DANCING IN THE STREET

It had been a wild ride. God had taken us from doing outreaches to actually living in an outreach target area. Instead of driving to a needy place to conduct an evangelistic meeting, we now threw open the front door of our home to invite the harvest into our very own living room. We, and our friends who had also moved into this dicey Annapolis neighborhood for the purpose of reaching it, lived in 24-7 harvest.

From time to time, the Holy Spirit would take what He was doing in the seclusion of our homes and export it to the streets, in full view. Here are a few snapshots of how that looked.

STREET PARTY

it is Sunday night in our neighborhood. There are forty of us, adults and kids, playing football on the common area field. We have handed out a hundred hot dogs to neighbors and in so doing, have met many new individuals and families. Some of our young team members are leading a line dancing session in the streets for about a dozen neighborhood girls. Jesus is opening doors to hearts tonight.

HELL HOUSE

It is Halloween and we have transformed one of our houses into “hell” for the night, complete with booming sound effects, eerie lighting, and live costumed demons. Exiting hell, participants will be led through a final room where they are witnessed to and given a handout explaining the way of salvation. Not knowing what kind of turnout to expect, we are shocked to see a long line of neighbors queued up at opening time. Most everyone is patient and waits an average of twenty minutes each while we lead one or two at a time through hell. 150 of our neighbors are exposed to the gospel this night with several accepting Jesus on the spot! Puggy (see Puggy the Devil) and his friends are on hand to help. They could be running the streets tonight causing mayhem but they have chosen to be with us reaching their peers.

HALFWAY HOUSE

We are conducting a Tuesday night Bible study for a halfway house for recovering addicts and alcoholics located in our neighborhood. Everyone takes a turn at answering the questions “Who is Jesus to you?” and “If you died tonight would you go to heaven and why?”. Tommy, a new attendee, answers “I don’t know”. After our discussion regarding the fact that one can know that they have eternal life, one of the new believers in the group, Steve, indicates that he wants to ask a question. We’re all thinking that he wants to ask something that relates to the discussion that we just completed. Instead, Steve looks over toward Tommy and blurts out “Tommy, Jesus wants to know if you want to get saved tonight”. Our mouths are gaping wide at Steve’s non-tactful approach. Then, shockingly, Tommy quietly answers, “Yes, I would”. Moments later a new lamb is added to Jesus’ fold through the boldness (and innocent tactlessness) of a new believer.

ANNAPOLIS IN OHIO

Members of our Annapolis group, Jeff and Maureen Struss, are in Columbus, OH visiting a burned-out pastor friend. The pastor is listening to the testimonies of the awesome things that God is doing in our neighborhood in Annapolis. The pastor’s wayward kids are listening as well. Following this, the Struss’s spend time praying over and encouraging the whole family. Some time after returning home, the Struss’s receive a phone call. The pastor shares that their visit has changed their lives. Even his prodigal kids have broken up with their unsaved boyfriends and are now in church, hungry for God!

EASTER SONRISE

130 kids, teens, and parents fill a hillside section of our common area field on Easter afternoon. Our team’s young people are leading worship and the Holy Spirit’s presence is hanging thick in the spring air. After a puppet show, passion play, and illustrated gospel message, it is time for the invitation for salvation. As the invitation is given, the whole hillside seems to move as virtually everyone comes forward to give their lives to Christ. We have extra reinforcements from church to help out with the event, but we are still mobbed. Some counsellors have half a dozen individuals each to share with and lead to the Lord. 96 kids, teens, and adults responded to the invitation to be born again.

We are humbled and awed to be witnesses of what the Holy Spirit did in our Annapolis neighborhood. Next, we will share how the scene changed but the story didn’t as Jesus continued to reach out to those He died to save.

 

 

THE PARENT TRAP

Parents were minding their own business when…SNAP!…they suddenly found themselves in the Holy Spirit’s “parent trap”! Our team’s ministry in a dicey area of Annapolis was primarily focused on kids and teens. The change that came over the young people when they responded to Jesus and were filled with the Holy Spirit intrigued parents, and for some, lured them into their own personal encounter with God.

From our very first outreach meeting, Jesus drew parents to Himself. The story of a former drug addict who came to the Lord after witnessing the manifestation of the Holy Spirit on his son is documented in a previous blog.

My wife, Debbie, and I were sitting in a restuarant with a mom of one of the kids who attended our neighborhood outreaches. Her daughter recently had a sovereign conversion and subsequent powerful and intimate encounters with the Holy Spirit. The mom was being hugely impacted by the changes that she had witnessed in her daughter’s post-conversion life.

Over dinner, the mom opened up about her own personal struggles. Debbie and I shared the gospel with her and then invited her to our home where she prayed to receive Jesus. As we prayed over her, God took her away in a vision. She saw herself standing on the edge of a cliff. Actually feeling the wind blowing through her hair, she looked down. There, at the bottom of the cliff, stood Jesus. Suddenly there was an impulse to leap. She jumped. Jesus caught her. The two of them clasped hands and spun each other around in circles. (This is very similar to another person’s vision posted in last week’s blog). Looking around, she realizes that this scene is occurring in a beautiful valley surrounded by rocky desert cliffs.

Somehow, as she exited the vision, she did so minus her struggles. She related to us that the personal challenges that she confided to us were now gone. As we looked into her newborn eyes, we witnessed the sparkle of light present where hollowness had been moments before. Jesus’ power and presence are awesome!

The Holy Spirit initiates and we have the free will to respond. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is the persistent Hound of Heaven, relentlessly pursuing His “prey”.   With the observed changes in the child as the bait, the parent is drawn to the “trap”. As the jaws of Jesus begin to close in on them, some may resist and struggle free to their loss. Others find that the jaws are actually Loving Arms embracing them. These ones find a new life and a new Love.

In closing, we would like to share one additional story of how a parent was touched in our outreaches.

Seeing that the turnout for our Saturday morning kids meetings was running rather low, we prayed for the Lord to draw more in. After doing so, we saw 23 kids crammed into our living room for two weeks straight. Most of these kids we had never seen before. On this particular morning, five more kids accepted Jesus, including some tough-guy teenagers. During the invitation, one of the moms in attendance began weeping. She told us afterwards that she had lived with the fear of whether or not her deceased father had truly given his life to the Lord before he died. Her worries were over as she sat in our kids meeting and clearly heard supernatural strains of “Amazing Grace”, her father’s favorite hymn, playing in her ears during the altar call. This was supernatural because no music was being played. The only thing audible during the invitation was the voice of the speaker inviting the kids to Christ. This was evidence enough for her heart that her father was safely in the arms of Jesus. She was greatly comforted and overwhelmed with joy that God would use such a creative means of putting her mind at ease.

One final episode of our time in Annapolis remains. Next week, we will post “Dancing in the Street” which details how our outreaches launched out of our living rooms and into the highways and byways of our neighborhood.

VALENTINES DAY HUG

God is very real. He is not a book. He is an actual Person with feelings and affections. He longs to interact with humans, touching their five senses.

Salvation, in recent decades, has pretty much been relegated to signing a decision card. Faith is now a response to a formula and not an encounter with a Living Being Who tangibly invades your body, soul, and spirit in a felt way.

God is Love. He is a Romantic. We are wooed by His occasional touch until the day arrives when He can fully embrace us, totally wrapping us up in His presence.

Here are some stories portraying the divine romance, courtesy of lives He touched during our time in Annapolis.

Megan, my friend Jeff’s sixteen year old daughter, had been sharing about Jesus with her co-worker, Shane. Shane accepted her invitation to come to church with us on a Wednesday night. Coming to church was no small commitment (see last week’s blog). In those days, we drove a four hour round trip to a fellowship in Pennsylvania where the Holy Spirit was powerfully moving.

The worship leader at this fellowship, Gary Shelton, had been instrumental in helping birth the Toronto renewal. When Gary played, the Holy Spirit showed up thick and weighty.

On this particular Wednesday night, Shane walked into a dense cloud of God’s presence as Gary played. As the God of Love poured over her, Shane found herself on her knees, weeping through worship. After worship, she responded to the gospel invitation and received prayer during the ministry time. She exclaimed “God is in this place! I felt Him for the first time in my life!”

Shane had found her New Love, literally ditching her old loves in the process. Upon arriving home, she handed over her cigarettes, alcohol, and bong pipe to her parents. Furthermore, she broke up with her boyfriend days before they were due to take a weekend trip together to Bermuda. She had become a young woman in love…with Jesus!

Our daughter Sarah had been witnessing to her friend with the same name, Sarah, for years. Sarah invited her to our teen group where she accepted Jesus (see previous post “Puggy the Devil”). A few weeks later, Sarah was receiving prayer during another one of our teen meetings when she was transported to another realm.

We all know the story of how Adam and Eve lost their relationship with God as well as their right to the Garden of Eden. God, the Divine Lover, has pursued mankind ever since, longing to bring humans back into fellowship as well as to Paradise, itself. In Jesus, both are made possible. What Sarah saw as she was whisked away by Her Love was striking evidence of that. She found herself standing before a sparkling gate. Jesus handed her a key with which she was able to open the gate. As she walked through the gate and into Paradise, she saw the most amazingly beautiful flowers and unusual animals that radiated the colors of the rainbow! Her vision was symbolic of “Paradise Restored” through the death and resurrection life of Jesus Christ, the ultimate Lover!

I was away on a company trip the week before Valentine’s Day. My roommate named David accepted Jesus and hungrily received lots of prayer ministry over the next few days. During the last of the prayer sessions, he said that he had something “weird” happen to him. He said it seemed as if he was being lovingly rocked in the arms of God! Another fellow employee heard stories about Annapolis and longed for a closer relationship with Jesus. Requesting prayer, this coworker went into the Spirit for half an hour. A tear dropping from her eye and splashing onto her hand constituted the exit from from an amazing vision. The first scene involved sitting in God the Father’s lap receiving fatherly kisses of affection. The second scene was the proverbial running across a field toward Jesus, Who was running from the opposite direction. They collapsed into each other’s arms and whirled around together in circles, heads thrown back, laughing hysterically! What a picture of the passionate heart of God!

Some of our new believers’ encounters with this “Loving God Who is There” were very simple yet profound at the same time. One morning, after our weekly kids meeting, five new children accepted Jesus. Anthony was one of them. While he was receiving prayer, he saw a vision and heard the voice of God for the first time. Later, he confided to Jeff’s son Stephen, “You know, I didn’t believe in God before but now I do because He spoke to me”. “What did God say?” Stephen asked. Anthony responded, “He said…Hello”.

Since that morning, Anthony began to bring his Bible to school with him and would share verses with his schoolmates.

Finally, during a kids meeting on Valentines Day itself, two more children gave their hearts to Jesus and received prayer ministry. When asked what they experienced during the ministry time, one of them replied “It felt like God was hugging my heart!”

Passionate stories, Passionate God. He so wants to leap off the two dimensional pages of scripture and “dance the dance of love” with us.

Next – “The Parent Trap” and “Dancing in the Street”

 

 

JESSICA’S ROSE

Our family had become the third to move into a dicey Annapolis neighborhood for the purpose of reaching it for Jesus….and then there were four.

Our best friends, Jeff and Maureen, and their family were first. Afterwards, one of their children followed suit. Ours was next (see last week’s blog). Now, friends of my friend Jeff caught the vision and decided to move in as well and were much appreciated members of our team.

There was no lead evangelist. Everyone, young and old, played a part in reaching the lost.

Jeff and Maureen’s youngest, Hannah, was only eleven years old at the time. One day, she and her new neighborhood friend named Jessica were walking up and down the block together. Out of the blue, Jessica asked Hannah “What religion are you?”

Hannah did not discuss religion. Instead, she took that wide, open door of opportunity to share with Jessica about her relationship with Jesus. For three hours, she conversed about all of the cool things that Christians get to do like heal the sick, see visions, experience the touch of Jesus, worship, and live life with a purpose and mission.

Later on, Jessica, along with her two sisters, showed up for our neighborhood Christmas party (another one of our “outreaches in disguise”). After the fun and games, our team shared Jesus. In the course of the gospel talk, some things were actually mentioned that Hannah had shared with Jessica earlier in the day. This unscripted collaboration got Jessica’s attention and during the invitation, she responded to accept Jesus as Savior.

After the party, Hannah and Jessica were causally talking when suddenly, Jessica jerked her head over to the side in fear.  An evil apparition had materialized right in front of her. The apparition was mocking her new commitment to Christ.

Hearing about this, Hannah took Jessica to her bedroom where she confided to Hannah that she was often tormented by demonic visitations. In fact, she had become so paranoid of the dark that she had slept with her bedroom light on for years.

Unfazed, Hannah led Jessica in a prayer of deliverance. Jessica was now free! Ever since, she has slept with her light off.

The next day Jessica joined us in church. Accompanying our group to church was no small commitment. In those days, we travelled a four hour round trip to a church that was in continuous revival. All of our team were so hungry for God that this twice a week, long journey seemed to fly by. Early Sunday morning and then again at midweek, we lined up our caravan of four vehicles and began our trip.

Once there in church, Jessica cried through worship and participated in the service like she had been in revival her whole life. Her ardent desire afterwards was to see her sisters and her parents come into relationship with Jesus as well.

A couple of weeks later after our weekly teen outreach, Jessica requested prayer. Kids at school had been teasing her and making her feel bad about herself. While Debbie and Maureen prayed over her, Jessica entered into a vision. She saw a flower bed. In the middle of the flower bed stood a tall, beautiful flower. Jessica watched as Jesus appeared in the picture and picked that very flower for His own. Immediately, Jessica’s spirit recognized that the flower was symbolic of herself. Jesus was letting her know that He had picked her for His own possession and that it didn’t matter what anyone else thought of her. This vision was precious to her and greatly encouraged her self image!

Acts 2 mentions that in the last days God will pour out His Spirit. It says that “your sons and daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions”. Famous Christians from Peter and Paul to Charles Finney and Evan Roberts have been granted visions. We have seen, not only in Annapolis but in every place that we’ve ministered, that Jesus cares as much about the lowly child as He does about the “Man of Power for the Hour”. Jesus is all about intimacy. He so wants to communicate to our hearts. He uses vision, His spoken voice, His tangible hug and so many other means to convey His love to those “He has picked for His own”.

Next – “Valentine’s Day Hug”, “The Parent Trap”, and “Dancing in the Street”