In this space we’ll feature articles, some of which have appeared in French, in Victoire magazine.
The newest one:
The Troublemakers’ Prayer
One of the hundreds of millions of forwards that deluge my mailbox (slightly exaggerated) invites us all to spend “…one minute praying for the safety of the United States, our troops, our citizens, for peace in the world, the upcoming election, that the Bible will remain the basis for the laws governing our land, and that Christianity will grow in the U.S.” It asks us all to stop and pray at 8pm CST for these things.
The idea of millions of Christians praying together at the same time excites me. It’s the prayer that bothers me. Is that the best we can do?
There’s a lot of good things in this petition, but does this prayer express the ache of God’s heart? Is it big enough? Bold enough? Is it centered on God’s agenda?
There are two things that God loves supremely: His Church, and the lost. Our prayer should result in His glory.
We ought to be praying trouble-making prayers—not trouble-making for the Democrats or the Republicans (they seem to do enough of that without our prayers). There’s no deliverance by the hand of politicians—right or left.
“Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help …Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the Lord his God…” (Ps. 146:3, 5 NKJV)
No, we need to be rabble rousers against the enemy and His works. God can shake this world if we ask Him to rattle the things that He wants to change.
Here’s a prayer that the first Church prayed in a time much tougher than the times we’re facing. They had preached and thousands came to the Lord. The powers-that-be weren’t happy and promised to do them harm if they didn’t shut up.
Listen to the end of their prayer.
“’ Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” Acts 4: 24-31.
These people must have been nuts. What were they thinking?
They didn’t pray for safety. I would have, but these were warriors, not delicate flowers afraid of spiritual battle. They prayed for the very thing that had gotten them into trouble in the first place—great boldness to speak about Jesus and signs and wonders done in His Name.
Friends must have told them, “Guys, let me give you some advice. Tone it down a bit. And those signs and wonders? You’re gonna get yourself killed.”
And some of them did get killed. But, they spread the Gospel over the face of the earth. And that’s the heart of God for His Church. Jesus’ last words on earth concerned reaching the lost and making disciples of them (Matt. 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:47). His very last words promised a gift of power to do that very thing. (Mark 16:17, 18; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8)
A friend of mine told me about the lady who won him to the Lord. This little woman looked at her world and saw millions of young people sinking into rebellion, drugs and a false hope of peace.
Instead of criticizing she went to her knees calling out on God to do something. One night about 10:30 he spoke to her and told her to get up, go to the fountain in the middle of town and witness to three young people who would be there.
They were there and she shared the life that’s in Jesus. Eventually two of them came to the Lord.
One day she approached my friend Guy. At that point in his life Guy was violent and depressive, haunted at times by thoughts of suicide. “Young man Jesus loves you.”
“There’s no God or devil,” he snorted in return.
But, she wouldn’t back down and challenged him with the message of the Gospel. “The thing that touched me,” he remembers later, “is that she had tears in her eyes. Not tears of fear but tears because she loved me. I had never seen that.”
The love of the Lord broke through that fortress wall which had grown around his heart. A few days later he was at her home, accepting an invitation to eat and to hear God’s word with a few Christians.
At the end of that presentation of Jesus, Guy dropped to his knees and prayed the first real prayer he had ever prayed, “God, if you exist, break these chains that bind me.” And that God, who most certainly exists, reached down and broke those chains of sin, of drugs, of rebellion, and of hate. He became a new creature in Christ.
Guy and at least four other young men and two young women came to the Lord during this time. They were eventually called as pastors or missionaries.
Because one little lady prayed “trouble-making prayers,” God used her to speak powerful words into troubled young lives.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9-10, NIV)
“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus…” (1 Tim. 2:3-5, NIV)
Our prayers must be a channel for God’s heart and God’s priorities. As we go forth from those kinds of prayer meetings we change the world for the Lord Jesus.
Our heart needs to hurt when His heart hurts. Our priorities need to be His priorities. Our prayers need to reflect that. Our way of living needs to reflect that. “For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Paul told friends trying to dissuade him from risking his life in what he was sure was God’s will for his life. He added, “… none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God…”
Is it worth the effort? Is it worth the risk? Is it worth the cost?
We’ll think so the Day we stand before Him.
THE JOURNEY I NEVER PLANNED TO TAKE
The very personal journal of a young, African woman who finds she has cancer in her early twenties.
And other stories:
The Calling That Wouldn’t Leave Me Alone!
What Pregnant Ladies Taught Me About Grace
Reflections From a Cancer Battlefield
Then: Converted With the Help Of a Make-up Remover Pad !
Should We Change the National Anthem?
“Five Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Chuck Your Marriage”
What happened to two atheists who found their view of the world shaken?
The testimony of Terry Goff–Glory Instead of Suicide!
An interview with Steve Hill,
An interview with David Wilkerson,
A report of a region-shaking revival that touched France several years ago.
THE JOURNEY I NEVER PLANNED TO TAKE
The very personal journal of a young, African woman who finds she has cancer in her early twenties.
As we grow up we all have dreams, desires and visions that we wish would come true.
The funny thing is that most of us never accomplish or even remember them. At one point in life we
ask ourselves what happened? Who have we become? Imagine for a second, if you had become what you wanted and had planned to be when you grow up?
Life happened to us and still happens to us. Imagine, when you wake up and you are thinking that you will do things the usual way. As you to head to office, imagine it rained early that morning, on your way to the office some unknown van splashes water on your suit you thought you would wear to a diner with friends. You get angry and that very second you, will never get back that moment, your feelings have changed. Alas life happens to us. Did you plan on that that day?
As I grew up, I had my dreams and visions. Never at any point did I imagine even for a second that I would be where I am today. We all go through situations, some are the same or some are different, we become more of ourselves whether we want it or not.
I thought I would grow up and go to all best schools in my country, which I did, with honors, but what transpired in between that journey was not planned. I now look back and wonder how I even got here.
I wonder at times if I had done this, and done that, believed this, and collected that, smiled at this, cried when it mattered…hmmm!!!! I would maybe be where I would want to be. The journey I had planned to take stopped somewhere
I am now on a journey I never planned but yet to discover it with both smiles and tears. Five years ago I did not plan to go to the hospital for a medical operation which turned out to be a long journey from then to now. I had the operation and that brought in more discoveries that I and my family had to deal with.
That day is still clear to me. I remember the doctors words to me, “ You have developed cancer.” It was a bomb I never recovered from but I decided to stand firm and think positive. This did not come easy. I had been a born again Christian since the 27th October 1999. I felt God had abandoned me; I became angry, I felt and became dead to myself.
I was done with God. “That’s it.” I had grown up with asthma, and all I had growing up was, “Don’t go there, “Do not do this,” “Why are you doing this or that? Don’t you know you will be sick?
Do you know how annoyingly enslaving this is?
I had to re-examine my life and be sure I had not angered God to a point of sending me to that side of pain. I reviewed all I could but I did not get an answer and by that time I had given up on him. For this journey I had started I never planned to take it or live it. I was done with Christianity with God himself.
Months passed. I healed physically but mentally and spiritually I had died without looking back. I was no longer the “Penninnah” I used to be; I withdrew from the world. I even thought the diagnosis was a mistake and I went for more tests but the answer was not any different. At one point the doctor told me to just deal with it. I thought, “Ok that’s it.
I asked questions; I went on a quest for answers but I knew the search was fatal. I could not get any answers. Yet I knew whom to turn to (God). I figured out that He could redirect my life better. You know, we human beings are so funny in character. That’s how I was: adamant and acting more clever than the Creator
Throughout the different treatments I underwent, and the pain I felt, not knowing my future hurt the most. Would I die tomorrow or would I live to see this or that? I decided to distract myself from my thoughts by writing them down and I read all I could.
Later I did look at my past and where I was. Then with the help of my brother, I asked myself a question, “What am I doing with my life”” If not God, then who am I trusting my life to?”
My brother reminded me that I was not just a Christian but a person that people in my family looked up to. I had to recycle my views and emotions and imagine what my purpose was in life in the near future.
One of the books I read was from a lady who asked herself, “If not me Lord then who?” That phrase in the Bible did not excuse the pains. She had searched and searched for meaning in what was left of her life before she died and then she realized that God is just God whether you cling to him or not, so it is up to you to choose.
Then I realized this did not mean the end; faith as small as a mustard seed is all I need to get to the next level. Today it is not an easy journey, it never was and never would have been but with the help of Christian friends and family I have managed to get by in life.
I am happier and come June I will be free from all types of medications. My pap tests came back negative. The doctor looked at me and said,” You are stronger and let me believe it is because that God you have ‘harassed’ me with has done you justice.” I just nodded.
But if I look back five years ago at what I went through to be where I am, being sick did not stop me from achieving what I am today. Most times we take things for granted, but yet life is so precious and we easily forget were we have come from.
This period helped me know who I was to God and what is my purpose in life. It was not a straight line and it will never be, but I know who I am in Christ. I have learned not to take things for granted but treasure life as it comes. I have learnd to thank God for the good and BAD times in my life. I have gotten to a point where I look at the situation and and tell myself “even this will pass”… surely it comes to pass. When I am in pain I just tell myself “this will pass”. It is never easy but it has been worth for me.
So we all go through different life cycles, changes that have shaped us to be who we are today. We never called for that specific lineage but just found ourselves in there.
The only problem is how we digest the situations. How we look at them, feed them to our souls. The people we surround ourselves with. It takes a lot of courage to become who God wants us to be and it is that courage we use to go past the challenges we face in life to a brighter future.
I am not past anything but I know whom I have believed and even when things do not make sense, it still matters less to me, for it will come clear in the future.
For the journey I never planned to take
For that journey I have seen
For the journey I never planned to take
For that journey I have lived
For the journey I never planned to take
For that journey has been fulfilling
For the journey I never planned to take
For that journey has not been easy
For the journey I never planned to take
For that journey no one said it will be
For that journey I will trek
For that journey I will seek favor and help
For that journey I will embrace
For that journey I will be fulfilled
For that journey I still believe in
For that journey is the journey I never planned to take
we never know where we are going
we don’t know what tomorrow holds
we all keep hoping for a better tomorrow
we always have plan B but
we need to always hope in him
we need to look for answers from him
From him we can visualize tomorrow
From him we can concentrated on the necessary
From him we are able to trust and hope
From him we get our strength
From him, it is He alone who can help
For the journey I never planned to take
The journey we never planned to take…..
The Calling That Wouldn’t Leave Me Alone!
By Tracy Montagnon
Tracy lives in France with her French husband Marc and their children.
When I was about 13, I accompanied my Dad to the hospital while he visited a distant relative. I was waiting on a chair in the hallway when a door opened, and a doctor and a nurse stepped into the hallway.
As they passed by me, I had what can only be described as a “flash”: I knew I wanted to be a nurse. I knew little of the profession, but I was certain that’s what I had to be.
My parents, however, were firmly against the idea: if anything, they thought I should become a doctor. I couldn’t see myself in this role, as to me doctors weren’t as close to patients as nurses.
Besides, I had no way to pay for all those years of schooling. I went to college and got a degree in languages –my second passion — and ended up in France, where I taught ESL at the university level for 18 years, while raising 3 frenchlings with Marc, my Breton husband.
My passion for all things medical led me to be assigned classes to teach in medical English, and then to regular stints as a translator-interpreter for the Pediatrics department of the university hospital. Nursing was still on my mind and in my heart, a regret I carried in secret.
Each time I intervened, I found myself more and more inspired by the care concepts I was absorbing, moving further away from my role as a purely linguistic aide and being drawn closer to the role of caregiver. I’d leave each session exhausted yet exhilarated, but then the inevitable sadness would creep in: I would never wear the whites. I was on the outside looking in, but with a steady job and three kids, I had to be content with what small part I was able to play.
And yet…each time I’d resign myself to this truth and return to life in the comfort zone, I’d feel this little tap on my heart, and hear a voice saying “you’re a good teacher, but you’re really a nurse. You know that, right?” And I’d sigh and reply, “Yeah, I know. But this is life, and you can’t go back for a redo. I’m already lucky to be working for the hospital.”
And more years went by.
Finally, in 2005, I had a major altercation with my boss at the military engineering academy where I taught. I ended up standing on my principles—and leaving my job. Doing this, I was pretty much blackballed in teaching. My neat little path had just been wiped out, flooded and blocked by the debris; everything stopped.
I remember long periods of sitting on my kitchen floor, watching the steady, grey rainfall in Brittany, feeling discarded and worthless. “Friends” and colleagues had stopped calling, for fear of jeopardizing their own positions.
I was definitely depressed–so much so that my husband finally gave in to years of resisting the adoption of a family dog. We got Jazz, a golden retriever pup, in November 2005 and from the second he saw me, he bonded with me.
Training him literally gave me a reason to get up in the morning when Marc and the kids were at work and school. The unconditional love and acceptance in his eyes I truly believe is a reflection of Our Father’s love for us…and which we humans are so often incapable of perceiving. I believe Jazz was sent to remind me that although imperfect, I was worthy of trust. My mood lifted; I became more functional as an at-home Mom and wife.
Then, about six months later, that phantom tap again: “Well, are you ready now to become a nurse? You can at least give the entrance exam a shot, what else have you got?”
Me: “I’m 39 years old. I’d have to have all my diplomas translated to justify my educational background, a huge hassle. I’d never make it through the nursing exam: my math skills are nil, my writing skills in French not up to par for a timed exam– and they take one in 10 candidates at the end of the day.”
The Tap: “Just look into the exam; have your documents translated.”
Me: <sigh> (my habitual response to just about everything at the time).
But I signed up for the exam, and the Lord led me to Hélène, one of the best exam prep teachers I’ve ever met. We worked intensively for 9 months. When it came time to sit the exams, I chose one school in Brittany and another in Annecy, as we’d been trying to move to the Alps for years, and it looked like there was finally a business for Marc to create there.
I was thrilled to pass both written exams, and with renewed hope took the oral exam in both regions.
Results: eliminated in Brittany, despite excellent written scores. I was too old; they preferred younger, more malleable students. I was waiting-listed in Annecy, with an exceptional oral grade, and an average written grade. We were left to pray that Marc’s professional project was solid, and that I’d get off the waiting list.
The blow came quickly. Days after my results, Marc’s project fell through, in my mind effectively ending my nursing dreams. We left for our usual mountain holiday with heavy hearts.
We’d barely arrived when a call came from the nursing school in Annecy. The waiting list was being called up and I had the next spot, with only a few days to decide. My dream was alive, but there was only one door open. To walk through it meant a family separation, obviously out of the question.
However, my husband immediately said I had to start school in Annecy, while he tried to find another job opportunity in the region. I stared at him like he’d lost his mind. It had been five years since we’d started our search; these opportunities didn’t fall out of the sky. The idea of leaving my family behind was inconceivable; I told my husband no. He looked me in the eye and said that if I let this chance pass after all the years of feeling nursing was my path, he’d lose all respect for me.
I woke up the next morning covered from head to toe in angry, fluid-filled boils. I looked like a walking case of smallpox. People were avoiding me as I made my way to the doctor’s office.
After the usual questions regarding allergies (none) and chicken pox (had), the doctor asked me if I was upset about something, and I blurted out my dilemma. He listened, then said “you know, I don’t know what your spiritual inclinations are and it’s none of my business, but my belief is that the closer we get to the road we need to be on in life, the stronger the opposition to that road. It sounds to me like you’re meant to be a nurse, and these conditions are being thrown at you to dissuade you.” He gave me cortisone and antihistamines and told me to make a decision.
I hiked to my favorite chapel and prayed for guidance. If only I’d been accepted in Brittany, not rejected due to age, everything would have been perfect! I couldn’t leave my family, not knowing if my husband would find work nearby. And even assuming he did, that would mean moving across France, changing the kids’ lives, all while studying to be a nurse? It was too much!
The Tap: “One step at a time.”
Me: “Easy for you to say– you see everything. I’m flying blind, and it’s not just about me. I have kids I’d be abandoning; what kind of mother does that make me?”
My husband wouldn’t budge, adamant that at age 40 I didn’t have any more time to lose.
I still remember the sick feeling I had in my stomach after calling the school and accepting my spot for September. I was going to abandon my babies; the youngest was only ten. My skin started to burn again and I could see new boils appearing.
I was furious with God. I railed at Him in my mind, screaming that I’d just thrown myself off a cliff and he’d BETTER CATCH ME because if I was wrong, if this was a crazy dream or some psychosis on my part, that four INNOCENT people would be crashing with me.
Me: “You’re God? You love me? PROVE IT!!”
I nearly backed out several times over the summer. But on September 18, 2007, the day after my 40th birthday, I dropped my teary-eyed girls off at school, loaded my suitcase and Jazz into the car, and started the ten-hour drive to Annecy, not knowing when I would see my family again, whether Marc would find something for us all, whether I had what it took to become a nurse…or even where I would be sleeping the next few nights. It was the worst day of my life. I had never felt so alone, nor so guilty. The drive was pure misery.
Yet I made it to Annecy, and God led me to an apartment that I ended up having to myself, as the other student renters backed out. Great—I had extra bedrooms for when Marc and the kids could come down during school vacations. The owners also accepted Jazz, who was my sole companion for that first year, and I’m convinced he’s my guardian angel in disguise.
I used a webcam to spend time with the girls after school: we’d gather around it and do our homework together. Marc would stay with me as he prospected in the area, and I drove up for Christmas and Easter vacation. Our older son and girls visited Annecy for February vacation and Mother’s Day.
Marc miraculously found another project at the end of the first year, and despite the economic deck being stacked against us, we moved the following summer to a little chalet, our dream home.
I became a certified nurse in November of 2010. The program was difficult and I had some very tough moments in the field with nurses who tried to trip me up–it’s part of the game here in France–but I somehow managed to get over the obstacles and around the people who wanted to see me fall. There was always someone to counter the negativity and the unfairness. When I look back at certain situations, I can’t help but wonder “HOW did I manage to succeed despite that?”
I know the answer: God caught me–us–every single time. I saw people falling all around me, but He always kept me on my feet. He had my back. He had the backs of our entire family, in every aspect.
This doesn’t mean it was—or is—easy. There were inevitable family issues to be worked out due to the separation. Today, Marc’s business is struggling and we’re working hard to stay in the chalet we love. But the blessings are multiple: the girls are well-adjusted in their new mountain home. I have a job I love in Pediatrics in Geneva, where the working conditions are better than in France. That too is a miracle, as it’s nearly impossible to land a job in Geneva right out of nursing school. God’s doing, once again.
So, as to the question: “how do you know if a dream is from God?”
—For one: it won’t leave you alone; it keeps whispering in your ear and tapping on your heart, undeterred by time and circumstance.
—And secondly, I’ll paraphrase the words of my own Dad, who was a rock of support for me when I’d call in the middle of one of my innumerable episodes of stress and doubt:
“You are not working towards X (fill in with the dream); you are being pulled toward it regardless of your doubts, and despite every obstacle put in your path.”
What Pregnant Ladies Taught Me About Grace
There was a period of my life when I really asked God to help me understand his grace. Oh, I had experienced it. I knew definitions, simple as well as scholarly, and I had read books.
And I had certainly read and meditated on what the Bible said about His grace.
But somehow it seemed that I couldn’t get at the core of what grace is about.
Then one day God gave me a deeper understanding of what His Word taught about grace. It came as I thought about the experience of a pregnant woman.
When this little lady finds out that a new being lives in her, she and her husband are ecstatic (the first time anyway). However, she begins to wake up sick every morning and, well, I’ll spare you the details. Her schoolgirl figure swells to that of a schoolgirl and a half (maybe two) and she even craves food in her sleep.
At about five months, often earlier, she can get hard to live with. It’s well-known that the only thing more difficult than being a pregnant woman is being married to one.
At nine months, she waddles when she walks and thinks she can’t exist much longer if that baby doesn’t come soon. You make jokes about her at the risk of your life. At night, she turns on her side in the bed and the baby kicks her. His majesty doesn’t like that position.
So, she lies on her back and the little one stretches out inside her womb sending her running for the bathroom.
Then finally the little darling makes his grand entrance. But, it’s still not easy. I’ve never had a child but I understand that the pain level is right up there with a kidney stone.
Now that he’s in the world you’d think that the difficulty level would go down, but no. He refuses to sleep at night and both parents suffer as the little guy wails his displeasure with something or other each morning at 3 a.m.
The new-born is not even attractive—no hair, no teeth, wrinkled and crying for food all the time. People say he’s the spitting image of his daddy!
But … if you see that little mama with the new-born baby in her arms, I can almost guarantee you something. If you want to hurt that baby you’re going to have to go over the dead body of the mama to do it.
The little guy has never done anything but torture her. Yet, she loves him more than she loves herself. Why?
It’s nothing lovable in the child. It’s something in the mama. It’s not a response to how wonderful he is; it the expression of what she is, something in her being.
And as I reflected, I realized that’s what grace is. Before it’s something that comes from God to us, it’s already something in God. It’s not something that we earn by being so lovable. Honestly, it’s not even logical. It’s just how God is, a part of His nature.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, NIV)
And just as justice and truth form a part of his essential character, so does grace. The very throne He sits on expresses that. “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16, NIV)
If you ever wonder how God could love you and how you could dare ask Him for something you need, just think about that little pregnant lady. She’s got a lot to teach us about the love and grace of God.
Reflections From a Cancer Battlefield
After collapsing and being unable to walk on July 2, 2011, in Baguio, Philippines, I learned that I had a spinal cord compression injury at the upper T2 vertebrae, causing numbness and partial paralysis in my body from the upper chest downward to my toes.
The reason for the compression on the spine was a cancerous tumor that had grown there, pressing gradually more and more on the spine, and causing pain in my upper body from February through June, 2011.
A CT bone scan revealed that I had widely metastasized bone cancer in 16 places throughout my skeleton, 5 of them on my spinal column. Further tests showed that the origin of the cancer was my prostate.
I have been trying to think about how it all comes together with the will of God and his intention in dealing with our felt needs; in my case, the cancer throughout my skeleton. I find it interesting that when responding to the disciples’ request to learn how to pray, and Jesus taught them how to pray, he then followed it up, at least in the record in Luke 11, with the admonition to seek, to ask, to persevere, in asking for felt needs.
The will and intentionality of the Spirit is expressed here, to extend the power and authority of the Spirit toward satisfying felt need and thus bringing glory to God. Perhaps the satisfying of a severe need is met in the severity of seeking, asking, petitioning. I suspect it doesn’t have to always be that way, for the Lord’s glory and authority does not flucuate from full tank to half tank.
I recall testimony of how Kathryn Kuhlman would pray, beg, petition, seek, ask and storm heaven before the service, walking back and forth under the stage floor, alone with her God, imploring, “Lord, if you don’t go with me, I can’t go out there!” The message here would be: seek his presence.
I am experiencing what I do not understand. I only know that it is what I have preached.I have a restful peace, along with the message within from the Lord’s presence, “It’s ok.” And then I have the sense of “joy bubbles” coming up from the deeps of my person. I walk in the certainty of medical science telling me about cancer and its ravages of my body, and simultaneously sense the joy and peace and contentment of His presence.
I’m trying to comprehend the incomprehensible–how I have no anger, denial, grief, why me? I’m trying to embrace what is beyond my ability to embrace. An expansion of my inner person is needed, and I hope that is in fact happening.
The invitation of Jesus to “learn from me” is interesting in this context. I understand Jesus to be the “I AM,” “Immanuel with us,” and as such is the same One of Isa 55:8-9. He, Jesus, invites us to learn of his thoughts and his ways. Those thoughts and ways are the thoughts and ways that are beyond us. And, yet, in Jesus, they are not beyond us. Relationship with Jesus brings the apparent promise that we will be enabled to comprehend those thoughts and ways.
The relationship with Jesus (I AM, Immanuel with us) was initiated by God, defined by God, and is made possible by God. It’s all about God, not about us. It is too late for us to influence the fact of the relationship, its definition, or its possibility to exist. He has initiated, defined, and continuously actualizes the relationship. “Christ in us, the hope of glory” is the in-real time, moment-to-moment presence of him within.
We use terms such as “through the Holy Spirit,” which I think is meant to be more than a euphenism, but a way of expressing the current, vital, and active real time personhood of Jesus’ presence within. This means that all that is in Jesus is in us, within our skin. We do not need to cry outside of our beings to him, he is here within, an integral part of our personhood. All that is Jesus is available within. I must carefully note that I do not mean to imply that “we are Jesus.” This concept is a heresy. Rather, I am attempting to emphasize his life residing within us.
This is what I am experiencing now. I have “restful contentment” in that I am not stressed and I’m feeling positive as to my sense of place and purpose. The message that pervades my being as I go through this is: “It’s ok.” Having accepted this, I’m at rest.
If Jesus is in the picture, then one can trust those outcomes, however they appear to us. We have always been under his purview and control, so we can be at peace. Jesus is enough. Jesus is all.
Bottom line, for me: The presence of Jesus in a circumstance validates all outcomes of that circumstance.
Converted With the Help Of a Make-up Remover Pad !
My conversion to the Lord started one evening, in my bathroom. Before going to sleep, I used to clean my face applying some cleansing lotion (yes, men can take care of their face too ! ).
At the time, I lived in Paris, a town famous for its high pollution level. This particular evening, I was impressed by the quantity of dust on the make-up remover pad, and I showed it to my wife. Her response was the beginning of a long argument, because she said : “Dust you are, and to dust you will return, so why are you surprised ?”
Indeed, surprised by this affirmation, I answered back: “Wait a minute, don’t tell me that you believe literally in the Bible ? And now you’ll say that all the miracles written in the Bible really happened?”
OK, let me explain something first… Actually, I was a Christian (or I thought I was…), a practicing Catholic. Like many other Christians, I didn’t believe the Bible literally. In concrete terms, everything has to be interpreted, the Bible was written to deliver messages, lessons, through parables and “legends.” I had a religion, which was almost a philosophy. I believed in a distant God, concepts that we should follow, but not something very important. My faith stagnated. Actually, it was one of the reasons why I was interested by something else.
So, let’s get back to our business. My wife and I had a very tough discussion. I said things like « I will never let you say to our child that the Red Sea was divided, that Jesus truly multiplied bread…. » . Then, I said to myself : « I actually never read the Bible completely (I only listened to the readings at Church) ; so I will read the Bible from the beginning to the end, and read it as if I believed truly in what is said.
Actually, I was sure that I would find a lot of contradictions, especially between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
So I started reading the Bible, with this way of reading. First, I was very surprised by the Old Testament, as I discovered how many interesting messages there are, even in books that I was afraid of (Leviticus, Numbers…). I found a God who was very patient, full of love, and I was amazed by the values in these books (knowing how long ago this was written). And I was very impressed by the precision of the prophecies concerning the Messiah, given such a long time before!
Above all, I noticed that – unlike what I believed – the New Testament reinforces the Old, instead of sweeping it aside. For example, about adultery, Jesus gave a stronger warning than in the Old Testament, saying just a look with lust is already adultery! And finally, I realized that reading the Bible this way, I didn’t find any contradiction, everything became coherent!
At the same time, I went with my wife one Sunday out of two to the Evangelical church, and one Sunday out of two we went to a Calvinist church. After a while, I was surprised because I realized that I was disappointed when it was the Calvinists’ turn, as I preferred going to the Evangelical service! For information, the first time I attended an Evangelical service, I left saying, “Never I will be an evangelic Christian!”
There’s something else that led me to subscribe to Biblical inerrancy: it was my discussions with brothers and sisters at the church, for I was amazed by their testimonies about miraculous healing, about how deeply their lives changed. Furthermore, I met men and women with a faith which can make a mountain move, who really try to apply the Word !
I didn’t convert only because of the miracles or the blessings, but I thought that if they were wrong, how could I explain that the Word reflected in their lives?
This played a large part in a deep revolution: I moved from a religion to a relationship! I started to believe in a living God, who takes care of me, who can act, here and now! My prayers metamorphosed: they became a dialog, with so much more authenticity and intensity. I began to really understand how important I salvation is—the “new birth.” A few months afterwards, I was baptized in water!
God knows how to use very special ways to bring people to Him, and His sense of humor doesn’t fail Him!
Should We Change the National Anthem?
Some have wanted to change the national anthem of the United State to one that’s easier to sing and in view of today’s political correctness, to get rid of “outdated” religious language in the text of the songs. After all, we separate church and state, don’t we?
So, we sure don’t want to sing the second verse of the “Star-Spangled Banner” (the national anthem for those of you who are saying, “What’s that?”) which speaks of “heaven rescuing earth” and “Praise the power that has made and preserved us a nation.”
Oh my! We can’t have that. Need to change that to another song. Let’s make it “America the Beautiful.” Much easier to sing anyway. Wait, wait. Little problem. What’s this prayer doing in there? “God, shed his grace on thee and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.”
Maybe another one? “God Bless America”? No.
I’ve got it. How about “Material Girl” by Madonna? I don’t know though. Isn’t the name ‘Madonna’ something religious?
When the Ayatollas of political correctness get started they’re going to have a lot of work. And, they’re going to have to sanitize a lot of history from religious language. George Bush was roundly criticized by parts of the press for using religious language but listen to Franklin Roosevelt praying over the radio while Allied troops were fighting on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944: “…in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.
They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.
Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.
And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.”
And it goes on.
I guess praying is alright if the fate of the Free world hinges on what you’re praying about. We’ll forgive that one but,…
What in the world was Abraham Lincoln on about when he gave his Second Inaugural Address? Sounds like a sermon. “The Almighty has His own purposes. ‘Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.’ If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
And George Washington? “I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.”
Say it ain’t so George.
Of course, all these leaders weren’t Evangelical believers but American history is replete with prayers and expressions of faith in God from the men who led our country.
So, where does this hostility to the mention of God and our dependence on Him come from? I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that I know. If God really does exist and if there really is a moral framework to the Universe, we’ve got a lot of explaining to do.
Albert Mohler speaks about some of presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s pronouncements and hits the nail on the head (this is not a political endorsement. I don’t know who I support for President): “The moral convictions Santorum articulates are deeply rooted in the Christian inheritance of Western civilization, but the denial of that inheritance has been a central aim of moral progressives for years. Even many who style themselves as moral conservatives live like moral liberals, with the rules intended to regulate the lives of others, rather than their own.” (Christian Post)
I like the first part of that statement more than the last but he’s right. Sometimes we fight like wild men for religious expression in the public square and we’re determined that the laws of the land reflect the laws of God.
But, what happens when the private sphere our own lives doesn’t reflect His glory, when we don’t live like Him? The last few years there has been plenty of ammunition for those who cackle, “You guys want to impose your morals on us, but you can’t even live those standards yourself.”
Lord, help us to practice what we preach. And never let our Nation forget what You’ve done for them.
photo: http://office.microsoft.com (Fotolia)
Five Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Chuck Your Marriage
“He’s not the man I married,” the young wife told me as tears watered her cheeks. She was ready to finish her relationship with her husband.
The wife of a well-known preacher divorced him. “I want to try to find happiness with someone else,” she explained. A fiftyish lady ditches her husband for someone she meets on Internet. Her marriage seemed to be going nowhere and she wanted that joy she’d been longing for all her life.
And at the end of the day the question presents itself, “Why not? Why not put a miserable marriage out of its misery and see if I can’t find someone who will make me happy?” If you asked a star or starlet of Hollywood, many of them would say, “You’re right. And why marry? Just live with him–or her, or him and her, or whatever. As long as you’re not hurting anyone else, do what’s best for you.”
And if it’s tough get out. Right!
Doesn’t seem like it’s right. Statistics for remarriages are worse than for first marriages and third marriages are more dismal still. And living together? Don’t kid yourself. If you want to do some hurting, go there. Somewhere, we have to stop and face our problems. Marriage isn’t a Cinderella, live-happily-ever-after proposition unless you work at it.
The good news is that it can be 100 times better than the illusion.
Why should we stay together and work to make our marriage work?
1. You made a promise before God to do just that. God is very serious about His promises and He expects us to be serious about ours.
2. You can’t really start over. The past plays a powerful role in our present and we often have to undo all the hurts from the first relationship before we can begin to strengthen the present relationship.
3. We can only have what we’re longing for if we do it the right way. I can pretend that there are a lot of right ways, just like I can pretend that 2+2=5 or 6 or 20 (wish I could have persuaded my first grade teacher that was true). God knows that if we live our lives only giving a bit of ourselves we’ll never have that deep relationship we crave with another.
4. Satan constantly flashes images of shallow relationships and promises us that this is what we’re looking for—sex, passion, and romance— which are all wonderful in the context of a committed husband/wife relationship. Outside those walls though, it tends to be, “I’m here as long as I get what I want, but if the flame dies down or I find someone else, well, you know, we shouldn’t hold each other back, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah.” God knows if we live our life just taking the shallow benefits of “love” our soul will always answer, “Is that all there is?”
5. God says to make it work. He tells the husband to love His wife like Christ loves the Church. He tells the wife to respect her husband like the Church respects Christ. Honestly, we can only do our part in marriage by the help of God’s Spirit. Who can love like Christ? Who can respect another like that? But, when we love the Lord, we have supernatural help. A good marriage preaches the relationship between Christ and His Church. Divorce muddies that image.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Eph. 5:31-33, NIV)
“Yeah, but God will forgive,” or “My situation is different,” or “I know God told us not to divorce but He didn’t mean that for the 21st century. We’re a couple of thousand years away from when He said it.”
Or, and here’s the champion: “Hey, what could I do? I fell in love with someone else!” Falling in love can be used to justify anything, can’t it? Doesn’t matter if our kids hurt, or our wife/husband hurts or our friends and family hurt. The Hollywood answer is, “I fell in love.” And Hollywood really knows a lot about strong, loving, enduring relationships, doesn’t it?
Let’s use our brain. If God said it, He had a reason. His Word, the Bible, is the description of the spiritual laws of the universe. To violate His truth is to put ourselves in opposition to the way things work. The Law of Gravity won’t be suspended for you just because you think you can jump off a building and fly. God made relationship laws, too, and if you want to prosper, you need to understand them and obey them.
Five Helps for a Limping Marriage
You can’t generally change your marriage by simple willpower. You might stay in it but I think that simply enduring is not what God had in mind for us when He created marriage (after all, He gave the first bride away). But, if you put these principles in action in your relationship with your spouse, you’ll see change.
1. Cry out to God.Look to Him in faith. Confess that without His strength, you’re powerless to do what you need to. Be desperate to see your marriage work.
2. Change what you can with the Lord’s help. Remember, there’s only one person in the couple that you can change and it isn’t your spouse. You can insist that he love you like Christ loves the Church, ma’am, but you have no control over that. You can only respect him like the Church respects Christ. And sir, you can’t make her respect you. You can only love her like Christ loves the Church.
3. Act differently. Treat your partner the way you want to be treated. Speak kindly. Be loving. Do things your spouse likes. Make a real effort to win and keep their love (because it leaks out sometimes). Don’t use sex as reward for good behavior but as an expression of love in the couple. Try to please the other one. Go on a date regularly. Quit shaking your head “no!” If you make up your mind, pray fervently, and try to put God’s nature in your actions towards your spouse, the Lord will help you.
4. Talk … calmly. Screaming, criticizing, or pouting doesn’t count as good communication. You have to talk about some things so that you can go forward, but do it like adults, not like two children each one trying to get in the last word. The goal isn’t to win an argument. The goal is to push your relationship towards what God wants it to be. And what you want it to be.
5. Look for help. We come into marriage with all kinds of baggage and we can’t always become what we need to be without help. Read books and listen to teaching from people who can help you. Try to find an older couple who’ve successfully passed through some of the stages where you are, and get them to mentor you. All that sounds like work and well, maybe even a bit embarrassing. It’s a lot less painful than divorce!
(Note: if one spouse is violent or is consistently unfaithful, you must find help and counsel. It may be dangerous to you or your children to stay in a violent situation and simply ignoring repeated infidelity isn’t forgiveness. It hurts and enables the person who is “forgiven.” Get help).
And, if you’ve been divorced before you knew the Lord, you can’t undo that. Start where you are and make up your mind that you’re going to trust God to make your marriage now what He intended it to be.
If you trust the Lord and you work at it, you’ll be super happy that you didn’t chuck your marriage. Your children and those who know you will be, too. Don’t fall for the devil’s illusion. You’ll grab for it and it won’t be there. Do it God’s way.
Atheists Have Second Thoughts
Most of us have been assaulted at one time or other by the outspoken, “new atheists.” People like Richard Dawkins and his book the God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens in his provocatively-titled tome, “God Is Not Great” aggressively attack the notion of God and mock those who believe in Him.
We’ve heard people like Polly Toynbee, the president of the British Humanist Association assert, “Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?’ she asked in an article attacking C.S. Lewis’s Narnia stories.
The new atheists are much more in-your-face, avowedly intolerant, and aggressive in promoting non-belief.
By all the clamor and mockery one would think that all the intelligent people—scientists and philosophers leading the way—have left the fairy land of faith in God and journeyed to the bright truth of atheism.
Fact is, some of the atheists are heading the other direction, either espousing a belief in Christ or at least coming to the conclusion after looking at scientific discoveries, that God must exist.
One prominent atheist who made the reverse pilgrimage is 62-year old Andrew Norman Wilson. This English writer and newspaper columnist is known for his critical biographies, novels, works of popular history and religious views.
He published a pamphlet called, “Against Religion.” The atheistic period of his life lasted nearly 30 years, then in April 2009 he stunned many people with an article in the newpaper the Daily Mail in which he told of his conversion to Christianity.
Writing on the website of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (of all places! www.Richarddawkins.net) he acknowledged that “belief has come about in large measure because of the lives and examples of people I have known – not the famous, not saints, but friends and relations who have lived, and faced death, in the light of the Resurrection story, or in the quiet acceptance that they have a future after they die.”
The name of the article is: “Religion of hatred: Why we should no longer be cowed by the chattering classes ruling Britain who sneer at Christianity” (New Statesman “Why I believe again” A N Wilson Published 02 April 2009)
“By nature a doubting Thomas, I should have distrusted the symptoms when I underwent a “conversion experience” 20 years ago,” he says. “Something was happening which was out of character – the inner glow of complete certainty, the heady sense of being at one with the great tide of fellow non-believers. For my conversion experience was to atheism.
On that occasion, I realised that after a lifetime of churchgoing, the whole house of cards had collapsed for me – the sense of God’s presence in life, and the notion that there was any kind of God, let alone a merciful God, in this brutal, nasty world. As for Jesus having been the founder of Christianity, this idea seemed perfectly preposterous. … It was a nonsense, together with the idea of a personal God, or a loving God in a suffering universe.
“At last! I could join in the creed shared by so many (most?) of my intelligent contemporaries in the western world – that men and women are purely material beings (whatever that is supposed to mean), that “this is all there is” (ditto), that God, Jesus and religion are a load of baloney: and worse than that, the cause of much (no, come on, let yourself go), most (why stint yourself – go for it, man), all the trouble in the world, from Jerusalem to Belfast, from Washington to Islamabad.
“Watching a whole cluster of friends, and my own mother, die over quite a short space of time convinced me that purely materialist “explanations” for our mysterious human existence simply won’t do – on an intellectual level.
“… we are spiritual beings, and that the religion of the incarnation, asserting that God made humanity in His image, and continually restores humanity in His image, is simply true. As a working blueprint for life, as a template against which to measure experience, it fits.
“For a few years, I resisted the admission that my atheist-conversion experience had been a bit of middle-aged madness.”
“My departure from the Faith was like a conversion on the road to Damascus. My return was slow, hesitant, doubting. So it will always be; but I know I shall never make the same mistake again.”
ANTONY FLEW was a renowned philosopher who was arguably the best-known atheist in the English-speaking world until his announcement in 2004 that he now accepts the existence of God.
He attibutes his change of beliefs to the Socratic principle of ‘following the evidence wherever it may lead.’
He speaks to the intellectual problems faced by those who discount God. “They fail to address the issue of the origins of the rationality embedded in the fabric of the universe, of life understood as autonomous agency, and of consciousness, conceptual thought, and the self. Dawkins talks of the origins of life and consciousness as “one-off” events triggered by an ‘initial stroke of luck.’”
Instead of pushing Flew away from a belief in God, scientific discoveries helped him follow the evidence, the Socratic trail which led towards God. “What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together.”
“I now believe that the universe was brought into existence by an infinite Intelligence. I believe that this universe’s intricate laws manifest what scientists have called the Mind of God. I believe that life and reproduction originate in a divine Source. Why do I believe this, given that I expounded and defended atheism for more than a half century? The short answer is this: this is the world picture, as I see it, that has emerged from modern science. Science spotlights three dimensions of nature that point to God. The first is the fact that nature obeys laws. The second is the dimension of life, of intelligently organized and purpose-driven beings, which arose from matter. The third is the very existence of nature. But it is not science alone that has guided me. I have also been helped by a renewed study of the classical philosophical arguments.”
He quotes Einstein: “We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations.”
On his own belief about God he said, “… since the early 1980s, I had begun to reconsider. I confessed at that point that atheists have to be embarrassed by the contemporary cosmological consensus, for it seemed that the cosmologists were providing a scientific proof of what St. Thomas Aquinas contended could not be proved philosophically; namely, that the universe had a beginning. But the big-bang theory changed all that. If the universe had a beginning, it became entirely sensible, almost inevitable, to ask what produced this beginning. This radically altered the situation.”
Flew’s faith went to a point but there is no evidence that he became a Christian, though he noted that he thought that Christianity had the best arguments. He said that he never had that revelation and rightly understood that the last step is a step of faith.
“I think the claim that God was incarnate in Jesus Christ is unique. It is difficult, I think, to realize how you are going to judge this other than by believing or not believing…
“Is it possible that there has been or can be divine revelation? As I said, you cannot limit the possibilities of omnipotence except to produce the logically impossible. Everything else is open to omnipotence.”
And those who never changed?
Atheism isn’t always unbelief. Often it’s anger at God for a tragedy in life, or lack of respect for hypocritical Christians. And sometimes people don’t want to limit their passions and they’ve got to do something with God to counter their fear of judgment.
Well-known atheist Bertrand Russell seemed to be in this last category but his life also reveals the emptiness of trying to fill that hole inside us that Paschal talked about, with anything but God.
Katharine Tait, Russell’s daughter talked about her famous father in her book, “My Father, Bertrand Russell. “I could not even talk to him about religion.” The philosopher was evidently turned off by the hypocrisy of believers he had seen.
Tait, nevertheless, believes that Russell’s “whole life was a search for God … Somewhere at the back of my father’s mind, at the bottom of his heart, in the depths of his soul, there was an empty space that had once been filled by God, and he never found anything else to put in it.”
In his autobiography Russell himself notes: “But I do know the despair in my soul. I know the great loneliness, as I wander through the world like a ghost, speaking in tones that are not heard, lost as if I had fallen from some other planet.”
(New Statesman “Why I believe again” A N Wilson Published 02 April 2009; “Religion of hatred: Why we should no longer be cowed by the chattering classes ruling Britain who sneer at Christianity” www.Richarddawkins.net; There Is a God (Antony Flew and Roy Abraham Varghese)
Glory Instead of Suicide
I had my first experience with God at the age of 7 when our pastor was called into our Sunday School class because our teacher was having trouble getting us to behave.
He talked to us concerning our disrespect to our teacher, our church, and even God himself and he concluded his lecture with an invitation to salvation to which I responded readily. I had a real tangible experience with the Holy Spirit.
At 10 years of age, God spoke to me during a church service and told me he wanted me to preach. I was a quiet kid and painfully shy and the thought of getting up in front of anyone to speak scared me to death. At the same time that I felt that call, two other more popular boys who were a little older than me also declared that God had called them to ministry. The devil convinced me that if I told anyone of my calling that they would think that I was just following the other boys, so I kept it to myself and never told a soul.
At 11 years of age we moved to California and stopped attending church regularly. I discovered organized sports and became popular for my athletic ability and soon God was the last thing on my mind. By 12 I had started experimenting with drugs and alcohol by thirteen I was regularly getting high and I discovered pornography. Soon my life was completely out of control.
In December 1978 my parents decided that we all needed to get out of the southern California culture and move back to a simpler life in Arkansas, but for me that didn’t improve my life at all.
We lived way out in the country and I was no longer able to play sports, and to make matters worse my family’s financial state worsened to the point that we lost almost everything we had. Now I was impoverished, unpopular, and it seemed my whole identity was lost. I fell into a deep state of depression and was addicted.
By age 15 I started having regular visitations from demonic spirits that would call my name audibly and I would see them in my peripheral vision. At 16 I dropped out of school and began immersing myself in the outlaw biker lifestyle. I became very violent and started fighting a lot.
I would fly into fits of rage so intense that I would literally black out and would have no remembrance of what I did for several minutes at a time. At 6 foot tall and 260 lbs with the ability to bench press 275 pounds and run 5 miles, that was a pretty scary thing.
I had so much hate and violence in me that it consumed all of my life. I was worried that in a state of rage that I might accidentally kill someone but I couldn’t control it, no matter how hard I tried to do better. I was still partying, fighting, cursing, and stealing every day.
I had such a reputation in my home town that people really didn’t want to be around me, mostly because they were afraid of me. My life was so out of control that I soon found myself looking to suicide as my only option. Many nights I sat with a shotgun under my chin looking for the courage to pull the trigger, but each time I would talk myself out of it by thinking about how it might hurt my mother.
But soon even that was no deterrent as I thought they would be better off without me around. As the last obstacles were weakening my inhibitions, though, I remembered what I was taught about hell and I knew if I took my life that the lake of fire would be my destiny. This thought took away the only thing that looked like a way out (suicide). All the hopelessness of a wasted life was now compounded and I had no hope whatsoever.
A New Voice
September 14th 1984 was a day I will never forget. Even though the demonic presence had increased to the point that all I had to do was close my eyes and they would call me by name–and now they would even touch me, a new voice began to call to me.
When the demons would push me to the brink of insanity a calming voice would speak and call me by name and even call me “son.” When I heard this voice an incredible sense of calm would sweep over me, and on this fateful night something happened that would change everything.
My mother had given me a Bible for my 20th birthday (a year before). I took it, said “thanks” and politely placed it on a shelf to be ignored. For whatever reason on that night I hit rock bottom. I went out that night to party as usual but the drugs had no effect on me. I could not get high no matter how hard I tried.
I came back to my apartment knowing that this night something had to give. I picked up the Bible that mom gave me and opened it to the first place my hand touched and I read these words, “Behold I stand at the door and knock, and if anyone will hear my voice and open the door, I will come into him and make my abode with him.”
That’s when it hit me; if I give my life to God it will be just like committing suicide. I can live out the rest of my days like some kind of monk, fully sacrificial, living for the day I die.
I knelt and tried to pray. I was so far away from the God of my childhood that I had no idea how to approach him, so I gave him my name and address and a brief description of who I was. Then I said to him “God if you can hear me, I want to make you an offer, if you want me, if you have any use for this life that I have messed up so badly, then it’s yours for the taking.”
A Startled Clerk
Nothing really seemed different when I finished my prayer, other than the fact that I had resolved to keep my end of the bargain and the fact that I now had a sense that I had better tell someone what I had done before I backed out.
There were not a lot of people awake at 1:00 am of a Friday night that I thought would want to hear about my decision and I didn’t feel it was worth waking up anyone who might want to know, so I wound up in a convenience store to buy a soft drink.
When the young lady behind the counter greeted me with, “Hey Man, What do you know?” before I knew what I was even doing the words came out of my mouth “I know Jesus, I gave my life to him tonight.”
Suddenly a wave of the Holy Spirit rushed through the very fiber of my being and the years if sin and shame were washed away in a torrent of tears as God instantly delivered me from the addictions that had captivated me. He pushed out the years of hate with a flood of love.
For the life of me I do not remember if I paid for that soda or not. I’m not really even sure how I got home that night. What I do remember is crying myself to sleep and awaking in the morning with a joy and peace that I had never known in my life.
I had asked him to take my life and he did, but he gave me a brand new one in its place.
In late December of that same year, a few short months after my conversion, God visited me in a dream and let me know that his calling on my life had not changed he still wanted me to preach his word. I didn’t want to preach and I tried to argue with him but he reminded me of my words “if you can use this life it is yours.”
That January I preached my first sermon and in January 2012 I will celebrate 27 years of Spirit-filled ministry. Thanks to him I have traveled to many places and preached to many people, as the doors have opened.
In 1988 God gave me the other love of my life in the form of a beautiful wife who is my partner in all things and to us he has given two awesome sons. My life is still his and all that I have has come from his hand, to God be the glory.
Pastor Terry G. Goff
2. Interview with Steve Hill–Evangelist of the Pensacola Revival
Here’s part of an interview we conducted with Steve Hill, the evangelist for the Pensacola revival a few years back. He’s now pastoring in the Dallas area as well as continuing an evangelistic ministry.
We pick up the interview as he talks of the beginning of the Pensacola revival.
“…the church had been praying for two years for revival.
I went that Sunday morning, just shared. I’d seen the move of God. Been around the move of God. I just shared with them how God can touch them, how God can use them. I gave an altar call, half the church came forward. I started laying hands on them and that service let out at 4 o’clock that afternoon.”
“On Father’s day, now, most men are ready to go out to lunch. We jokingly say we had lunch with out heavenly Father that lasted until four. We came back at six and that service lasted until three in the morning. We came back the next night at seven and that service lasted until 2-3 o’clock. For the next three months I would get back to the hotel as the sun was coming up. And it wasn’t because we wanted to stay there. It was ‘who wouldn’t stay as the spirit of God is touching lives.’
“… people have asked me, ‘ when revival comes down how long should the services last.’ When the presence of the God comes in the building the last thing on your mind is the clock. You could care less about time…you can’t cause 4 million people to come from all over the world to a church because the singing is great. Hundreds of thousands received Christ as Savior.
I’ve traveled the world and held crusades all over the world since 2000 and the lives that were transformed, the churches that have been planted…really what Brownsville was, was a watering hole. People would come, get a fresh touch from God, a lot along the lines of Azusa. People got touched and went out. That’s what happened at Brownsville.
One story that sticks with you from Brownsville?
One great story and this is from a pastor. He came. He was out of the New Jersey area. He came. He’d been pastoring there for seven years, was completely exhausted. The church was running 40 people. Just tired. He wanted God to move. One of his parishioners had come down to the revival, seen what God was doing and said “pastor, you’ve got to go down there.”
He came down, sat in the back. When it was altar call time he came forward, not for salvation but for the special prayer. I laid hands on him, he was touched by the power of God, went back to his church. In six months his church grew from 40 to 1,000. Now the reason I can speak plainly about this is because I’ve preached in his church. I’ve been there.
He called me up. He said, “You’re not going to believe what’s happening.” And I went back up, I went to his church and all the stories were true. What happened was the power of God was attracting the lost like bees to honey. This is all validated.
A man in the local community who owned a discothèque, a dance hall … and also was part of the Mafia, he came and what happened was the people were not coming to his dance hall, his discotheque. They were going to this church. So he came and stood in the back of his church with a couple of his thugs … and was watching it. The pastor saw him and knew who he was, and he asked him to come forward in the church service. He came forward—unsaved—and the pastor said, “Can I help you?” He said “yeah, I want to know why so many people are filling up your parking lot and are not in my parking lot.”
He said, “Well, we’re experiencing a move of God.” Then the pastor said, “Can I pray for you?” And the pastor laid hands on him, he was hit by the power of God, his associates were hit by the power of God. When I went there, these guys had become ushers and were now in their Bible school. They’d started a school to train them up. They’d closed the discotheque, thrown their guns into the river.
These are the kinds of stories I’ve seen in revival. France needs to see this in revival. It’s all the power of God.
I ask pastors, if you’re not going to accept God’s mode of revival…God’s mode of operation over the years has been pretty dramatic. You can see when it comes so a pastor today who wants revival, what does he think it’s going to look like? Do you think half of France is going to suddenly come walking in singing, “Just as I Am”?
There’s got to be dramatic conversions. There’s got to be a point of contact between heaven and earth and often times it’s messy. The day of Pentecost, and this is a great example, the day of Pentecost was a violent day. These guys were in the upper room, they were praying, they were going after God and then “suddenly” the Bible says, in comes this rushing wind, tongues of fire starts to settle on all the believers, and what do they do? They begin speaking in languages they’ve never spoken before. This is wild Pentecost.
And they go outside. Peter has enough sense not to focus on the manifestations. He focuses on the message. And he says, “Men and brethren, we’re not drunk as you think we are. It’s early in the morning. Let me tell you about Jesus. They scream out–they don’t scream out, “What must we do to receive this language?” “What must we do to stumble as a drunken man?” They say, “What must we do to be saved?”
Pastors need to take a look at that, accept the violent part of it. Let God move, but then from that, have enough sense to preach the truth and what really the people need.
(During his conference in Sarcelles, France (Paris area) in October 2007 we had the occasion to visit with David Wilkerson).
Some images flash on your consciousness and are frozen there for the rest of your life. For some De Gaulle will always be the tall general striding through the streets of Norman towns and cities comforting people at the beginning of the liberation. John Kennedy will always be the smiling, confident young man, shot down in the prime of life.
For those who grew up after David Wilkerson’s seminal book, the Cross and the Switchblade, which chronicled his outreach to gangs in New York, he’ll always be the fiery, young evangelist, challenging Nicky Cruz with God’s love in the streets of New York.
More than 50 million copies of the book in 40 different languages tell the story of the beginning of the ministry of Teen Challenge. This organization is now 50 years old and boasts 625 centers around the world.
Others picture Wilkerson as the steely prophet, calling the world to repentance in his book, The Vision, and other works which followed this powerful view of coming events.
So, you’re surprised to find that the young evangelist and the courageous prophet have now become a father in the Church. The angular features are still there but a full head of grey hair, and a left ear that doesn’t hear as well, tattle the fact that this icon of the evangelical world is a septuagenarian.
Someone asked him what he thought he would be doing ten years from now. With a laugh he replied, “I’m trying to live through one day at a time. I’m 76 and in really good health. I still pastor a church in New York—Times Square Church (where he preaches twice a month)—and travel (to) about five conferences a year.”
Do he still have the stamina? “Enough to get by,” he says, though he must manage his schedule to preserve his energy.
But his belief in the message of Christ hasn’t wavered, “It’s the same answer whether it is homosexuality, whether it is alcohol, drugs, gangs… (Teen Challenge) is 50 years old now. It’s been the same. Jesus has the power to break every habit. There’s nothing new. The problems are new but nothing changes. The message has been the same for 2000 years. More so now than ever before it’s simple, straight proclamation of the gospel.”
In spite of his identification with the Teen Challenge ministry from publicity generated for the by the The Cross book, Wilkerson is best known among many evangelicals for his prophecies. Yet he asserts, “I’m not a prophet, I don’t claim to be a prophet. I’m one of many watchmen.”
And he doesn’t claim infallibility either. “If everything I prophesied came true I would be God. I have a tendency to hear from the Lord, then put a date on it. And the mistake is on the date, trying to put it in a box.”
But the fact remains that much of what he prophesied has come to pass.
“Everything I preach prophetically is based on scripture. It’s based on Bible precedent. A lawyer argues his case on precedent. I argue my prophetic points that the Lord gives me from Bible precedent: ‘here’s what God did in the Old Testament. He doesn’t change. That’s what Sodom and Gomorra (was about)… a warning of what God will do to generations that sin like this.”
His vision for the future is pessimistic/optimistic. “The American Gospel that’s being promoted around the world is prosperity. God warned us when He allowed the attack on our towers and the Pentagon—two symbols, the symbol of our power and our pride. The Twin Towers was our pride. The Pentagon was our power. He struck those two to warn us. And we didn’t hear the message.
“I’ve been warning for two years, there’s going to be a housing depression. The prophetic word now…people don’t listen until their pocketbook is affected and it’s going to affect all of Europe. It’s going to hit France in a big way…this economic thing that’s going to hit–excruciatingly.
But in spite of that fearful message he has hope for revival. “We’re living right at the moment that will create a level playing field… The great revival that hit America (in the Fall of 1857) was the day after the Stock Market collapsed–the prayer revival. Out of chaos the prophet Isaiah said there’s going to come a song worldwide, a song of redemption. So in a way that’s where the revival comes. Chaos. All of the prosperity gospels are going to go bankrupt. Their congregations are going to demand answers when they start losing their homes.”
But he notes, “It’s not a time to be afraid.”
Though God has used him mightily, Wilkerson hasn’t lived a life sheltered from pain. These tough times have helped to mold his ministry and make him even more effective as he ministers to others.
“The more you’re in the fire, the more tempered the steel. The Lord tempers His servants” he asserts. “I think you go either one of two ways—you either harden or (you) mellow. The older I got, the more I became aware of the grace I needed and the patience of God with me.
“My wife has had 26 operations, five for cancer, and I began to see the grace that was needed and how merciful He was. My two daughters have cancer and my 11-year old daughter died of a brain tumor.”
In his life this tempering has come in part, “Through the suffering and through the revelation of the heart of God …”
“These are such fearful days and people are so stressed that the Lord seemed to speak to me …I go over my (sermon) notes from the past 35 years… I was a hard preacher but there was always at the end, grace. There was always a word of grace.”
“It takes a lot of practice to put in practice what I was preaching (in the service the night before) because we say, ‘Yes, I believe God loves me and delights in me,’ and next time we stumble we say, ‘How can it be? How are we going to make up for this one?’ Or, ‘Lord, did I cross the line this time? Are you lifting your Holy Spirit from me?’ We all go through those things.
“As long as you live that struggle of the flesh will always be there. Flesh is flesh is flesh. Always will be. That’s not going to change. To trust God through all that and say, ‘Lord … all I can give You is faith.’ That’s when He says, ‘That’s what I want. Quit your struggling. Just faith your way through this til the victory comes.’
He hasn’t always had this perspective though. “I’ve written between 35 and 40 books. There’s probably two of them I would try to call off, and destroy. There’s a few that I can’t live up to because the Lord has taught me things since then. There’s some old sermons, I just tear up the notes and say, ‘When I’m gone these can never be published.’”
So then, a person really walking with God, what would his life be like—inside and out?
“It’s all wrapped up in one word—charity,” Wilkerson says. “It begins in our house. He said if I sold all my goods and gave to the poor and offered my body as a martyr and (was) burned at the stake and if I still was easily provoked, if I had envy and bitterness, it’s all in vain. So that means that if I sell everything and go to the slums in Kenya and I live in a little hut and I’m still easily provoked and I don’t have all these nine signs of charity (Gal. 5:22 ) then it’s nothing to do with talent, it’s nothing to do with education, it has to do with a charitable heart.
“If my wife can’t tell you I’m growing in Christ, if my wife after 56 years of marriage can’t tell you that we’re in love now, more than when we started, then my ministry has been in vain.”
But how do you keep growing? “By giving up all your rights. I have no need to be right. We both gave up our rights as far as our relationship to one another. This need to be right, we give that up and that (solves) all your arguments,” he says with a smile.
“Then to be a servant to one another and my children. I have four children and ten grandchildren. All four of my children are in the ministry.”
Wilkerson relates the story of a well-known healing preacher. The pastor’s wife sat near this man’s wife in the congregation. The evangelist was a hero and considered a great man. The pastor’s wife asked the evangelist’s wife, “What’s it like living with such a great prophet?” The answer? “I don’t know. That’s not the man that comes home. That’s not the man I live with.”
“So I think the judgment begins at the house, the home,” Wilkerson concludes. If I’m not charitable, it’s going to tell. It will come out.”
The venerable pastor sees a lot of cause for hope in France, in spite of the spiritual battles. “France has become very secularized, probably as much as any European country. Yet I’m encouraged on this trip. I think this is my fourth trip to France over the many years. And I see a lot of young ministers with a lot of hope, confidence, and faith and zeal for God. I’m more encouraged this trip than I was 30 years ago… I think the French are high-spirited which is a good thing but I think that’s been tempered with a lot of Holy Ghost love.
“When I was here before there would be a few hundred, and I don’t know how many they have here now… (attendance was around a thousand at some of the services), and a lot of young workers and they’re enthusiastic. They are more connected with one another through internet; there are far more outreaches and there’s not the competition that my generation (had)—you know, bigness, mega … They’re more interested in knowing who the Lord is. They’re asking the right questions. They’re not afraid. I think there’s a lot of faith, more faith than I saw before.
“So, I’m encouraged. I think there’s a good future for the Church in France.”
There was time for one last question. “If you could say something to French Christians what would you say?”
He closed his eyes and thought a long time before finally offering, “To keep the faith that the Church of Jesus Christ is going to prevail. That no false religion is ever going to overtake the promises of God that the Church of Jesus Christ is going to prevail in the last days.
“No other religion … Islam is not going to take over the world. Hold the faith that God is going to protect us. God loves His Church. God loves His people. He knew all this was going to happen. The harder the times get the closer the Body is going to become, more knit together. I think it’s going to be a tremendous time of spiritual bonding where denominational barriers … will disappear and all who know Christ will drawn together.
“I see nothing but absolute hope–no despair.”
When God Shook Mt. Beliard, France
Nothing hinted that a powerful work of God was about to start in the town of Montbeliard, France, this night of 1972.
Three young people were goofing around near a fountain in a plaza at about 11pm. The boys tried to throw the young woman in the fountain. Everything changed when a woman about 55 years old, led by the Holy Spirit, arrived at the plaza. She spoke to them about Jesus Christ. The young people, intrigued, agreed to her invitation to come to her house to hear more of God’s Word. Jean-Marie, brother of the young lady, was especially moved at the beginning, then his sister Danielle (now Danielle Vergnol) was touched by Holy Spirit.
Soon there was a whole group of young people at André and Georgette Richard’s house. Sitting on the floor, they sang and praised God. Confused lives were changed radically. Many from this group now serve the Lord full-time, nearly thirty years later.
But did this happen only by chance? The Sixties and the beginning of the Seventies were a turbulent time in Western countries. The streets of Paris resembled a war zone in May l968. Riots and demonstrations shook large cities in America. And everywhere, young people were questioning the established order. Often these questions expressed themselves in an odd clothing, long hair, a counter-culture life style–drugs, rebellious music, and rejection of authority. But many searched for reality. Mr. and Mrs. Richard had prayed for years for these disillusioned young people.
One of the them remembers years afterwards:” There were knee-prints in the carpet next to Mrs. Richard’s armchair.“ After years of prayer, the Holy Spirit propelled her into the streets, sometimes even at night! She seemed the the least qualified person in the world to speak to these long-haired young people, called “hippies.” As the director of a nursery school, she was well known in Montbeliard, a town of 30,000 inhabitants. Compassion drove her, and with no fear for her reputation she talked and talked and even invited these funny-looking (to traditional eyes) young people to her home.
Some were violent, but with the courage of the Lord Jesus, she spoke to them. Her husband witnessed also. One day she approached a young man, his black hair tumbling to his shoulders, his dirty blue jeans sported psychedelic scribbles. “Young man, Jesus-Christ loves you.” “There’s no God and no devil, ” snorted Guy Bergamini in response. But she wouldn’t back up and a few days later Guy found himself at her house to eat and listen to the gospel with others.
His history had been alcohol, drugs and violence since early adolescence. One night when he was 17, he tried to kill his abusive father when once again he began beating his mother. His mom pulled him off but he slammed out of the house horribly angry, vowing never to return. He traveled all over in Europe, always hanging with the hippies.
That day when Madame Richard challenged him he was 21 years old and nothing was going right. Thoughts of suicide and depression ravaged his life. When he heard that God loved him and wanted to deliver him, he cried to the Lord with all his strength, “God, if you exist, break these chains that bind me!” And miracle of miracles, that God, who most certainly exists, did it. He came up from his knees a new man.
His girlfriend Elisabeth (who later became his wife) received the same miracle a few weeks later. God healed her also. Doctors had said she would never have a baby. God’s people prayed and she eventually had five.
Gerard Vergnol liked his music. He played in a small group and did a few drugs. God turned his life upside down. Later he married Danielle (remember the girl at the fountain at the beginning?). Claude Huot hated his father, but after Jesus Christ moved into his life, he forgave his dad and God reestablished the relationship. His father even came to the Lord.
Michel Balverde was from Lyon but when he visited Montbeliard, the Holy Spirit grabbed him and he also was saved. Returning to Lyon, he won a young woman to the Lord who later became the wife of Serge Santander. She won Serge. All these and others are in the service of the Lord full-time today thirty years later.
It was an unforgettable time for these young people. Gerard remembers a prayer meeting. They were all sitting on the floor, when he had a vision of a fish swimming in a stream of crystal water. The “fish” was Gerard; he was baptized in the Holy Spirit a short time afterwards. “They immediately put us on the street to testify,” remembers Danielle.
Gerard opened his small apartment for people passing through who did not have a place to sleep, in order to talk to them about Jesus. This sometimes led to some funny situations. Like the night when he returned to his place rather late to find a little Chinese fellow meditating in the darkness. That will get your heart rate back up!
But from these times of revival, young people rose up who wanted to serve the Lord and who still remain faithful after all these years. When we see the condition of our old continent, a cry rises from our heart, “Lord, make us warriors in prayer like the Richards. Make us evangelists without fear, evangelists who have a burning desire to share Jesus Christ with a thirsty world. Make us wise leaders like the church pastor Gichtenaere, who dared to risk something for the glory of God.
Do it again Lord, and do it in me!