TOTAL ECLIPSE OF OUR SUN

We felt like David going out to face Goliath. In our heart of hearts, we knew that the God of Armies would come through for us. He had to. Losing this battle would be unthinkable. Defeat was not an option.

Knowing what we knew would make us shudder to think what the rest of our lives would look like if we did not win our case (see previous blog).

…but we were full of faith.

We surrounded ourselves with scripture. Homemade bible verse cards proclaiming the Lord’s victory on our behalf adorned the walls, mirrors, and cupboards of our home. Everywhere we looked, our faith was inspired by God’s Word. We constantly prayed, pleading the promises in His book.

We received many prophetic utterances promising success in our endeavor. Some of the said prophets even saw portents in the sky that they interpreted as a sign of victory.

Engaging in spiritual warfare, we commanded demonic powers to be bound. We had everyone we knew interceding for us.

We had “done all to stand”. Every spiritual base was covered. All the stops were pulled out. Even in the jury selection, we learned that we had been provided with an almost unanimously Christian jury made up of Christian school teachers, pastors’ wives, and even a priest. As a result, we knew that God must be shining down on us with sunny favor.

Then came the “total eclipse” of our sun.

The mistrial came at us out of no where, obliterating our faith.

Following the dismissal of the court, we headed back to our hotel room. To say we were devastated would almost be an understatement. “God, where were you today?” was the question on our hearts. Hopelessness and despair seemed to swallow us up. We fell into bed exhausted almost hoping that we wouldn’t wake up in the morning. It was the lowest point we had ever been at.

As we lay in bed, it was after midnight in the natural and the spiritual realms. Our life was over as far as we were concerned. Hope was vanquished.

It is in your darkest place that you sometimes find the greatest light.

In the wee hours of the morning, Jesus showed me a vision. I awakened Debbie and shared what I saw.

A giant pyramidical structure loomed large in the vision. As huge as a continent, it was comprised, row by row, of demonic entities. At the top, sat the chief of the entire evil operation.

“You are dealing with a principality” Jesus said.

He went on to explain that this principality was responsible for theft and financial devastation around the world. What happened to Debbie and I was just a small part of this principality’s work in the Church. In turn, the misdeeds of this giant spiritual organization toward the Church were only a part of the whole of its planet-wide schemes. Whether it was a con man deceiving an individual or a government stealing from the masses, this principality was responsible.

I asked Him the logical question “How do you fight a principality?”

The Holy Spirit answered by first showing me how not to fight it.

I saw believers engaged in their very best attempts at spiritual warfare against the principality. They spoke against it, quoted scripture at it, derided and cursed it. Boldly, they bound it and commanded it inoperative. Marching around their churches, they made proclamations that they believed arrested its activities. The modern Church’s most powerful lunges against it were depicted in the vision as little children stabbing at a giant mountain with wooden swords.

The mountain crushed them flat.

Again, I asked “How do you fight a principality?”

Jesus showed me the “end run”. Just like in football, a runner can attempt to go up the middle and carry the ball through the formidable front line of the opposing team and get crushed in the process. A better option might be to do an “end run” play, running wide and to the side then around the front line, circumventing them and reaching the goal.

I saw a view of engaging the principality by not directly engaging it. Instead of frontally attacking it and being destroyed, one could do an “end run” around its second heaven and go directly to the third heaven above it.

At this point, the Holy Spirit directed me to Matthew 18:19. “If two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father Who is in heaven”.

He showed me that the way to thwart a principality was to create a legal agreement, a virtual document in the spirit. This legal agreement was like a blank piece of paper. Two or more believers could decide together what stipulations should be in the body of the agreement. Once those details were agreed upon, the parties would then verbally “sign” the agreement. By virtue of the fact that we are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, the parties “go up” by faith into the very throne room of God the Father. There, in the spirit, He showed me a round table, a heavenly version of a conference table. Across the table were seated Jesus and the Father, Himself. The signed agreement was slid across the table to Jesus, Who gladly also co-signed it and passed it over to the Father. As the Executor of the agreement, the Father dispatched the giant, sumo-warrior Angels present in the room to carry out or enforce the parameters of the agreement. These mighty Angels would themselves engage the second heaven (i.e. principality) directly and war until the terms of the agreement were accomplished. The believer did not have to lift a finger or say a word to the principality. The Angels, upon the Father’s orders, did it for them.

It was a fantastic proposition. This was a blank check. ANYTHING was in the realm of possibility that this could apply to. All the Father required was a minimum of two believers to be checks and balances on each other as to what was requested in this agreement. The Father has such a trust in His children.

Furthermore, the greatest check and balance was that this agreement originated in heaven first. He directed me to the preceding verse. “Whatever you shall bind (enter into a legal agreement about) on earth shall have been bound in heaven”. This was all about intimacy…intimacy with the Holy Spirit. We couldn’t just ask for any whim our heart might desire. The Holy Spirit would breathe His desire for what was to be written on the body of the agreement. Our role as the two or more believers was to hear what He was saying, agree upon it, and verbally “write” it into an agreement.

We called these agreements “decrees”. “Decreeing” is very popular in charismatic circles nowadays. Unfortunately, the decreeing done in these circles is based on a misinterpreted scripture and can bode disaster for the decreers. Like proud little kings and queens, decrees are being made that were not first breathed by the Holy Spirit. It is our experience that these false decrees instead originate in the soul, especially in the realm of the heart. They sound very nice and spiritual but because they did not originate with the Spirit, they are strange fire. More often than not, they invite further demonic resistance and frustrate the true will of God.

From the early days of the Renewal in 1995, Debbie and I have experienced beautiful intimacy with the Holy Spirit. He became our very Best Friend. We would lay for hours under His heavy intoxicating presence, often saying nothing, just listening. Sometimes the Holy Spirit would go on and on speaking. He might talk for hours. If pen and paper were available, we might have difficultly keeping up with the flow of His communication. Other times, He was silent. It was as if we were the best of buddies, simply enjoying each others company in a relationship where nothing had to be said. At any rate, we learned by experience when He was speaking and, possibly more important, when He was not.

This intimacy with the Holy Spirit is crucial to these agreements or decrees being something of value vs something detrimental in our lives. Intimacy is borne of time spent with another person. There is no short cut to it.

In summary, here is the overview of what the Holy Spirit showed me about “making decrees” or “agreements”.

First, hear the Holy Spirit about a matter. Then, agree with one other person about what the Spirit is breathing and verbally place the details of it in the body of the decree. Next, each party indicates their agreement with what is listed in the body of the decree. Debbie and I used the word “done” to signify our agreement. “Agreed” might be another good word to use. After this, by faith, we envisioned ourselves in the council room of the Father at that table. We slid our signed paper across to Jesus and watched Him sign it and hand it over to the Father. At this point, we knew things were done. Invisibly, in the spirit realm, hoards of heavenly Angels were dispatched to carry out the details of the decree.

The first matter that the Holy Spirit directed us to make an agreement about was to decree ourselves out from under the principality. We saw our loss as part and parcel of our being in the realm of its influence. We had suffered great loss financially and in many other ways. To avert further losses, we needed to come off of its grid. In vision, I saw us crushed under the weight of this giant pyramidical monstrosity. After decreeing ourselves out from it through the process described above, I now saw us encased in a spiritual bubble, separate from the principality. It was as if the principality was still trying to crush us but couldn’t because this impregnable bubble was all around us. This little bubble surrounding us was strong enough to shield us from this giant lowering massive weight.

The next issue that the Holy Spirit instructed us to decree about was an agreement that anything that the two of us discussed about the principality would be hidden from it and its entire organization. It seems funny now, but the view that I received simultaneous to this was that of Get Smart’s famous “cone of silence”. What was hilarious in the 60’s sitcom became a vital tool of spiritual communications jamming software to us in our battle. They now could not hear us. As a corollary to this, the Spirit had us decree that anyone we spoke to about the principality or the decrees would be included in this spiritual cone of silence as well. Therefore, you as the reader, are at this moment included in that decree as you read this story!

All of this was so childlike. It was so serious of a matter, but in the presence of God, it was like playing a game. Didn’t Jesus say that the things of heaven were hidden from the wise and revealed to babes? He also said that if we didn’t receive the kingdom of God like a child, we would not be able to enter into it. We were truly children having a grand time with what Dad was showing us. Hope was beginning to rise in our hearts.

Now, the Spirit of God led us to decree about all the various matters of our case. In the darkness of our pre-dawn hotel room, Debbie and I were led around our legal case by our Advocate, Himself, as He showed us where the vulnerabilities were. We had just experienced the devastation of being in a courtroom totally caught up in the swirl of a principality. The room had spun with classic principality confusion affecting judge, jury, counsellors, and we, ourselves. Therefore, one of the first matters that we decreed regarding our case was that participants would be out of the principality’s influence. For hours, the Holy Spirit breathed decree after decree to us and we carried each to heaven, one by one, and delivered them to the Father.

Of great concern to us was something that the perpetrator in our case seemed to be continually doing because he could since he was a lawyer. It seemed as if he was constantly going down to the courthouse submitting motions. “Motions” are requests for legal injunctions affecting a case. They may result in delays, modifications, challenges, etc. to the case. Each had to be individually addressed by our lawyer and fought before a judge. This involved expense to us each time, but more importantly, great stress. The Holy Spirit led us to decree “no more motions”.

Just at that moment, Debbie’s phone beeped a notification.

It was 7:30 in the morning. She had just received a text message from our lawyer that read “no more motions”. We were floored. Here was a literal proof from God that what we were doing was not child’s play but was real!

A mistrial does not mean that a case is over. However, it can mean that simply because it can be very difficult to muster up the courage and resources to go on with the process after one has experienced a mistrial. Through the decrees, Jesus not only re-encouraged and strengthened us but also set the parameters for how the next trial would go. In the coming months pre-trial, we literally saw the tangible effects of the decrees that we were led to make. In the trial, itself, despite the extreme complexity of our case, we saw the entire atmosphere of the courtroom transformed into a place where justice could be clearly heard without interference from the principality.

We would love to tell the amazing stories from the courtroom drama of those four days but cannot at this time. Suffice it to say, it would make a very entertaining movie script! God was supernaturally all over that courtroom!

We won.

The jury decided unanimously in our favor in civil court. However, the battle was just beginning. We heavily leaned on the decrees through what we have called our “six years of hell”. Because of appeals, including to the state Supreme Court, our case dragged on and on. Finally, it was over. We had won each appeal. The FBI now stepped in and the perpetrator found himself in custody and eventually pled guilty in federal court. He is currently serving time.

It has been our experience that the ones who truly “get” these concepts about the decrees are those who are in desperate straights themselves. We have heard of much good fruit in the lives of others who have implemented the making of these agreements. There have been outright miracles resulting.

Our desire and prayer is that our experience recounted in this blog would be helpful to our readers and bring hope in the most hopeless of situations.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost”. Rom 15:13

Dan and Debbie Murrill
July 15, 2015

 

 

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

Considering the intensity of the spiritual firestorm that was suddenly swirling around us, we would surely have died…but God.

After being Christians for over two decades, we actually met the Holy Spirit in 1995 during the renewal movement. This sounds like heresy. How could we have been Christians without this encounter with the Spirit of God? We ask ourselves that question sometimes.

We had both prayed “the prayer”. It happened for my wife Debbie in her home as a youngster.  I did it in an outreach during the Jesus movement.

The prayer of salvation became our ticket into all things evangelical. Metaphorically, we could display this ticket like a membership card whenever asked to. It was proof that we belonged. Having prayed the sinners prayer was the evidence that we were not nominal Christians. We could serve in the Church. We could attend Bible school and did, being trained for ministry because the prayer provided us with a testimony that gave us acceptance and credibility.

Most important of all, we knew that we were going to heaven (or at least we boasted that we did) because we had uttered this prayer.

“The prayer” gave us a mission. Our goal in life was now to get as many people as possible to pray it as well so that they could also join us in heaven one day.

As Christians who had prayed the prayer, we looked pretty good on the outside. We strived to maintain appearances. God forbid, we should stain our reputation or that of the prayer’s by misbehaving. “The prayer” meant that our lives would be lived differently now, for the better. We had a testimony to uphold. People had to see that the prayer had made a difference. We, ourselves, had to believe that there had been a life transformation as a result of the prayer.

There was a tremendous pressure to perform for God, the church, and ourselves. We would not have been willing to admit it, but living the Christian life for us then meant essentially trying to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

We had no idea at the time that we were entrapped in a pseudo world of our own making. We had encased ourselves in a religious construct that not only hid our true selves from outside inspection, but also provided no substantive benefit when the bottom dropped out of our lives. The theology of the prayer had given us a box.

We later referred to it as the “cardboard box”.

This cardboard box was that pretty, painted box around us that people see. What lies underneath and behind the box no one gets to know about. Your closet sins and family problems remain known to only you.

Ones doubts remained hidden behind that cardboard box. Secret fears regarding whether or not God really loved you, was actually mad at you, or if you were really going to end up in heaven after all, lie concealed behind the pretty box.

When our world fell apart, if all that we had was the environment created by “the prayer”, we would surely have died.

Good thing we met God.

We had an encounter with the Living God. He came bursting into our lives. The Holy Spirit took our pretty, painted cardboard boxes and ripped them up. He picked up the dead man’s bones and cleaned out the trash that was hidden behind the box.

It was sovereign thing.  He, Himself, pursued and found us. From the very first meeting with Him, He poured in dynamic strength. His presence became a tangible, ongoing power-source that we could tap into for daily living or even for the cataclysmic.

Most important of all, He became an intimate Friend Who would talk to us, visually communicate with us on our new-found internal projection screen, and keep reassuring our doubtful hearts that we were His and He was ours.

As He was shredding the exterior cardboard box, the Holy Spirit simultaneously took our “prayed the prayer membership card” and ripped it in half as well. This relationship was not to be about a religious formula or milestone decision from the past, but about an ongoing life-sustaining intimacy with a real Person.

“Pray the prayer theology” conferred no intimacy. The package of doctrine delivered by the prayer did not include that. We didn’t even believe in it. To hear God was heresy. He only spoke through His book. To see a vision or have a view was dangerous extremism.

Again, without the intimacy of hearing the Holy Spirit speak to our heart, our life would have gone off the rails when disaster struck. It became life and death for us to hear His very specific instructions for how we were to navigate the stormy, deep waters that we had suddenly found ourselves in.

Moment by moment, we had to stay plugged into His tangible power supply. Not having the luxury to be unconnected for a moment from His anointing, despair would have taken the initiative and led us into deep terminal depression and death.

Furthermore, it was imperative for us to remain hidden behind our new protective covering which was God, Himself. That is why the cardboard box had to go. He had to replace it with the invisible armor plating provided by virtue of His surrounding manifest presence. Behind this spiritual force field, we were hidden from the howling winds of demonic discouragement and deadly confusion.

The concept of abiding from John 15 went from theory to vital reality in our lives. We could sense decay creeping in the moment that we ceased receiving His powerful flow or came out from behind His shield of protection.

In the early days of the renewal, our pastor used to call us “kids in a candy store”. We were wide-eyed with wonder at each new discovery made in this new realm of the Holy Spirit. Little did we know that what was being adopted in our childlikeness at that time would literally rescue us in our semi-adulthood later on.

All of this is being written to set the stage for the coming installments of our ongoing testimony. It is vital that the lessons that we learned during this dark night of our souls be communicated and applied in this context of intimacy.

Thank you for preserving with us through this “selah” in the telling of our story. Next week, the action will pick up again with what became for us a spiritual total eclipse of the sun. Everything that we thought that we knew about spiritual warfare was turned on its head. He had to shred that too.

In its stead, He replaced the defective and hopelessly outdated with what became for us the unbelievable.

Next – “Total Eclipse”

THE MISSING INGREDIENT FOR NATIONAL REVIVAL

As Independence Day winds down, intercession has been on my heart for our land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 promises:

If My people who are called by my name
Will humble themselves and pray
And seek My face…

Stop right there.

The passage goes on to mention repentance as well as God’s response of forgiving and healing.

However, don’t miss the “seek My face” part. God is saying that intimacy with Him is vital to us experiencing personal or national forgiveness and healing.

To many, “seeking His face” is clocking in on a quiet time regimen of Bible reading and reciting prayer lists. Maybe a worship song or two is included in the repertoire.

Many more, do not believe that this prescription to revival is literal. “How can we see the face of God?”, they object. “This is forbidden”.

David saw the face of God. He cried out “Do not hide Your face from me”.

Moses saw the face of God and it was said of him “he spoke with God face to face as a man speaks with his friend”. He would return to the camp of Israel with his face glowing.

The new covenant continues where the old left off. We can see the face of God. The gospel of the glory of God says that we can.

Deep in the glory presence of the Holy Spirit, the scales are taken off and we can see the face of Jesus. In seeing the brightness and splendor of His face, we are transformed and morphed into His image. 2 Cor 3:18, 4:6

No amount of Bible reading, prayer lists, or singing will alone transform us. It is intimacy that will.

On the streets of the inner city and in the bush of Africa with Iris ministries, one of the first encounters many of the children who we saw come to Christ would have was that of seeing Him. After responding to the altar call, during ministry time, the presence of the Holy Spirit would overwhelm them. Suddenly their eyes were opened. This changed their world. He wasn’t a picture in a book or a flannel graph figure any longer. He was real. They saw Him. He spoke to them.

Jesus said we need to become as little children.

This is the hope for our lives and our nation. Religion won’t cut it. Church and fellowship fall short. Rote quiet times won’t suffice. It is intimacy, face to face with Jesus, that is the answer individually and as well as corporately.

Intimacy must become part of our lives. Once it is a reality in us, we can export it to a dying nation that is desperate for reality but wary of the trite, institutional version of Christianity that has been offered to them until now.

In gazing on the face of Jesus, there is healing and transformation. The view of Him is the medicine for our spiritual disease.

Yes, we can see God. We must see God. National revival depends on it.

Let’s press deeper into the manifest presence of God together until we are pleasantly surprised with the view that will rock our world and change our nation…the face of Jesus!

 

 

JUSTICE

It was time for a “church break”.  Things were getting intense in our lives (see last week’s blog), we felt the call of the open road.  We needed to get a breath of fresh air.

We had been invited to attend a home fellowship with some former Amish friends up north.  Halfway there, we suddenly knew in our spirits that we needed to turn the van around and head back into town to “St Somebody’s Missionary Baptist Church”.

There wasn’t an audible voice or a vision involved and we knew nothing about the church except that our friend, Gary, led worship there.  Yet somehow we knew that this small inner city church was where we were supposed to be, at least for that morning.

Arriving at the church, we went down to the basement simply to look around.  We ended up outside a Children’s Church class of elementary aged kids.  Having worked in the inner city for many years, we felt a draw to what was going on.  Poking our heads through the door, we said hi to the children’s worker inside.  Exchanging names but little else, we headed upstairs to the main sanctuary for church.

Once inside the main auditorium, the friendly ushers were so kind not to have us sit in the back of the room (where we actually wanted to be incognito) but marched us up to the second row like we were some kind of royalty.

We throughly enjoyed Gary’s worship leading as usual, were refreshed by the heavy presence of the Lord, and got to meet a few people afterward.

We were on our way out of church, headed through the foyer to exit to our car.  Suddenly, much to our surprise, out of nowhere appeared the Children’s Church teacher.

“God has told me that you are supposed to help me work with our children!” she informed us.  As might be imagined, this took us aback.  We had never been approached in such a way before, especially by a near stranger, to engage in any kind of ministry.

We offered the time-tested response “We’ll pray about it” on the way out the door.

After, thinking and praying about it through the week, we decided that we would go and observe the following Sunday.  If God so led, we knew that we could attend the early service back at our home church and afterwards slip out in time to help with the kids at this other church.  The question still remained whether or not this was God or just our hearts leading.

Next Sunday, more out of curiosity than anything else, we wound up back at that church.  The Children’s Church teacher was delighted to see us and led us upstairs to the new location for her class.

We entered the “board room”.

It was exactly that. The kids filed in and took their places in large adult board room chairs lined up along side of a long adult board room conference table.  Immediately the kids began to pick on each other and discover that the chairs could swivel from side to side, making them useful weapons of assault.

The teacher valiantly attempted to teach her lesson.  Just about every other  line of precept was alternated with a line of discipline to someone being unruly.  Finally, half-way through class, she had enough.

She called for Deacon Lawson.

In the door strolled a tall, kindly faced man.  He glanced around the room, assessing the situation.  He pointed at the trouble makers and gestured for them to follow him out of the room.  There were whines of protest, but none dared resist.  We didn’t know where they went or what the manner of discipline was, but the offending parties came back suddenly transformed and repentant.

Deacon Lawson was a man who practiced his faith in practical ways.  His father’s heart had led him to take several foster children into his home, adding them to his own grandchildren already living with him and his wife.  He was the perfect constable for the class, knowing many of the children from his own household.

This scene repeated itself a couple of times during the course of the class.  It became apparent that the multiple appearances of the deacon were a weekly feature of the class.  When the ordeal was finally over, we wondered what we had gotten ourselves into.

Unfazed by the events that morning, the Children’s Church teacher asked us if we would like to teach the following week.  We found ourselves blurting out in the affirmative. Only God knew why.

Next week, we showed up to teach.  Interestingly, our new friend, the Sunday School teacher, was no where to be found.  It was solo time for Debbie and I.  We would be thrown into the deep end immediately.

Similarly to what we would do in the streets of the inner city, we brought some general ideas of what we felt the Holy Spirit might want to do.  However, we knew that if He didn’t show up it was going to be mass chaos.

Normally starting a new venue, we like to start out presenting the gospel.  It’s a logical place to start.  After some games and activities, we pulled our “dirty heart story” and a few posters out of the bag.  We were seriously praying that God would take over the meeting.

The kids were their raucous selves as they plopped into their big adult board room chairs at their big adult board room table, ready to be bored.  Instantly, the rambunctious behavior began.

We knew that the first thing that we needed was to do something about those chairs and that table!  Right away, we gathered the children on the floor in a corner of the room and asked the Holy Spirit to come…Please!!

At that point, things went surprisingly well.  Maybe the kids were happy to be out of their chairs or maybe God wanted to be there as much as we needed Him to be there.

However, at one point, a little boy named Justice (gotta love that name) and his foster brother went ballistic on each other.

Deacon Lawson made his first appearance on our behalf.

After a time of attitude adjustment, the deacon brought the boys back just in time for Dan’s telling of the “dirty heart story”.

Justice sat quietly and listened.  Along with most of the other kids in the class, he also invited Jesus into his heart that morning.

As we prayed over the children and asked for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, we watched an amazing transformation come over Justice.  This truly was his day.

After our impromptu ministry time, we provided the kids with construction paper and crayons and asked them to draw a picture of what Jesus had done for them while in His presence. Some had actually had visions and had seen pictures with the eyes of their heart while in the Spirit. These drew what they had seen and wrote out what they had heard.

Justice grabbed his paper. On one side he drew his heart all dirty and on the other side he drew it as it now appeared after Jesus washed it with His blood.

From that day forward, Justice was a different boy.  Week after week, he would listen attentively and cooperate.  One of our visionaries, he would see things in the Spirit that were profound.  He was never the same again.

Weeks and months passed by.  We were in love with our class and our kids. The Holy Spirit became so big in them, that He actually began to use them to lead where He wanted the class to go.  We would all get in the Spirit early and Jesus would via word or vision given by the kids indicate what He wanted addressed in our little group.

We were excited that in the middle of what was shaping up to be some very dark days for us, that God was giving us an oasis.  Each Sunday morning, we could come and watch with amazement what He would creatively do in the lives of these children, far beyond anything we could imagine.

Eventually, the rigors and stresses of the legal process with our case became all consuming.  It was time to hand the class back over to the members of the church.  After all, these were their children. They would pick up where we had left off.

We sadly said goodbye to the kids, and headed out to face our goliath.

 

THE NIGHTMARE BEGINS

The room was spinning. It seemed, all of the air was being sucked out. The walls of our lives suddenly came crashing in around us.

Denial immediately set in. My wife didn’t just now say those words over the phone, did she?

“He’s stolen our money.”

I had to wake up from this terrible nightmare. “Our money” meant the retirement money for which I had worked so hard for so many years. How could it all instantly be vaporized?

We had thoroughly investigated the man before we entrusted him with our retirement money. He was going to help us use it for our ministry in Malawi. His qualifications were excellent. An attorney with an advanced degree in tax, with investment projects and non-profit ministries in Africa, he was very well qualified. No ordinary guy, he had written a book on international tax law and had spoken before the United Nations. His board was comprised of Christian leaders, well-known and respected.

We didn’t just take his word for it, we thoroughly investigated him, drilling down deep on the Internet. Our mentor at the Iris missionary training school conducted at our church actually referred him to us, giving us his contact information.

Now, while we were talking with each other long distance, my wife, Debbie, had googled his name once more and found news articles that had very recently been posted on the web. These articles described allegations of fraud against the man.

My mouth was so dry, I could hardly speak. “Contact the lawyer mentioned in one of those articles”, I requested. Debbie did. The lawyer conducted a search and found out that the man had not set things up for us as promised.

We had a lawsuit filed.

Thinking that his board would force him to give back our money in short order, we had no idea that we were at that moment commencing a five year ordeal. Instead of living in the dirt of Malawi, ministering to the poor, we would be in legal hell for years.

As she lay on her bed, Debbie was agonizing before God. “We were going to serve You in Africa. We were giving everything up to preach the gospel and serve the poor. Why did You let this happen to us?” The answer came instantly.

“This has to be stopped and I’m using you to do it.”

Our church leaders were very sympathetic and supportive of us at first. Then one of them found out that some of the board members of the man were his friends. These board members would contact this leader and through him try to get us to drop the lawsuit.

Our Iris missionary school mentor called me. He angrily asked why I was suing his friend. He pressured me to drop the lawsuit, saying that this is not how missionaries should behave.

One of the passages used by various leaders to discourage us was 1 Corinthians 6. “Christians should not sue” is the usual rendering of the text.

Fraud is very easy to perpetrate in the Church. Christians are instructed to be trusting and to believe the best of others. Forgive and turn the other cheek, we are taught. Often a believer will “forgive” the one who has committed fraud against them and walk away without doing anything about it. This leaves the possibility of many others being victimized as a result because no one spoke up or filed a lawsuit.

In our case, thankfully, some were bold enough to have filed a lawsuit against the man. As mentioned above, because of our discovery of the existence of these lawsuits, we were able to quickly take appropriate action.

Yes, “appropriate action”.

Contrary to the popular understanding of 1 Corinthians 6, this passage refers to suits or grievances about matters of everyday life. Matters involving alleged fraud have no business being tried in the church. That is why God ordained the secular judicial court system. Paul actually calls them “ministers of God” (Romans 13:4). The secular courts were divinely instituted for our protection and deliverance. For a more accurate handling of 1 Corinthians 6 please refer to this brief excellent article written by a Christian scholar.

Turning the other cheek in Matthew 5:38-41 also deals with the arena of matters of everyday life. Shirts, coats, miles, and cheeks are all examples of such. When the level of alleged fraud is reached, turning the other check cannot and must not apply. Society at large is potentially vulnerable. Who is to say that the fraudulent one may not attempt to defraud once more? Others may needlessly have their lives destroyed as a result if the misguided “other cheek” is turned toward the perpetrator.

The aforementioned lesson was learned early in our ordeal. Before all of this began, we had believed that Jesus was going to use us to minister to people in the bush of Malawi. Who would have known that in our quest to get to Africa, we would be divinely swerved into the American judicial system to do His bidding there.

Those years were brutal. No battle is ever without casualties. We were severely damaged in so many ways. It was as if a tornado had ripped through every department of our lives. Years later, as we survey the scene around us, devastation still abounds. The decision to forgive is made in the moment and walked out from there. Healing, restoration, and the picking up of the pieces of one’s shatered world can take a lifetime.

God is faithful. Even if we are never fully restored, the lessons learned in this very expensive “school” of ours are invaluable. In the coming weeks, we will share some of these crucial discoveries. It is our hope that Jesus will be glorified as we share stories about His amazing hand at work…in the most unlikely of places.

Sometimes when things get difficult, we can hear the Holy Spirit, tongue in cheek, say “Get in, sit down, shut up, and hold on”.

Fasten your seat belts and hang in there with us for this really wild ride!

 

 

 

 

 

 

DESCENT INTO HELL

For the past several months, we have been writing our Malawi story.  We have enjoyed being able to share all of its wonderful God moments – things that He did in us, for us, and through us.  We appreciate all of the support from those who have read our stories. It means a lot to us.

Last week, in blogging about the sale of our house, we began to go down the path leading to the devastating loss of everything we had, deep betrayal by those we trusted, and the resulting trauma of the past six years.  Even though we felt like we “descended into hell”, we can say that Jesus was with us even in that “valley of the shadow of death” of our lives. Moreover, He has faithfully brought us out of death’s valley and to the other side into a place where we can heal and move on with our lives. We would never have survived such an ordeal apart from the grace of God.

He taught us a great many things throughout the process.  In the coming weeks, we will be sharing some of the insights and unveilings that He gave us during this dark, hellish period of our lives.

Due to the nature of the events that unfolded following the sale of our house, we have prayerfully considered the Holy Spirit’s direction and are unable to share the specific details of our story moving forward.  We are still in the process of healing and putting our lives back together as we speak.  Having to walk through deep levels of forgiveness, it been an intensely emotional season of our lives.  By God’s grace, we are moving forward.

We appreciate your prayers.

Dan and Debbie Murrill

DITCHING THE AMERICAN DREAM

“We would like to invite you, Dan and Debbie, to come and work with us here in Bangula.”   The words came from the director of the Iris Base, David Morrison, as we sat on the patio at the end of another day of outreach in the bush of Bangula, Malawi. We felt at that moment that all the years of inner city work, and the dreams we had held in our hearts for over 30 years, as well as the work God had done in our lives during the renewal,  were converging into something that only God could have put together for us. We gazed out across the field behind the base wall and knew that we were at that point being offered “the field”.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

Malawi had gotten into our hearts during those short weeks we were there.  We had clearly been called to come, and now we had come and seen.  We loved everything about Malawi and it’s wonderful people from the mommas and children out in the bush to the Morrisons and the other missionaries on the base, along with the Iris children that were cared for there.  Being asked to come and join the team filled our hearts with greater joy than we could have ever imagined.

Days later, we packed our belongings into our suitcases.  We left quite a few of our things on the base, but in reality we left our hearts there on that tiny base in Bangula, Malawi.   As we tearfully made our way home, we purposed in our hearts to return as soon as we could.

Back in America,  we gathered our family around us and got their blessings to proceed with our plans to return to Malawi.   After celebrating Christmas and New Years,  we hit the ground running with our plans.   The first plan was to put our home on the market.   As in times past, we called a realtor in the area and fully expected the house to sell within days.   This was the way it had always worked for us.  We had put homes on the market and sold them within hours.  We even had bidding wars going on in our front yard on one occasion. On another occasion,  people kept knocking on our door saying if the deal fell through to make sure we called them.   We were not expecting to put the house on the market and have it sit….and sit….and sit.

By June, we were a little discouraged.  Our realtor discussed with us the idea of lowering the price of the house by several thousand dollars.   We were a little unsure about doing this because we knew what we needed to get from the house to be able to cover our expenses.   We asked if we could think about it over the weekend.

Later that evening,  Dan was busy in the garage.   Debbie was up in the bedroom talking to God about the whole situation with the house and what to do about it. Suddenly God said to her, “Go over to the church across town, John Paul Jackson is there and he has a word for you.”

Debbie’s first thought was “I don’t do this type of thing.   Besides, it’s 9:00 in the evening and Dan is busy downstairs.  This is crazy!”

God wouldn’t let up.

Debbie went down to the garage and told Dan that  “God says we are to go to the church across town because John Paul Jackson is there and he has a word for us.”   She waited for him to tell her she was crazy,  but instead Dan said, “Okay, come on, let’s go.”

We arrived at the church and walked into the auditorium.  It was completely packed out. The only seats were in the last row.  The offering was winding down as we squeezed our way into the pew.   John Paul Jackson got up and started speaking.

Debbie began to think,  “This message has nothing to do with us, I really don’t know why we are here after all.”  She glanced at Dan and could tell he was thinking the same thing.  Well, we couldn’t leave now so we settled in to listen to his message feeling rather silly.

All of a sudden,  John Paul stopped in the middle of his message and said, “God just told me that there is a couple here who is selling their house so they can go to the nations.  God says sell it for any price, that He will make up the difference.  After I am finished here, come up front because I want to pray for you.”   Then he went right back to his message.

We sat there stunned.  We simply could not believe what had just happened.  We hardly heard the rest of the message.  When John was finished, he said, “We will have a ministry time, but that couple with the house, get up here, I want to pray for you.”  We got out of our seats to go up front,  and in 2000 people, we were the only ones!  “Go figure.”

We went home with joy in our hearts knowing that God was looking down on us and smiling.

The next day,  we called and told our realtor to lower the price of the house. She did just that.

Monday, she sold it.

The buyers were really excited about the house.  In less then a month, we went to closing.  Just before closing, we learned that we were indeed short on funds.  However, our realtor informed us that she had taken care of the difference out of her own funds.

Just like John Paul Jackson predicted, God had made up the difference! How great is our God!

The weekend after we sold the house, we gladly opened our doors Saturday morning and had a “going to Africa sale”.  The neighbors got really excited for us. We sold or gave away just about everything we had.  It was the best day ever!  We were finally rid of everything that would hold us back.  All the things that at one time would have been important to us, were suddenly eclipsed by our desire to be in Malawi.  Nothing about the American Dream mattered anymore.  The house was gone and just about everything in it.

We were free!  We were on our way!

We had come home to sell everything to buy the field.  Little did we know how much that field would cost us.

Next – “The Descent Into Hell”

TRANSFORMED BY LOVE

Around her was an invisible circle of rejection. People treated her like she was an aberration.

Grace had experienced a terrible accident at the age of three. She fell face first into the fire. She survived but with terrible disfigurement to her face.

Rejection extended even to her own family.

When we arrived in Malawi for our mission trip, Cindy Metzger met us at the airport. She was one of the missionaries on the Iris base. Over the three hour bumpy road to Bangula, we got to know her better. She shared with us her passion for Africa…and for Grace.

Cindy had heard of Grace’s existence through a friend. It was actually at a large outreach of thousands of people that Cindy first attempted to find Grace. Sure enough, like a needle in the haystack, there she was. Her first impulse was to wrap her arms around her, holding the little girl.

From that moment, Cindy and her husband, Leroy, made Grace the focus of their love. Theirs is a story of sacrifice, faithfulness, and perseverance. Cindy has given me permission to share that story.

Grace’s house was in deplorable condition. The mud bricks were literally disintegrating. The thatch was coming apart. A giant ant hill had grown up in the middle of the dwelling. In Africa, the ants build not in inches but in meters. At night, ants would crawl over the family members.

Grace’s mother was a widow. It was hard enough for her to find food, much less keep her home repaired. One of the first acts of kindness that the Metzgers did for Grace’s family was to help rebuild their house.

They bought Grace a dress.

Pictures of the moment when she was given the dress show how special she felt. The tangible love of God delivered through the Metzgers was beginning to collide with Grace’s world of rejection.

Over the coming months, Grace began to slowly open like a flower. The hints were subtle but sure. She started to sit straighter instead of slouching. Rather than avoid the camera, she would look directly into it when her picture was taken.

In public, as people would stare at Grace’s disfigurement, Cindy would wrap her arms around her and whisper, “You are so beautiful. God loves you so much!” Graces’ shoulders would straighten slightly indicating a response.

Jesus began to put it on the hearts of the Metzgers to do something practical about Grace’s disfigurement. After contacting doctors and organizations in the U.S., they made the commitment to bring her there for treatment.

Leroy says about those days, “We didn’t have any idea what we were doing, not a clue”. Neither did they realize at the time the cost and sacrifice of their decision to help Grace.

Passports and visas evidenced the miraculous. The very day before their flight, the hospital that had offered to provide treatment told them not to come.

They went anyway.

Once again the miraculous entered the equation. As love drove them to persevere for Grace, doors began to open again after they arrived in the US. Prayers were being answered but not without many set backs, broken promises, and delays.

Finally, the surgeries began to happen. The doctors were able to perform a medical miracle. During a twelve hour procedure, surgeons were able to fashion a lip for Grace out of skin from her arm. They transplanted a tendon to hold up that new lip. A new vein was created to supply blood to the site.

The Metzgers constantly prayed over Grace as she experienced severe pain during her recovery. Finally, all of the sacrificial giving of the Metzgers and their supporters paid off. Grace had a new countenance. Her appearance in the natural was tremendously improved. However, it was her appearance in “the little girl within” that was the most profound. She truly smiled and laughed now. She was confident. Her demeanor was one of someone loved and not rejected. The arms of Jesus demonstrated through the Metzgers had healed not only her face but her heart as well.

They returned to Malawi to joyous celebrations on the Iris base and in Grace’s own village.

Heidi Baker is fond of saying that love “stops for the one”. Looking at the needs of the entire planet, we can easily become overwhelmed. Jesus simply asks us to have eyes for the one. Stop for the one…like Cindy and Leroy Metzger.

This article does their amazing story little justice. Please follow the link for a video account of Grace’s miracle.

(Note – Grace’s name has been changed for the purpose of this article.)
Next – “Ditching the American Dream”

 

 

 

 

GRACE – “Stopping for the one”

Around her was an invisible circle of rejection. People treated her like she was an aberration.

Grace had experienced a terrible accident at the age of three. She fell face first into the fire. She survived but with terrible disfigurement to her face.

Rejection extended even to her own family.

When we arrived in Malawi for our mission trip, Cindy Metzger met us at the airport. She was one of the missionaries on the Iris base. Over the three hour bumpy road to Bangula, we got to know her better. She shared with us her passion for Africa…and for Grace.

Cindy had heard of Grace’s existence through a friend. It was actually at a large outreach of thousands of people that Cindy first attempted to find Grace. Sure enough, like a needle in the haystack, there she was. Her first impulse was to wrap her arms around her, holding the little girl.

From that moment, Cindy and her husband, Leroy, made Grace the focus of their love. Theirs is a story of sacrifice, faithfulness, and perseverance. Cindy has given me permission to share that story.

Grace’s house was in deplorable condition. The mud bricks were literally disintegrating. The thatch was coming apart. A giant ant hill had grown up in the middle of the dwelling. In Africa, the ants build not in inches but in meters. At night, ants would crawl over the family members.

Grace’s mother was a widow. It was hard enough for her to find food, much less keep her home repaired. One of the first acts of kindness that the Metzgers did for Grace’s family was to help rebuild their house.

They bought Grace a dress.

Pictures of the moment when she was given the dress show how special she felt. The tangible love of God delivered through the Metzgers was beginning to collide with Grace’s world of rejection.

Over the coming months, Grace began to slowly open like a flower. The hints were subtle but sure. She started to sit straighter instead of slouching. Rather than avoid the camera, she would look directly into it when her picture was taken.

In public, as people would stare at Grace’s disfigurement, Cindy would wrap her arms around her and whisper, “You are so beautiful. God loves you so much!” Graces’ shoulders would straighten slightly indicating a response.

Jesus began to put it on the hearts of the Metzgers to do something practical about Grace’s disfigurement. After contacting doctors and organizations in the U.S., they made the commitment to bring her there for treatment.

Leroy says about those days, “We didn’t have any idea what we were doing, not a clue”. Neither did they realize at the time the cost and sacrifice of their decision to help Grace.

Passports and visas evidenced the miraculous. The very day before their flight, the hospital that had offered to provide treatment told them not to come.

They went anyway.

Once again the miraculous entered the equation. As love drove them to persevere for Grace, doors began to open again after they arrived in the US. Prayers were being answered but not without many set backs, broken promises, and delays.

Finally, the surgeries began to happen. The doctors were able to perform a medical miracle. During a twelve hour procedure, surgeons were able to fashion a lip for Grace out of skin from her arm. They transplanted a tendon to hold up that new lip. A new vein was created to supply blood to the site.

The Metzgers constantly prayed over Grace as she experienced severe pain during her recovery. Finally, all of the sacrificial giving of the Metzgers and their supporters paid off. Grace had a new countenance. Her appearance in the natural was tremendously improved. However, it was her appearance in “the little girl within” that was the most profound. She truly smiled and laughed now. She was confident. Her demeanor was one of someone loved and not rejected. The arms of Jesus demonstrated through the Metzgers had healed not only her face but her heart as well.

They returned to Malawi to joyous celebrations on the Iris base and in Grace’s own village.

Heidi Baker is fond of saying that love “stops for the one”. Looking at the needs of the entire planet, we can easily become overwhelmed. Jesus simply asks us to have eyes for the one. Stop for the one…like Cindy and Leroy Metzger.

This article does their amazing story little justice. Please follow the link for a video account of Grace’s miracle.

(Note – Grace’s name has been changed for the writing of this article)

Next – “Ditching the American Dream”

 

 

 

SURROUNDED BY WITCHDOCTORS

The swishing sound of witchdoctor machetes hacking through the bush, headed straight for our “bug tent”. I now knew that I had brought my wife to Africa to die.

How did we get into this predicament?

Dave Morrison (“Mo”), the director of Iris ministries in Malawi, had invited Debbie and I to assist with an outreach in a remote village far north of the base in Bangula.

A church had actually been planted in this village after the grandson of the chief had been run over and killed. When God raised the boy back to life, the chief was so impressed that he opened his village wide to the gospel. Many were born again and a pastor was trained to oversee the new church.

Outreach began in typical African fashion with two hours of dust-raising jubilant worship led by the Iris worship team.

During worship, Mo asked Debbie and I to preach to the crowd.

“What should we preach on?” we asked.

Answering us, Mo shared how some of the villagers who had accepted Jesus had not yet fully cut ties with occultic tribal practices. Some were still seeing the local witchdoctors instead of bringing their sick to Jesus. We could preach on being fully committed to the Lord.

So that’s what we did.

Preaching on Elijah and the prophets of Baal, I applied Elijah’s question “How long will you hesitate between two opinions?” to the issue of the witchdoctors. “We can’t keep one foot in Jesus and the other in the occult”, I challenged. Then for dramatic effect I lit the torch that I had hastily made out of one of my tube socks. As the flame shot up into the dark, I presented our God as the only One Who could answer by fire.

Debbie preached on how every time a witchdoctor was consulted, it was like pouring dirt into the clean water of one’s relationship with Jesus.

Outreach continued hours into the night with more preaching, the Jesus Movie, altar calls, and ministry times. It was all so exhilarating to us.

Exhausted, we finally arrived back at our camp site. Four of us were to sleep isolated by ourselves in the backyard of a mud house that bordered on the bush. The rest of the team was located on the other side of the village.

Mo, Debbie, a teen from Canada, and I readied our “bug tents” for the night. What is a “bug tent”? It is a little one man tent. Essentially, it is not much more than a mosquito screen stretched out over tent poles with a zipper.

As we lay in our bug tents looking up through the screen mesh at the amazing stars of the bush, we happily fell fast asleep.

About 1 am, Debbie and I were startled awake as hellishness seemed to break loose.
In every direction, intense witchdoctor drumming suddenly erupted into the silence of the night. We were surrounded by angry, pounding drums on all sides. The ground shook with them. Babies cried, women screamed, all was a discordant chaos of eerie, threatening sound.

We were terrified.

“Mo”, we whispered. “Mo, wake up! What is happening?”

No answer came from his bug tent. Now, we felt even more alone.

Debbie asked me to come into her bug tent. We shuddered in fear as we held each other, trying to pray. Our prayers had little effect on the terror that had gripped us.

I knew we were going to die. The witchdoctors were going to come and hack us to pieces just like our friend had warned us back in America.

Here we were, the “brave preachers who had challenged the witchdoctors” now shaking in our boots. I regretted that I had ever brought my dear wife on this missionary trip. I felt stupid. Now we were going to die a grisly death in the bush of Africa.

As Debbie shook with fear, a verse came blazing into her mind.

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

Suddenly, an assurance flooded over her that we had done the right thing to come to Africa and even to preach what we did about the witchdoctors. Yes, we were going to die for it, but we were privileged to be allowed to lay our lives down for the gospel.

When we had first heard witchdoctor drums in the distance days ago, Mo had counseled us to “listen for the higher sound”. That saying of Mo’s now came into Debbie’s mind.

She listened for the higher sound.

Suddenly, she heard them. Choruses of angels were singing above our bug tent. As their ethereal voices rang, Debbie looked up and in a vision saw the heavens parted. With that, we both passed out into a deep sleep.

Again, we were awakened in the night. This time it was a frightening, swishing sound of machetes hacking their way through the bush. “They were coming for us! These are our last moments on earth” we thought in dread.

The swishing sound continued, however the anticipated assailants never seemed to arrive to butcher us. Many minutes passed with the sound of swishing, but nothing more.

As night sky turned to grey pre-dawn, we saw them. Instead of witchdoctors, the village mamas were out sweeping the dirt outside their mud homes. The swishing was not machetes but harmless brooms. Now we really felt like “the Starbucks Missionaries”!

Suddenly, from the other side of the village came the sound of the worship team. Someone had turned on the keyboard and was playing a hokey-sounding song. We laughed. That keyboard never sounded so good! We were alive. We weren’t going to die. We had made it through the night to another day!

It was a surreal moment watching Debbie and Mo share a French press coffee out here in the bush after a night like that! We asked Mo, “Why didn’t you answer us in the night?”

He answered, “I was as scared as you were!”

The teen from Canada slept through the whole thing!

Joyfully, we helped lead the Sunday morning service in the village. As we played, sang, and danced with the children, our hearts were light and thankful.

We had been ready to give up our lives for Jesus and His harvest but hadn’t been actually called on to do it yet. Little did we know that the dreadful night we had just experienced was only a precursor of the “death” we were to die in purchasing the field containing the treasure of Jesus’ harvest of souls.

That is a story for another day.

Next – “GRACE – stopping for the one”