Saturday, April 21, 2012

God's Grace, Protection, and Leading

Here is a Reflection from the Road "I'm glad to just be alive"!  Really! I was driving in the mountains a couple nights ago when a deer jumped right in front of our car when I was going around 50 mph and had a head on collision with that crazy thing! The collision was so loud and quick it was just nerve shattering. Somehow by God's grace, nothing really happened to Patrick and myself, can’t say the same for the car – pretty thrashed.  We had been out in the mountains hiking, checking out some wild turkey, geese, and deer.  Who knew one of those things would jump right in front of us soon afterwards. 

Somehow I remembered the advice of our EMT friend Steve in Sweden and held the steering wheel straight and resisted that temptation to swerve, many end up in head on collisions with another car or smack into a tree due to swerving.  I looked over at Patrick and we were stunned at what just happened, but even more blown away that neither of us was hurt at all since it was a really heavy impact.  Praise God we are fine.  I’ve heard many stories of people getting seriously injured or even killed in these types of accidents.

Brief Ministry Update

We’ve had some radical times while ministering in different places recently: We had a special miracle service we did in Ontario, California where a number of powerful healings took place. One woman who had an eye problem with her retina that would cause her to see a blurred spot in her vision reported that the Spirit of God touched her and the blurry spot went away and she could see clearly after we prayed for her.  Another person had an arm that was stiff and frozen which she couldn’t move or even clap with, but after we prayed for her she was able to move it fully as well as clap normally.  Another woman who had bad back pain and couldn’t bend over without pain was healed of the pain and was able to bend over fine afterwards. Another person with neck pain was freed from all the pain after the Spirit of God touched her while praying. We also had a radical outpouring down in the border area at a church we ministered at over there as well – Praise God!

We also ministered in four services in one day at a church in downtown San Diego. The Holy Spirit moved so powerfully at every service that we’d literally stay praying for people until the very last song was being sung in the next service, then the ushers would come get us so that we could begin the preaching at the following service. We definitely were doing a bit of a spiritual decathlon with all this running from service to service and going from preaching to praying for people and then back to preaching.  It was a glorious time, and we had the most glorious times of all at the last morning service, and then in the evening where we were free in each one of them to keep going, and wow, God just poured His power out so radically it was just phenomenal. 

At the last morning meeting I noticed it was 2 hours since the meeting had long been over and the Spirit of God was still falling on people in power all over the room and just baptizing people in the power of the Holy Spirit and filling them with His glory in such an intense way.  Then little kids came up and were asking to pray with us to receive Christ—glory!  At night, some other churches joined the service and people were laid out like cordwood again all over the place as another intense outpouring just kept flowing long into the night.  Then little kids (some of the same who received Christ earlier) were suddenly getting filled spontaneously with the Holy Spirit with their little 8- and 10-year-old faces lit up and lifted up to heaven, eyes filled with tears and mouths uttering glorious praise—so amazing I got hammered myself just watching it—glory to God!!

We also returned recently from a trip up the Central Coast where we ministered in Salinas and the Santa Cruz area.  We were stoked to experience the Holy Spirit move in some awesome ways as well up there, as we preached in Harvestlands Church in Salinas on a Sunday and then during the week where we shared about the Reformation and showed one of our Reformation videos, as well as sharing at the youth group. We also did some home meetings where we shared a lot of “Holy Ghost mission stories” there and in the Santa Cruz area. 

We were stoked to spend time in God’s presence as the Holy Spirit moved in power in many meetings as well as getting to hang out with old friends who we are connected with through Lonnie Frisbee from back in the day. 

Spending time with old friends of Lonnie’s sparked a lot of Holy Ghost stories from the past and also reminded me of some current Holy Ghost divine appointments we recently experienced while traveling in Europe, especially connected with friends from this particular area:

Holy Ghost Divine Appointments

On this last trip, as we may have mentioned, we felt the Holy Spirit leading us to just book tickets and go to Europe without even a single thing set up.  It was quite a step of faith but we were feeling the Holy Spirit was leading us to do so—I was recently re-reading a Theology of Mission book from my Fuller Seminary days by Roland Allen who was an Anglican theologian specializing on Paul’s missionary work. Allen points out: Paul’s plan was to have no plan but seek to follow the Holy Spirit in all he did.  Interesting how God keeps driving that point home. Corrie Ten Boon in her book Tramp for the Lord emphasizes the same thing of being willing to step out to follow the Holy Spirit even when not knowing what God has in store.

After booking tickets and wondering what the plan was, the Lord led us to just follow the Holy Spirit. While things were counting down and we were getting ready to leave, we wondered what we’d be doing when a door opened to preach in London literally two days before leaving the US.  We had an awesome move of the Holy Spirit in the London service after we preached, which was followed up by more divine guidance as God directed our steps. I want to expand a little further upon what we have said in other updates since it is always fun and insightful to relive and learn from the experiences God takes us through.                

After a bit of time in London we headed out into the countryside and just began to drive and pray about what was God’s next step for us—maybe head on to another country or see if God wants us to stay in England longer.  While seeking God for the next step, the Lord blessed us with some divine appointments where we met and prayed for some people along the way.

Meanwhile, I remembered that I had received an email from our friend Peter in Santa Cruz about a friend of his in Wales who he thought we might want to try and contact if we got up into the Welsh country– though we were told he may be a bit hard to get a hold of since not only was he a minister but he had been runner up on Big Brother and was quite booked up and busy.

We did eventually get up to Wales and called Davey “Grace” at the last moment about possibly getting together, knowing it was on really short notice.   He was leaving town shortly, and even though it would be his wedding anniversary, he felt led to meet up with us for an hour for coffee the next day.

Something happened though as we met for coffee.  Right there in the coffee shop, the Spirit of God descended on all of us.  We all began to be overwhelmed by the presence of God, drunk with the awe and glory of God. Even though it was his anniversary he decided he wanted to hang out longer since the Lord just kept falling all over us, so he invited us to lunch with him at a restaurant down the way.

What started out as just intending to meet for one hour turned into hours of just enjoying the presence of God descending on us with glory and joy. We shared the gospel with the waitress and others who were coming up asking for pictures from Dave—his Big Brother celebrity following him all over in the UK.

It was getting near evening now and we’d been together all day just getting flooded with the presence of God—so much for the one hour meeting—Dave had to finally at least take his wife out for dinner for their anniversary so we got ready to head out. As we were leaving Dave mentioned a friend up in Northumberland in the Newcastle area (up in the Northeast by the Scottish border) that we should get a hold of if we happened to get up that way. 

We did head up to Newcastle eventually and stumbled our way into connecting with Paula and Al, Dave’s friends, and ended up doing quite a bit of ministry in the Newcastle region and other areas.

In fact they told us our timing was perfect for coming up to minister—which was so remarkable to hear since we kind of just randomly headed up there. It really made us realize how much God was leading the way, even when we were just kind of trying to feel our way through and figure out what to do and what our next step was. 

We did some meetings with the fellowship they had going up there where we had a phenomenal visitation of the presence of God; in fact the Lord just blew us away with how powerfully he moved in some of the meeting we did with them.  It seemed we had barely just started ministering and the Spirit of God just fell in power before we were even expecting it in the first meeting we did with them.  We continued to have awesome visitations of the Spirit of God there and other places like North Yorkshire, Hollybush, Southport, and Darlington.

There were other unexpected surprises God had in store.  We were blessed to be taken up to visit Lindisfarne Island by our friend Al who gave us a little tour and where we got to have just one of the most spectacular visits to such a unique and historic place!  Lindisfarne is a Celtic Christian center of the past started by missionaries sent out from Iona, Scotland, who were influenced by Columcille, a spiritual descendant of Patrick, as well as the place where the Viking Age had its inception.

We also got a close-up view of some of the amazing ruins from the Roman Empire at Hadrian’s Wall, a subject of special interest to us since we have an ongoing video series on the “Gospel in the Roman Empire."   Hadrian’s Wall, built by the Romans, still lies completely intact in many places, looking as it would back in the Roman era.

Meanwhile, after our meeting in Wales with Dave, we were leaving the restaurant and we decided to take a drive around and see a bit of Wales since we had crossed the border into the country late the night before and hadn’t seen hardly anything there yet. We cruised around a while and checked things out—this being the Summer solstice season and the fact that we were quite north with the sun not setting until well past 11pm, we thus had quite a bit of time available to cruise around.

Driving around in a foreign place exploring can be fun but can have the downside of getting lost, which of course we did.   We continued driving trying to figure things out, but got more lost and ended up in a bunch of traffic.  We worked our way out of the traffic but had no idea whatsoever where we were now.  We tried heading away from the city and after some random turns we ended up in some farming areas where we took a turn onto a small dirt road that became pretty isolated.  We were starting to get further out into Nowheresville so we took a turn off into a campground we saw.  

We asked some people milling about the campground if they could give us some directions.  We just got a bunch of stares and “Nicht sprechen sie Englisch.” from a bunch of German campers.  We could only laugh: “Here we are in an English-speaking country and when we are lost we can’t even find anyone who speaks a word of English to help us.”

We started driving again; we saw some cars racing down a road a bit up the horizon and figured, let’s just get on that road and follow them and see where it takes us—hopefully out of wherever we are to a main road, or maybe we’ll see a place to take a break and get out of the car or something —this is getting really boring just driving around lost.

We followed the cars the best we could on those narrow little roads for a bit.  It’s especially difficult trying to keep up and figure out where and what you’re doing when you’re driving on what is for yourself the other side of the road. We finally took a turn into what looked like a park, hoping to just maybe get out of the car.  It instead turned out to be a beachside parking lot (most of Wales in this area is situated along the coast) in what seemed like quite the popular destination.  There were people walking around and I noticed quite a few surfboards on top of the cars, so we got out to have a look at what might be happening in the water.

“Hey this is a point break and it is actually breaking,” I told Mercedes.  This part of Wales that we were in is in a huge bay near the border with England, so swells have a hard time getting into its coast at all.  Quite the find after being so lost; probably would have never found it if we had been actually trying as the roads are so completely confusing in this area.

Here we had arrived, somehow!, at a nice point break that was actually breaking.  The amount of cars in the parking lot with boards testified to the fact that the rare surf for this area had come up and many were out to grab it while it was here.  I hadn’t even given a thought to surfing in Wales because it is so difficult to catch since the swells have a hard time making it all the way into its coastline because of the big bay. 

However, God had somehow made us stumble—once again—right into being at the right place at the right time. I got ready to head out as the rain started to come down a bit, living up to the cold and wet reputation it has. That, along with the lack of a large swell window, keeps this part of the world from being on most traveling surfers’ radar as a destination.

“Glory!” I yelled after getting a good wave straight off, right after paddling out.

It was amazing to be surfing good waves in Wales of all places, and just the therapy I needed after being lost and getting stiff in my shoulders and back from driving way too much during the past few days.

I hadn’t even really given a serious thought to surfing in that area at all but God in His goodness and grace provided an awesome surf session there on the Welsh coastline right after a powerful divine appointment that day.  The waves were going off; it is quite unusual in this area to even get good waves and quite the miracle to just come upon it so spontaneously after being lost. A cool end to an even cooler day, all by His amazing grace!

A similar thing happened again a little later in the trip when we were ministering on the East Coast of England, an area that faces continental Europe and is basically a big channel and rarely gets much swell either.  A Polish pastor invited us out to go fishing in the ocean one day. When we got down to the coast, however, a powerful storm had closed all the ports and fishing was definitely out.  “You have a board, why you don’t go surfing?” the pastor said with a big slap on my back.  I found a spot going off with 4-to 6-foot waves with offshore winds and only four other guys out—had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, as conditions like that quickly draw surfers by the thousands out into the water in California.  I came in a few times between some great waves there to make sure everyone was not getting bored while hanging around on the beach, and got some more slaps on the back from our Polish friend who said, “Get back out there and get those waves while they are actually there to be had, these places don’t have waves like this very often.” This, after all was on the East Coast of England, which needs a strong localized storm to bring in any waves, exactly what we got just at the right time. It was quite the needed therapy after numerous planes, trains, and automobiles making the ‘ole body sore and a bit too stiff; we got some unexpected great waves there as well with only a few guys out, miraculously once again all by the glorious grace of God.

“Take delight in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4