an hour of preaching. If it was a really good meeting, the Holy Spirit’s presence would inebriate us, leaving us almost comatose on the carpet for up to another hour or so. Lying on the floor, lost in God, Debbie and I were oblivious to everything around us.
One night at a renewal meeting while in this oblivious state, unbeknownst to us, our children were running through the back hallways and classrooms of the immense church building. The security guard watching the closed circuit tv had spotted them and was in hot pursuit. It was a great game for them, running through the building and trying to avoid the guard. That was until Brian ran smack into a plate glass door that he thought was open space.
Our theory was that we must get our children under the influence of the presence of God. We felt that the more we exposed our kids to the anointing, the higher would be the chance that He would somehow get on them and they would experience Him for themselves.
This was our hunch, but in practicality it wasn’t working out really well. We were probably burning our kids out with our pursuits.
Case in point was our camping trip to Virginia Beach. We were there to enjoy the ocean as a family. However, Mom and Dad’s ulterior motive was to get our kids into a revival service being held that night in town.
This renewal meeting was being conducted by young people from the amazing Brownsville Revival (see previous blog post). There was to be a worship team made up entirely of young teens with the ministry being performed by the young people as well. We thought this was a great opportunity for our kids.
Brian didn’t think so. He sat in the pew, arms folded in defiance. “Why did we have to be here? I thought we were supposed to be at the beach and on vacation!” he and our other children had argued. To make matters worse everyone was sunburned and quite uncomfortable.
I almost gave in to the pressure and was moments away from making an executive decision to leave the service before it even began. I felt like a terrible, irresponsible, and uncaring parent.
So glad we stayed!
The worship team started to play. All of the members of the band actually were young people. The worship leader, himself, looked to be about Brian’s fifteen years of age. They did a wonderful job of ushering us into Jesus’ manifest presence. Brian was still not impressed and certainly didn’t enter into worship.
At the end of the meeting, we asked Brian if he would like to go forward for prayer ministry. In those days, the ministry time was the most important segment of a renewal service. Attendees would come to the front of the church to receive the laying on of hands not just for bodily healing or personal problems but also for more of the Holy Spirit in their lives. We hoped that Brian would somehow be touched.
Again, Brian was reluctant. Finally, he half-heartedly agreed to go forward.
At the front of the sanctuary, we introduced the young worship leader (named Christopher) to Brian and asked that he pray over him. Brian stood quietly as Christopher gently laid his hands on him.
Boom! Brian fell backwards like a ton of bricks. He laid there…and laid there…and laid there virtually motionless under the power of God.
When he finally came to almost two hours later, Brian was a changed boy. It was night and day for him. While he had prayed the sinners prayer years before, it was during that two hour experience on the floor that Brian genuinely encountered God.
Even though he had previously participated in music ministry at our church, Brian now lived in a whole new realm that became an integral part of him. Before, we would have to threaten to withhold his privileges like playing music for children’s church or helping to run sound for the church auditorium whenever Brian was rebelling or behaving badly. He enjoyed these activities for the sake of the activity itself.
Now, as part and parcel of his new life, Brian lived and breathed the worship of God. He would stay up late into the wee hours of the morning lost in worship to Jesus. His favorite instrument of worship, like Christopher’s, was the electronic keyboard. Brian found pads and unique sounds that brought his music into an ethereal and other worldly realm. When he played, God would come.
When we use the phrase “God coming” or “manifest presence of God” we are not referring to the general omnipresence of the Holy Spirit which covers the whole face of the globe. One church or location has just as much of this general presence of God as another church. The “manifest presence” is God’s tangible, felt, heavy kabod presence that fills a room during deep worship. It is this concentrated and localized presence that has been the stuff of awakenings and revival meetings for centuries. It is the substance of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring at Pentecost and other like occurrences in the book of Acts. This presence of God is the kind that changes lives. It changed Brian’s life.
When Brian played his keyboard, it seemed heaven would come down. Usually, worship segments have to trudge through a half hour or so of praise and adoration before they reach the zone of the intimacy and nearness of the Holy Spirit’s manifest presence. In this zone, a worshipper feels God all over them, is lost in His presence, and experiences a one-on-oneness with Jesus.
With one touch of his keys, Brian had his hearers immediately at this level of God’s Presence.
Once standing on a platform next to Brian while he played, I heard other instruments other than the keyboard being played simultaneously. I carefully watched his fingers. The flutes and other esoteric sounds were not coming from him. His hands were not moving in time with those notes that I was hearing. Others in the band heard it also.
We began to utilize this gift of Brian’s on the streets. We would set up at places like the river front in Alexandria, in malls, or in the inner city and people would stop, glued to the music coming from his keyboard.
Particularly in the inner city (more detail on this to come in future blogs) we would have Brian play as we would set up for an outreach meeting on the sidewalk. Up and down the street one would not only hear but also literally see an unseen river of God’s presence begin to flow and fill up the street. Where commotion, confusion, and inner city hubbub had prevailed moments before, now a thick heavy peace flowed in its place. Up and down the street you would see people chilling on their door stoops to the angelic sounds of his keyboard.
This pre-street service playing of Brian’s set the spiritual atmosphere and tone for our outreaches. We saw God come and do amazing things as a result. He would also play for the ministry time at the close of our street meetings. Over the years, hundreds of children, teens, and even adults have received Christ as personal Savior while Brian played in the background. As ministry time would morph into a period where we would pray for new converts to be filled with the Holy Spirit, many would see visions and hear the voice of Jesus while Brian played his God-saturated music. He would continue playing late into the evening after our outreaches as people sat on the sidewalk and on their porches listening.
Following Brian’s lead our other children each developed not only their own personal relationship with this awesome presence of the Holy Spirit but also their own ministry in music. Each has their own instrument of choice. All write original music. In every case, God shows up when any of them plays or sings.
Was it worth it? Was it worth the risk of turning our kids off to God by dragging them to every renewal service we could? Were we flirting with disaster to pull our kids out of child care and have them be present in our own home church’s powerful renewal meetings on Sunday nights? Yes, it could have been disastrous! For Debbie and I, thanks to the grace of God, it wasn’t. We saw our children, all four of them, come into a vibrant personal relationship with Jesus that continues to this day.
What has been personally fulfilling to us as parents is to see each of our children gravitate to like-minded and like-experienced persons of the opposite sex. All of our children have chosen spouses of extraordinary spiritual caliber. Moreover, it is wonderful as grandparents to see their little ones already beginning to encounter this awesome manifest presence of the Holy Spirit at an early age. The amazing cycle continues.
Our prayer is that all of our generations will live in continuous revival.
Next – “Healings” and “God-chasing”