BRIAN’S SONG

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”

BROWNSVILLE!

I had to pull over to the side of the road, eyes filling with tears. Choking back the sobs, I had been listening to Lindell Cooley being interviewed on a radio program. They had just played his rendition of “Draw Me Close” by Andy Park. You could feel the heart of God, so passionate for relationship with us, reaching out through that song.

Lindell had been describing a powerful move of God occurring at Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, FL. Having visited Toronto (see previous blogs), I knew we must see Brownsville too.

Characteristic of every revival is the Holy Spirit’s practice of placing a deposit in that particular locale. This deposit will often have unique characteristics and flavors compared to other locations where He is bringing revival and renewal. One can visit a church in revival and “catch” the particular aspects of what God is doing there and transport it elsewhere. We had experienced the Father’s heart in Toronto. Brownsville seemed to have some unique spiritual nutrients that we needed to assimilate as well.

Further spurring our intense desire to see Brownsville was viewing the testimony videos of Allison and Amy Ward. These were two Christian teenagers whose carnal lives were “wrecked” by the Holy Spirit in the early days of this revival.

Especially touching was the testimony of Allison Ward. Even today, seeing it fresh on YouTube, the tears brim up in my eyes. The nearness of heaven is stunning at the end of the video clip. Allison shakes under the power of God as she pleads with sinners to come to Jesus. You can literally see the Holy Spirit’s heart-rending urgency in her eyes. The groundswell of the cries of human spirits in unison at the end, some interceding and some reaching out for God, is profoundly sobering.

We drove the almost 2000 mile round trip journey to Brownsville for a long weekend camping trip. The air was oppressive with gulf heat and humidity. Our campsite hosts had pity on us in our sweltering tent and offered us an air conditioned cabin for the same rate.

Standing outside in the extremely long lines waiting to get into the evening revival service, it was hot! We were here three years after the revival started, yet the queues of the hungry still wrapped around the church property. One would think they were waiting to get into a rock concert by a famous band. Jesus is very famous, but you don’t normally see lines like this outside the typical church. People aren’t banging down the doors to get in at most fellowships.

The doors finally opened and we were all allowed to stream in. I panicked. We had driven so far. There were so many trying to cram into this building. What if there was no room for Debbie, myself, and our 4 hot and tired kids?

Running up the aisle, we saw our first wonder. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, a whole group of people siting in one of the front rows got up and left. We immediately filed in and found ourselves right under the ministers’ noses!

Lindell Cooley began to sing. Worship quickly took on an ethereal and unearthly quality. Our little, eight year old, Sarah, began whimpering. Soon, she was full-on wailing and screaming. We asked her later what had happened. She explained that she was having visions during worship. These visions were of her friends burning in hell.

Steve Hill spoke. He was engaging and interesting to listen to. He was an evangelist who became hungry for God after hearing about the Toronto Renewal. Seeking an encounter with God for himself, he found it in London, England. His life and ministry were never the same. After preaching a Fathers Day message as a visiting evangelist at Brownsville, heaven came down. Pastor Kilpatrick extended Steve’s stay. The church began to hold meetings almost every night to handle to demands of the crowds.

Something wild happened at the end of Steve’s message. As he gave the invitation, the atmosphere in the room suddenly changed. The air was charged with a powerful sense of conviction and a scary feeling of the closeness of eternity. It seemed that the whole room was transported into the judgement hall of God at the end of days.

Pacing back and forth, Steve cried out to his hearers to run to the altar and get the sin out of their lives. I was sitting there as a blood-washed, confident believer. However, the holiness of God was so intense in the room that I felt the need to run to the altar myself. In my mind were a couple of seemingly tiny issues that five minutes ago wouldn’t even be classified as sins. Suddenly, I knew that I had to get them out of my life right now. On my knees at the altar I gave them to Jesus and received the peace of His cleansing.

Each night, this process repeated itself. I would be sitting in the pew, thinking I was fine. All of a sudden, the altar call would start and the Holy Spirit would propel me to the altar to deal with things that I had either forgotten about or had minimized. It became crystal clear how important sin was to God and how crucial it was to deal with it on this side of eternity.

The next morning, while we were in adult church, Sarah was in children’s church. Following the morning service, we went to pick her up. Our little girl was shaking violently. As I lifted her out to the car, she continued to shake so powerfully that I found it difficult to hold her. She shook in the car for another half hour.

She explained to us what had happened. Children’s church began with fun activities and active praise songs. Soon, the praise time moved into worship. A team of young teenagers led the worship time. God’s presence began to fall heavily. At this point, Sarah and other children went into periods of deep intercession for the lost. Shaking was part of the intercessory package.

We were so profoundly touched by the events that weekend that we seriously considered relocating our family to Pensacola so we could be part of this revival.

Something got on us.

We were teaching Sunday School class months later. This was our second assignment. The primary age class had been a joy. This group of junior highs was the “class from hell”. The first day, they locked Debbie and I out of the classroom. Church staff had to come and get us back into the room.

It seemed they hated us. We would pour out our hearts about revival and being on fire for Jesus. They responded to our teaching on lukewarmness by assuring us that this was not their problem. WE were the problem, they asserted. According to them, we were being hyper-radical and trying to push them too hard.

We almost gave up.

One Sunday morning, we were impressed to bring in a tv and video tapes of the testimony of Allison and Amy Ward as well as footage of Charity James singing “Mercy Seat”. As we began the class the dozen or so teens, as usual, were slouching and goofing around. Starting the videos, they began throwing around the popcorn and snacks they had brought in. They were hitting each other and seemingly uninterested in anything on the screen.

Suddenly, the room became quiet and their eyes were glued to the screen. They couldn’t get enough and asked for all three videos to be replayed. Following that, I felt led to go around the room and place my hand upon each young person’s head. After making my way around the room, suddenly one of the younger girls leaped off of a table where she was sitting and onto the carpet. She reached up, without asking, and turned on the Mercy Seat video once more. As the music again filled the classroom, this young person went into a kneeling position. Next, her head went to the floor. Soon her whole body was on the carpet where she shook, wailed, and cried out to God to have mercy on her soul. Teens leaped from chairs and tables to join her on the carpet. Each one wept and literally screamed out to God in pleas for forgiveness.

This phenomenon continued for almost an hour, well past the dismissal of the adults from the morning service. Parents waited outside the classroom in the hallway, puzzled and visibly concerned about what was going on in the room. The youth pastor soon entered and began trying to get the kids to calm down. They would not be comforted. It was as if this repentance was on auto-pilot. Nothing could subdue it until it had finished its work.

Finally, some of the young people found peace. Their faces smiled and glowed. Others were still in the throes of conviction, but they too emerged with a new peace and a visibly altered countenance. Some of the kids handed us paraphernalia on the way out the door.

Two sisters in the class, pulled us aside on their way out. “Now, we understand what you were trying to tell us” they said. These girls went on to attend a training program to become foreign missionaries.

About a year later, there was a terrible house fire. One of the girls who made decisions in our Sunday School class that morning perished in the flames.

Some time later, we learned that a team from Brownsville, including Steve Hill would be conducting a revival meeting three hours away in Pennsylvania.

We went on another camping trip…to State College, PA.

As Steve Hill spoke, it seemed it thundered. I have never heard such a thing before or since. It literally sounded like there was a thunderstorm outside the massive arena. The thunder claps would occur as if to accent what Steve was saying. There was no thunderstorm outside. This phenomenon added to the other-worldliness of the event.

As the altar call rolled around, the predictable happened. Thousands of people, including myself pushed forward to “get the sin out”. Kneeing on the cement floor of the arena, having repented from seemingly small stuff, that beautiful peace would once again come. I was saved. I had been saved all along. However, when the Spirit of Holiness is present, sin is sin. It all must go and go NOW!

We feel very privileged to have heard Steve Hill and to have witnessed the Brownsville flavor of the presence of God in Pensacola, State College, and in our own Sunday School class.

Steve Hill is looking down on us now as a member of the great cloud of witnesses. Having led over 200,000 souls to Jesus during the Brownsville Revival, I’m sure his heart (along with Jesus’ heart) is crying out for someone to pick up where he left off. Who will pursue the mantle of the awesome Spirit of Holiness and carry it to the nations…or down their street?

Next – “Brian’s Story” and “Healings”

JESUS IN THE STREETS

Debbie and I met in the context of evangelism. We both were Moody Bible Institute students. On Friday night, the students would hit the streets in the nightclub district of Chicago. Someone would preach an evangelistic message using illustrations drawn on a big paint board. The rest of us would invite people to Jesus after the message was over.

During the testimony session after one of these evening outreaches, I saw her for the first time. Debbie was beautiful. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her captivating smile. After a hot date to McDonald’s (we had hot chocolate), our romance began. Three years later we were married.

While at Bible school, Debbie loved the streets. She joined an evangelistic team focused on the down-and-out and the neglected of society. Many nights, she was out past curfew with her team, sitting in the living rooms of drug addicts, prostitutes, gang members, and the desperately poor. Her passion for the lost almost cost her an expulsion from Bible school. Lost in ministry, she lost track of time. The bible school dean was a millisecond from expelling her for missing too many curfews and chapel services because of her late nights on the streets.

In the days of the Jesus movement, I had been led to the Lord by a street evangelist. Evangelism was in my DNA from day one.

At Moody, Debbie and I experimented with evangelism on the streets, in the hospitals, rescue missions, inner-city youth centers, VBS, and neighborhood kids clubs.

After graduation and marriage, in full-time youth ministry, we led many young people in the sinners prayer.

However, despite all of this evangelistic activity, it all feel so hollow. It was as if we were exporting a formula and not a relationship. Our “fire insurance approach” left us many times wondering if a true conversion had ever taken place. Were we reproducing Jesus in others or simply carbon-copying ourselves and a batch of belief systems?

Enter the Renewal. Our encounters with the Holy Spirit (see previous blogs) turned everything in our lives inside out, including our evangelism. Now, instead of a formula, we were exporting a Person and His life changing presence. His tangible manifest presence had made such a huge difference in our lives that we just had to let others know that it was available to them as well.

Getting a person to pray a rote prayer became far less important than having that individual open up their lives to experience the freshness of the presence of God rushing into their inner man. Truly now, we began to see immediate evidence of a new life birthed out of heaven itself. Young and old would now receive Christ followed by hands-on prayer. Following this, their formerly dead senses would now come gloriously alive. Spiritual ears that moments before were inoperative, could now hear the gentle voice of a loving Savior. Spiritual eyes that could not see pictures or visions, were now wide open. Even spiritual skin whose sensation to the touch of God was dulled, now felt the warmth of His Spirit all over them and in them.

Here are some snapshots of experiences in evangelism that occurred during those wonderful early years of renewal:

Sitting in the living room of a poverty-stricken unsaved couple one Saturday morning, we are inviting the presence of Jesus into the room with us. The man, wide eyed, is looking around the room, feeling this loving presence invading his atmosphere. He wasn’t touched by a gospel tract. He was drawn in and attracted by the very presence of God Himself.

Standing in a circle holding hands with children and teens who had just received the Lord during one of our playground outreaches, a little boy wants to share something. “When you were praying for me, I saw a picture of a white bird.” We explain to him that God is using this picture to introduce him to the Holy Spirit Who is now filling him and giving him eyes to see.

The room is full of 50 inner-city kids. All had wanted Jesus. Virtually each one had invited Him into their lives seconds before. Now we are praying for the Holy Spirit to fill them. The weight of a loving God is so heavy in the room it’s almost pushing you down. You can sense in this moment that His passion to touch the human race is almost desperate. He has been waiting, craving this opportunity from all eternity to touch these little kids and teenagers. Many of them now see Him with the eyes of their heart. He has become their Savior and their very best Friend.

It is a particularly busy morning at the food bank that Debbie had started at the church. Attendance numbers had been low for several weeks. Debbie had prayed that morning that God would send people because they really wanted to reach and help the poor. 300 people show up. They were lined up out the door and down the sidewalk of the church. Stopping by to check on things as usual, Pastor Jim exclaimed “what are all these people doing here?” Debbie sheepishly replied, “I prayed for them to come”. Jim answered, “Next time don’t pray for them all to show up at once!” While standing in line, they are receiving prayer for their needs as well as for their souls. Many break down in tears, experiencing a touch from a concerned Heavenly Father. Some, sensing His presence near, give their lives to Him.

For months now, Lisa, one of our neighbors has been hearing Debbie’s and Sarah’s stories about their encounters and experiences with the Holy Spirit. She and Debbie would take walks almost every day together. Debbie’s back pain had grown so I intense that she could no longer take walks. Her doctor was recommending surgery. After God supernaturally healed her back during a renewal service, Debbie shows up at Lisa’s door for a walk. Astonished to see her, Lisa pulls Debbie into the house and asked what happened. When Debbie told her that Jesus healed her back, Lisa exclaims “I want this God for myself!” Right then and there she receives Him into her life.

Jesus said “Open your eyes! Look at the fields. They are ripe for harvest.” Souls all around us are crying out for something real to fill the vacuum inside of them. One of the most important lessons that we learned while encountering the presence and power of the Holy Spirit was to find out what true evangelism is. We would later carry this experiential knowledge learned from these lessons into the streets of some of the most dangerous neighborhoods of America as well as into the bush of Africa. These life lessons in true evangelism would be the source of a great harvest. Ironically, they would also be a catalyst bringing on the most devastating and disruptive period of our lives. So many future blogs are represented in these last few sentences. However, it’s time to close for today.

Next – “Brownsville!” and “The Prodigal Son”

HOW THE VISIONS STARTED

Luminescent clouds. Sunbeams shooting through in every direction. Like a beautiful yet ethereal sky that you just have to take a picture of, I couldn’t get enough of taking in the scene. It was my first vision.

Our children were having them. Friends in church would tell me about theirs. Something inside of me was crying out “me too”!

It’s true. A picture is worth a thousand words. Maybe that’s why God gives pictures, visions, and dreams to His people. In these last days, they may be even more crucial. Joel prophesied and Peter preached “in the last days…visions…dreams”. Yes, I wanted my own.

I was in our home group meeting. After worship and discussion, we always split up into smaller, more intimate groups for prayer ministry. Henry, my friend, was telling us about his latest vision. When he finished his story, I shared my desire to “see in the spirit”. Henry and the rest laid hands on me. Overcome by the weight of Jesus’ presence, I was gently lowered to the floor.

Suddenly, it was there. That beautiful, bright cloudy scene. It was as if I were seeing heaven from some distance but at the same time being invited to draw even closer.

Debbie, my wife, had always struggled with doubts about whether or not she was saved. Raised and schooled in a very conservative church environment, she envisioned that God was glowering down upon her. She felt that she could never perform well enough to satisfy Him.

Where we will spend eternity is life’s greatest question. For Debbie, it was a question that haunted her day and night. Did she use the right words when she prayed the sinners prayer? Was the “salvation formula” followed to a tee? She would self-talk her mind into a quasi-peace but then the doubts would eventually come screaming back into her head.

Following a message on grace by a visiting speaker at the Vineyard Church where we had begun to encounter the Holy Spirit (see previous blogs), Debbie responded to an invitation.

Suddenly, she was there. In bold, crystal clear technicolor she saw Him. Hanging on the cross, He looked down at her and said, “This, is what it is all about”.

There was no conscious reasoning or mental gymnastics. The vision by- passed her brain and went straight to her heart. She saw. She saw with her heart. “It is finished” became a living, experiential reality for her.

Her doubts were history.

Stephen, our youngest son, was eight years old. He was minding his own business in children’s church at the Vineyard. I saw him drop. Heaven’s sights were trained on him this morning.

As workers in children’s church, we would see this all the time. Matt, the leader, would begin playing his guitar and singing a kids worship song. Children would drop like flies. No one would touch them or lay a hand on them. Sovereignly and suddenly, they would sink to the carpet. Overcome by the Holy Spirit, their bodies would be present with us, but their souls had flown away for a visit to heaven. They would come back and tell us vivid accounts of seeing Jesus, the angels, heaven and more. Because Sunday School classes followed Childrens Church, we would often have to carry their limp bodies out into the church hallway until they would recover from their “trip” and return to consciousness.

This was Stephen’s day. After returning to his body, he told us his story. He was in heaven. As if on the edge of a giant amphitheater, he looked down past millions of angels to see Jesus, in the distance, sitting on His throne. There was a little golden foot stool next to Jesus. Suddenly, Jesus beckoned to Stephen. His hand gesture spoke, “Come on down here!”

In an instant, Stephen found himself standing on the little golden foot stool next to Jesus. As he surveyed the vast audience of angels and the glories of heaven from his new vantage point, Stephen saw Jesus make another gesture. This time, Jesus waved His arm in a sweeping motion as if to say, “Stephen, I love you and all of this belongs to you also”.

We were touched by what Stephen saw. Even today, it makes my heart smile!

Later, when we began our outreaches on the streets and sidewalks of inner city neighborhoods, visions would play a tremendous role. It is true. You get to export what you have first experienced. Low-esteem children in low income neighborhoods would have deep encounters with Jesus in visions where He would give them gifts, make them His queen, etc. Not only would they receive His eternal life but they would make a tangible Best Friend, Who would love them unconditionally. This was the Jesus they would encounter in our meetings.

Fast forwarding to a time even later in our lives, African children would run out of their mud huts and join our children’s meetings in the dirt. They too would encounter salvation and a Best Friend at the same time. Their new divine Friend would take them on heavenly tours, showing off their mansions in heaven. Being only familiar with mud and brick structures and never before having seen a “mansion”, their vision encounters were profound to us.

More stories about outreach will appear in the next episode “Jesus in the Streets”.

Visions are not reserved for the spiritual elite. They are a gift available to all believers as Jesus “pours out His Spirit upon all flesh”. Paul refers to false teachers boasting about visions they have had. For us, we knew our lives and experiences were nothing to boast about. They were simply graces bestowed on the messed up and wholly undeserving – a category that we fit nicely into.

There is wonderful intimacy associated with a vision encounter. Jesus is so near. He has used them to deliver warnings to us, heal past emotional pain, prepare us for future events, and draw us closer to Himself.

Once when deep in His presence, heaven suddenly opened. There He was, very bright and shiny on His throne. I wanted to “look my eyes away”.
Too soon, the vision faded but the joy remained. One day it will be face to face. For now we see through a glass darkly. Thank God for even the dark glass view. In the present, we are given a transformational view that changes us from glory to glory each time we behold Him (2 Cor 3:18). Soon, across the great divide, we’ll see perfectly and in 4D. Here’s to that greater glory!

 

HELL HOUSE

When we think of Halloween, we envision a God-forsaken celebration that glorifies the underworld. After God delivered our family from the occult (see the last episode), Halloween often became a time of great harvest for us. It was as if Jesus was redeeming something originally meant to cause great bondage and then using it to bring others into deliverance.

I began to see Halloween as something useful. It is the only time of the year when the horror and ugliness of the underworld is on display for all the world to see. Skeletons, ghouls, demons with pitchforks, and lost souls eternally crying out in misery are all dredged up in graphic detail and exhibited in the parties, TV shows, and events of the season. Hell overdoes itself. If only the lost could take note that this spectacle is a warning to avoid a very real destination.

Taking a rabbit trail and fast forwarding many years beyond our last episode, I would like to share some examples of harvest that our new found Friend, the Holy Spirit, gave us during the “devil’s holiday”. This is done in the hopes that it may inspire someone else to do something similar and see another harvest reaped.

We had moved into a low income neighborhood in Annapolis, Maryland. A family of our good friends already lived in this neighborhood. Our decision to move there was expressly for the purpose of joining forces with them to reach the neighborhood for Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. One night during a planning session, it occurred to us that we could put hell on display in one of our houses right there in the neighborhood and use it as an evangelistic event.

Complete with recorded sound effects, strobe lights, fog machine, and my best friend, Jeff, dressed up as the devil himself, our “Hell House” was ready for debut the evening of October 31. We wondered if anyone would come.

At opening time, we looked out the door and were shocked to see 150 people in line. Waiting patiently, were not only children but also teenage gang members and even adult men and women.

My job as doorman was to make sure that only one person entered the front door at a time. The door was slammed shut behind each one as they entered. It was as if they had woken up in hell. The first thing they would witness, as they looked through the fog, were three people walking down the stairs towards them. All three had a story to tell of how good and religious they were but had found themselves in hell because they lacked a true personal relationship with Jesus.

Jeff was very effective as the devil. His miked voice would echo above the scary background music, customizing his taunts to the appearance of each “victim” who entered.

We had a number of young evangelists waiting in the garage as each attendee exited to talk with them about their souls. Many took advantage of that opportunity. Numerous decisions for the Lord were made that night.

Fruit continued to be born from the event as it gave us instant credibility in the neighborhood. We would meet people and they would say to us “Oh yeah, you’re the Hell House people aren’t you?” Parents would let their children come to the weekly outreaches held in our homes simply because they identified us with that event. Children and teens, many who had been through the Hell House, would come week after week and were discipled in the ways of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes youth would show up with paraphernalia and knives, meet Jesus, and empty their pockets on the way out the door. I recall one young teen who had a profound encounter, complete with visions, while being prayed for after one of our home meetings. He gave his heart to Jesus and was a faithful attender of our weekly meetings. Tragically, years later, he was standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. Riddled with bullets, his body died on that street corner but his soul lives on in heaven with Jesus!

Fast forwarding again, years later, we were living in another city and state. The Holy Spirit led us to undertake a Hell House redo in another low income neighborhood. Clara, a wonderful woman who loves Jesus, opened up her house for the event.

In addition to the ingredients from the former hell house, our son Brian wrote and recorded a soundtrack that was an amazing combination of anointed worship music with frightening sounds of the underworld mingled in. His music had an unusual effect of bringing conviction and the manifest presence of God simultaneously.

The week before the event we were in intercessory prayer for it. Clara was boldly praying that people would literally be struck down under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. In my heart, I appreciated her child-like faith. However, I felt it was too tall of an order to actually happen.

Opening night rolled around. Once again, we saw an attendance of around 150 with all ages represented.

Before our eyes, we saw the very thing that my heart had dismissed during our prayer meeting. True to Clara’s prayer, victims ranging from children all the way to adults were struck to the floor by some invisible force as soon as they entered the house and the door was shut behind them. Some got up off of the floor and made a mad dash for the back door only to hit the wall again and fall to the floor before finding the way out.

Clara played the part of a moral person who had ended up in hell. Her costume and makeup were effective but most effective were her cries and pleadings directly to her own neighbors. She begged them to be saved so they would not end up where she was.

Brian played the role of the devil. Costumed and miked, he would get in the face of each person who entered. He probably wanted to faint afterwards when Clara told him that, at one point, he was boldly in the face of the most notorious drug dealer in the whole neighborhood!

Once again, the evangelists in the backyard were kept very busy. Many made decisions for Christ that night. Enough teens found Jesus to enable us to start a weekly teens’ outreach group. During that season, we also started a weekly children’s outreach in the neighborhood that continues to this day.

In conclusion, there is one more Halloween outreach story that I would like to tell. God sometimes speaks random things when one is lost in worship. In the presence of God, during worship at our church, He unveiled a plan before the eyes of my heart. We were to go to a certain low income neighborhood and conduct a Halloween event. It was to be an outreach where, instead of a séance or palm reading, we were to offer the presence of God and “prophetic readings”. “Prophetic readings” are simply messages that the Holy Spirit lays on your heart for someone.

A resident named Andrea, opened up her house to us that night. Scores of neighborhood children attended. Our daughter Sarah did most of the prophetic readings. Kids were amazed at how she could know private details about their lives.

“Prophetic readings” are not without scriptural precedent. Please read 1 Corinthians 14:25.

As a result of the prophetic, evangelistic, and the heavy presence of God, many gave their hearts to Jesus. We were able to start a weekly children’s meeting there as well. Attendance would range from twenty to as high as one hundred kids and teens crammed into that tiny apartment. Over the ensuing months hundreds came to Jesus.

God has a terrific sense of humor. He loves to take what the enemy intended for evil and turn it into good. Who could predict that we and our children who were so tormented by evil spirits would one day be used in the deliverance of many from the same. He truly does work in mysterious ways!

Next: “How the Visions Started” and “Jesus in the Streets”