Archive for March 2012
The Word of God not only encourages us repeatedly to stand firm in our faith but also provides us with role models. Faced with what appeared to be certain destruction by the Egyptians, Moses told the Israelites to not be afraid for if they would stand firm the LORD would deliver them and they’d never see their pursuers again. Isaiah prophesied to King Ahaz of Judah that if he didn’t stand firm in his faith he wouldn’t stand at all. Paul wrote over and over to the Corinthian church, advising them to stand firm in their faith—to be careful, to be on guard, to be strong, to have courage. Jesus taught his followers that even though they would be hated because of him, the result of standing firm would be salvation and life.
We hold fast to the truth that God has gone before us—that he’s not asking us to do anything that he has not already modeled for us. Throughout the Psalms we are comforted by the knowledge that his plans, his word, his purposes, his law and his love stand firm—they are eternal and unchanging and we can count on them.
We are also encouraged by modern-day believers whose faith has brought them through incredible trials. But, most of all, we look to Jesus, the very source of our faith; the perfect example who, for the joy that was set before him, went to the cross and endured all of the suffering that the enemy could heap upon him. He never lost sight of the goal, and in finishing his race he provided everything we need to finish ours.
Snakes. I HATE SNAKES!!! So, needless to say, I wasn’t enjoying the dream I was having with three ugly black ones threatening me. Little did I know when I awoke, trembling with fear, that by nightfall I would be praising God for that dream.
It was an epic kind of dream with at least 8 different scenes, and it occurred the night before my appointment with the oncologist to discuss treatment options. The first surgical pathology report had come back less encouraging than expected so he gave me all the statistics regarding re-occurrence and long-term survival. For the type and size of cancer I had the percentages of difference between chemotherapy or not were very small, so it was a difficult decision. But the doctor wasn’t much help—he wouldn’t tell me what to do—it had to be my decision. Home I went with, armed with numbers, and talked it over with my family, but they didn’t have any clear answers either. At some point I remembered the dream, and when I went back and looked at what I’d written down that very morning I was astounded. The overall context of the dream implied that I was on some type of journey and, while I really couldn’t see where I was going, as long as I kept my eyes fixed on the LORD I knew would arrive safely at my destination. There was even a knowing in the dream that I needed to be somewhere at 3:45 PM—I didn’t know where but I knew it was important—and only in retrospect did I realize that my doctor’s appointment had been at 3:45 PM that day. So, back to the snakes…
I was alone in a bed in the living room and I saw three snakes—they’d all been contained in a glass aquarium in the corner but 2 had escaped. A man came in and then quickly left, saying he’d send someone back to take care of it. The second man, who was dressed like a maintenance man, came in armed only with a belt in his hand—I was pretty worried; how in the world was he going to protect me with a belt??? In the meantime snake number one had somehow disappeared from the dream. I wondered again how the man could possibly do anything with a belt, but he cornered snake number two and made it get into the aquarium. It escaped again though, and I was really upset because it was very long and dangerous-looking. Surprisingly, the man didn’t seem very concerned. He continued to do battle with snake number three—it was the worst; big and black and very ugly; and then it reared up over the top of the aquarium and puffed up like a cobra with its wide hooded head and hate-filled eyes—spitting and striking at everything in reach. The top was still not on the aquarium and I was so scared that it was going to escape and come after me—its head kept coming way up over the rim before the man would beat it back down again with his belt. The man glanced casually over his shoulder at me and said with a shrug, as if it were no big deal, “Death is really mad today.”
When I started seeking the LORD regarding the meaning of the dream it became clear that the fist snake was the tumor that had already been removed, the second was the threat of metastasis, and the third was death. As I prayed about it, I knew that God was showing me that I needed to go ahead with the chemotherapy and I felt his assurance that if I did, snake number two didn’t have a chance. But then it got really good because the Spirit of God showed me that Jesus himself (and, even now, I get tears in my eyes just writing about it) was the man who came to me in the dream with the belt of truth to restrain death. Wow! I’d read many times about the armor of God, as described in Ephesians 6:10-17, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Just imagine the protection that is available to us if we’re wearing the full set of armor when Truth is all it takes to restrain Death!
So often I hear people insist that God no longer speaks to people in dreams; that he spoke that way in biblical times, but there’s no way anyone will ever convince me of that. Much has been written about dreams in recent years, and I could reiterate argument after argument as evidence that he still communicates this way, but my proof is personal experience. Over and over he has comforted me and provided direction during the night hours—time I used to think was wasted as I slept away approximately a third of my life—time I now eagerly anticipate as each night provides a new opportunity for my body and soul to rest while my spirit encounters the Spirit of the Living God. Amazing encounters are recorded in my dream journal…
…Some very clear messages in my mind as I awoke this morning, “Life itself is a risk; life requires faith; and, importance or value is not determined by appearance.” Pretty significant and encouraging thoughts in light of the fact that I am in the midst of chemotherapy; every day is a struggle to keep on trusting God; and I’m completely bald…
…A dream this morning in which I was identified as one of God’s elect with the ability to encounter the realm of the Spirit—and to find rest there. As I prayed about it I was led to 1 Peter 1:1-2 where the Apostle Peter wrote “to God’s chosen people” who were “living as foreigners” in distant lands. He encouraged them that, “God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace.” How interesting that my name, Barbara, literally means foreigner or stranger—and yes I am a stranger here, in this world but not of this world, and much loved by my Father…
… I don’t know all that transpired last night, but I do know that I fell asleep in a chair in my living room and I went somewhere else—I was in another dimension—I felt myself taking off. While I was there I recall a man coming to me—he seemed like a dear old friend—familiar—and I was so glad to see him. He was glad to see me too. I asked if we were together in body or in spirit and he just smiled and said, “What do you think?” and I knew it was spirit. I don’t know what else may have occurred between us but at one point he said, “Cut that off,” and used his hand to cut off something I couldn’t see. I’ve wondered who this was—was it my great-grandfather, the circuit riding preacher from the early 1900s whom I never met? I don’t know, but he knew me and loved me, and I had the sense that he was removing a generational curse. Lots of other things happened during that night and I don’t remember them all but, just as I was waking up, I peeked to see where I was because I really wanted to stay in that other place. I saw a vision of a couple of old, black-and-white televisions with pictures flickering on the screens. I said, “Lord, if this is not supposed to be, let it stop” and both immediately quit—the one closest to me just seemed to fizzle out. There’d also been a bunch of junk lying around on the floor but it was suddenly all gone and my living room floor was covered in new potting soil. God has done a work in me during the night and I’m on new ground—the way is cleared for a new thing to grow. Yes!!! Thank-you Lord!!!
And then, on my dad’s eighty-first birthday (how I love God’s timing!), I received an amazing gift. Another dream—an assurance that the victory had been won and that the curse was dead. It was another epic in which I seemed to be battling an evil martial artist all night long. He was so powerful that none could stand before his skill or his weaponry, but I kept evading him somehow. Finally, his evil became so intense that he was destroying even his own warriors, and just when it appeared that there was no more hope for me one of his weapons turned upon him and he was suddenly nothing more than a pile of sawdust. The scene changed and a delivery-man came to the door and handed me three take-out-food containers. I opened the first and it was empty. I opened the second and it was empty. I opened the third and it was the dust. I woke up and instantly knew that the snakes had been defeated—the tumor was gone; any metastatic disease was gone; and death had been defeated—nothing but dust with no power to harm me. I remembered that Jesus is Truth and Death cannot stand against him. Then, a few days later, the LORD gave me the perfect verse to sum it all up, “There they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous.” (Psalm 14:5) It just doesn’t get any better than that.
By Their Fruit You Will Know Them is an excerpt from Richard’s Story, the biography I wrote about my dad, a simple, not-well-educated man who left a lot of fruit behind when he went home to his Lord.
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them…Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. (Matthew 7:15-20, 24-27 NKJV)
These are the words of Jesus and, by the standard he set forth, Richard was the real deal. Not only was the righteous fruit of the Holy Spirit evident in his life, but he knew without a shadow of doubt from whom his strength came. From the moment of his salvation, he never ceased to give credit to God for all the He had done. And, as the scripture says, when the storms of life came in any form it was Jesus, the rock of his salvation, in whom he trusted and his house did not fall—even in the face of terminal cancer he marched ahead with peace and joy until he stepped through the gates of eternity where, along with his Lord and his beloved family, he waits for our arrival.
Among the collection of old letters is one dated November 21, 1976; it was from a man who had been Richard’s roommate in the hospital for several days. He was an elderly Jewish man who obviously lived in a circle totally different than Richard’s; a man undoubtedly more wealthy and more educated. Yet none of that mattered for he was a man whose life was touched by Richard’s love and compassion—certainly, he departed this life long ago and, aside from Leota, none of us would probably even know who he was. But, his words (and gift) undoubtedly echo the sentiments of many others as he expressed his gratitude.
Just a small token of appreciation to a stranger who became a friend, and who with kindness and understanding helped me through the most painful several days that I have experienced in all my eighty-five years. I can now walk around the yard but the doctor says it will be many weeks before my cure will be complete. I hope your ear continues to improve to a point where it no longer bothers you.
With Kindest Regards,
Claire S Newberry
P.S. Should the sweater not be the right size the country club pro shop will make an exchange.
How often do we hear non-believers complain about a church that is full of hypocrites? Well, if we’re honest, that is often true. Very few people carry their faith over from Sunday morning into their daily lives. But Richard did—what you saw was what you got; and his kids, grandkids and great grandkids are fortunate to have had such an example set before them; such a heritage of faith.
Throughout the journey from Brussels to Rotterdam Darlene continued taking authority over the fear that kept trying to overwhelm her. As she focused on the LORD and listened for his voice, she heard Him say over and over, “When you get to Rotterdam I will be a shield around you,” and he instructed her to “Go quickly to the first hotel you see.” Arriving at midnight, and making their way through crowds of people who appeared to be strung out on drugs, the friends were grateful for His promised protection.
The next day, arriving in Amsterdam, they went immediately to the phones to call YWAM, where lodging arrangements had been made. Joan had difficulty with the phone and ran out of change, so she left to get some while Darlene watched their luggage. A young man exited the next train and approached the phone where she waited—a young man quite different than the two thugs who’d attacked them the previous day. This one, a guitar slung over his shoulder and dressed all in black, looked like he had just stepped out of a magazine advertisement in his turtleneck, leather pants and boots. He had trouble with the phone too and, as he moved to the next one, a second man approached him. Darlene’s immediate thought was “drugs,” and she wanted to warn him but heeded the LORD’s still small voice saying that he could take care of himself; so she quietly prayed and observed. There was a brief interaction in which the young man related to the other with a kindness such as Darlene had never seen, smiling at him and even shaking his hand as he moved away.
She felt impressed that it would be safe to talk to this man, and he seemed to be having some difficulty reaching someone, so she said, “Nobody home?” He just smiled and answered that he was trying to contact his business partner. Further conversation revealed that his name was Marcel and he had recently closed down his furniture business in Canada, where his family still resided—he even confided that his family was dysfunctional. Being of Middle Eastern/European descent, he had returned to Europe and had been vacationing in Spain; but due to an airline strike, he was stranded for awhile, ran out of money, and ended up having to sleep out on a beach with some other guys the previous night. Somehow he’d managed to get to Amsterdam, and said he wouldn’t mind staying there for awhile. Darlene mentioned that the man who’d approached him could have been dangerous and warned him to be careful. Again he smiled, and reassured her that he knew what these guys were all about. She then suggested that he could earn some money singing, and he responded that he wasn’t worried about the money.
Joan returned, and eyed Marcel suspiciously as Darlene introduced them and suggested that perhaps he could help them find the place they were supposed to go since he seemed to be familiar with the area. He knew exactly where it was and walked with them, carrying Joan’s luggage for her. At one point Joan needed to do another errand and Darlene was waiting with Marcel when the LORD prompted her to tell him what had happened the previous evening. Initially, she resisted because she was still trying to process her feelings. But God can be persistent, and finally she turned to Marcel and asked if he if he was a Christian. He became animated at that and replied, “Yes, and God has delivered me from many things.” Then he began explaining to her the love of God and she was amazed at his knowledge and maturity. When she complemented him he said that his father had taught him, and that he had been invited to minister in many places around the world. When she told him of the assault in Amsterdam he expressed concern and inquired about their well-being, and then added, “Possibly what Joan has experienced and learned will be necessary for her for another time.” He then said emphatically, “Faith requires application!” But then it suddenly seemed as if he was in another place as he said, “Yes, I remember one time when there was a crowd and my life was in danger, so I just pushed my way through the crowd and walked away from them”. Darlene asked if he’d been afraid and he replied, “No, because I put my eyes on Him and they couldn’t touch me.”
When Joan returned, the three continued walking along together. The conversation flowed easily and Marcel paid a lot of attention to Joan, encouraging her as she recounted her memories of the attack. When they finally reached YWAM, Joan went inside to make the arrangements, and Darlene realized she was very hungry. Taking out her granola, she offered him some to Marcel and he gratefully accepted, saying he hadn’t eaten since yesterday. He then added that he’d shared God with the guys on the beach, but they wouldn’t listen—they were just into partying.
Joan returned and told them they were staying at the other YWAM base, so they walked on, still accompanied by Marcel. Along the way, Darlene heard the LORD say, “I want you to give him some money.” Not a prompting she was comfortable with—“Uh, Lord, I don’t give men money.” But He was persistent, “I want you to give him some money. Give him whatever Dutch currency you have. And don’t worry; I have more where that came from.” Finally arriving at their destination, they checked in and Darlene fumbled through her bag to get her money out. As she handed it to him, the lady at the desk looked at her like she was crazy but she said “Here—the Lord told me to give you this.” He insisted that it wasn’t necessary but she told him that she knew what it was like to be without, adding that the LORD had taught her how to walk in faith and had prospered her so she could bless others. He kissed her on both cheeks, saying “Thank you. You are very blessed, and if you no longer need me I’ll be on my way.” As he turned to leave he assured them both, “You are safe here.”
As the ladies went to their room they marveled at the encounter with Marcel. Darlene couldn’t comprehend how he could sleep on the beach and still look like a fashion plate with shiny boots and expensive clothes. She said to Joan, “Who was that guy?” And Joan replied, “I knew there was something strange about him; but something extraordinary.” Darlene added that as Marcel left the building she’d felt led to go look out the door to see which way he was going but he was gone—nowhere in sight. And immediately she remembered the story of the two men on the road to Emmaus who were talking to Jesus but didn’t recognize him.
To this day Darlene is not sure who the LORD sent to them that day, but she and Joan often reminisce saying; “Did not our heart burn within us while he talked to us on the road?” (Luke 24:32)
Mr. Schwartz was one of those rare teachers who inspire their students to think big and reach beyond themselves. Sixth-grade geography came alive as he recounted stories of his parents’ escape from Nazi Germany to the United States. For Darlene, a dream of traveling to Europe was born—a dream that became reality when, years later and a teacher herself, she journeyed to those far-away lands.
Raised Catholic, Darlene can’t remember a time when she didn’t know about God, but she clearly recalls the beginning of her intimate walk with Him. Life’s struggles had become so overwhelming that she was deeply depressed—to the point that she seriously considered suicide. One day, secluded in a closet and crying out to God, she was stunned when He answered—she heard His voice; not audibly, but as a sure-and-certain knowing deep within. The words he spoke were, “Talk to me.” So she did, pouring out her anguish; and a comforting presence such as she had never known encompassed her. Thus began Darlene’s journey of learning to communicate with the LORD; to recognize his voice; to understand his guidance. Many times he would speak through the words of scripture as well-known verses seemingly jumped off of the page. Other times she would sense his inaudible whisper as she listened quietly, following his instruction to “be still and know that I am God.”
As her intimacy with the LORD increased, the desire to travel for pleasure decreased and she told Him that she would go only if He sent her. Ten years passed with no trips abroad. Then, in the spring of 2001, an invitation came to accompany her friend, Joan, to Europe to intercede over selected cities in several countries. Joan is an adventurous sort who enjoys living life on the edge, thriving on spur-of-the-moment activities—quite a contrast to Darlene’s cautious and organized, drama-avoiding personality. So she was wary, but promised Joan that she would consider it carefully and prayerfully. The shower seemed like a good prayer closet, so that’s where her conversation with God occurred:
Is it OK to go to Europe?
Yes, with caution.
Is it safe?
You are safe with me.
Is it your will that we go?
I would not have put it in your heart if it wasn’t. Let me direct your path.
As the Lord’s message continued, Darlene didn’t understand what it meant:
A man’s way is not always pleasing to me but I see the heart. Your petitions have reached my ears and because I show mercy that does not mean I have approved or condoned poor behavior. It means I have delivered. You two have often gone astray, yet your hearts remained open. Stay close to me and I will show you my glorious way. Europe is in shambles—it is about to collapse. I will not allow you to go to certain areas, and if you insist you will be out of my will.
OK, so if I ask about certain places please say “yes” or “no.” Amsterdam?
Amsterdam is like a child who has gorged himself and has gone out of control, but it is salvageable. Yes.
A beautiful country, but no.
And so the conversation continued until the Lord confirmed that they would travel to Holland, Belgium and Germany. So, the trip was on. Plans were made; tickets were purchased; and then, just a few days before departure, Joan’s son died. Darlene offered to cancel the trip but Joan insisted this was of the LORD, and was certain there was nothing more she could do at home. The Lord was gracious—He gave her a beautiful vision of her son, who had suffered greatly in life, joyously dancing around heaven. So off they went, seeking God’s guidance each day regarding their itinerary, and He was very specific. They traveled for about two weeks, ministering to the people they met and stopping to pray as they were led. Only in retrospect, after the events of September 11th, did it become clear that all of the cities visited were the exact locations that were identified as where the terrorists had come from.
In Munich, Germany it became apparent that it was time to begin the return trip. The night before leaving, the ladies went to dinner in a buffet-style restaurant where the seating area was located downstairs. Waiting at the table while Joan got her food, Darlene happened to glance down and found a feather on the seat next to her. It certainly hadn’t been there before so she began looking around for a bird, wondering how in the world it could have flown down the stairs. Having heard lots of stories about gold dust, gems, oil, and feathers suddenly appearing; she finally realized that this must be a manifestation of the Spirit of the Lord so she kept it, little knowing at this point why the feather was so important.
The next day, heading north on the train, Darlene was reading Francis McNutt’s book on demons and deliverance and pondering its message when she heard, “danger—pray,” so they did, not knowing why. Meanwhile, a decision as to where to stop for the night had not yet been made—Darlene’s sense was that they were to stay in Luxemburg, but Joan wanted to go to Brussels. Not completely confident that she was hearing the LORD correctly, Darlene agreed, but as the train passed Luxemburg, she kept thinking, “I missed it—I missed what God said,” and just ten minutes later they arrived at the next stop, Brussels.
Leaving the station and anxious to locate lodging before dark, the friends were a bit uneasy. In spite of the clear day, there seemed to be a dark heaviness in the atmosphere. Looking around, they realized almost all of the people in the vicinity of the station were Middle Eastern men who appeared to be Muslim—the ladies were very uncomfortable. Worse, it soon became apparent that there was literally “no room in the inn” because every hotel in town was completely booked for a large conference. Options quickly running out, they headed back toward the train station, hoping to catch the last train of the day. Get-there-with-plenty-of-time-to-spare Darlene was rushing and became more and more frustrated as cut-it-to-the-last-minute Joan wanted to grab something to eat and then to stop and pray over a building. As they approached the station, Darlene veered off across an empty lot, a shortcut that would save half a block; but Joan continued straight ahead so she could cross the street at the corner. Out ahead and not looking back, Darlene was urging, “Come on! Hurry!” when she heard a scream and turned around to see two young men attacking Joan. One pummeled her while the other tried to grab her suitcase.
Darlene’s first thought was to pull the guy off of Joan, but the Lord quickly impressed her with the knowledge that she wasn’t strong enough. Instead, He directed her to command them to stop in the name of Jesus. She tried it, but they didn’t pay any attention and continued the attack. The Lord said, “Say it again.” When she did, one guy suddenly realized they weren’t alone and turned her way. Darlene’s immediate thought was, “Oh, my God,” and she heard Him say, “Use my son’s name, and do not let fear come upon you.” Things quickly became surreal—she could see a dark orb that appeared to be swirling toward her, and she felt as if she were now a martial artist warding off the spirit of fear. At the same time she felt as if she were going deep within herself while thinking, “I’m going to yell real loud the name of Jesus.” As she formed the word, “JE…,” she felt a rumbling begin in her belly and the sound came roaring out of her mouth “…SUS.” The impact of the roar was so powerful that it knocked both Darlene and the attacker back—he looked stunned, but wasn’t giving up. Raising his arm he rushed forward, as if to hit her with a Karate chop and she thought, “I’m a goner.” But the Lord said again, “Do not let fear come upon you;” and once again she noticed that dark orb swirling in her direction. Next, there was an instant, complete memory of a time when she had been accosted at gunpoint and had surrendered her purse. The gunman had started to get into her car but she’d screamed, “No! In the name of Jesus,” and he ran away. Now the Lord said, “I want you to do that again.” So she yelled, “Oh no you don’t, in the name of Jesus; and once again it came out as a roar. Immediately the attacker’s arm froze in mid-air—he kept trying to move it but couldn’t.
It would be difficult to determine who was more surprised by what happened next. In Darlene’s words, “It felt as if every muscle in my face moved—shifting its shape—and my eyes began to burn as if fire were shooting out of them. My first thought was that some demon must be attacking but I quickly realized it was the power of God. Glancing at Joan for the first time since this all began; I saw that she was looking at me quite strangely, even as the other attacker continued the assault. I felt an incredible presence coming out of me and enveloping me, as if I were a tiny little speck inside a huge bubble. I could feel myself fading away to nothing, as the presence around me became everything. The guy with the frozen arm was staring at my face with a look of horror. Then he looked up above my head and jumped back. Turning around, he and ran off as fast as he could go. When the second man saw him go, he also looked at my face and above my head and then ran away as well. I just stood there and I felt everything go back to ‘normal.’ The Lord said, “You’re safe now,” and I quickly went to my friend and helped her up. She was a little sore but OK. The whole time she had also been yelling the name of Jesus. Both of us trembling, we rushed to the train station. Joan kept trying to ask me about what had just happened but I was so overcome that I couldn’t speak –when I tried I had no voice. My throat had been affected from the roaring.”
Safely on the train, Joan told Darlene that when she had looked at her during the attack, all she could see was the face of a ferocious lion; and then she reacted to the encounter by talking, and talking, and talking… Conversely, Darlene felt as if she were still in a state of shock and just wanted silence. Finally she asked Joan to be still so she could pray and process with the Lord what had just happened.
Lord, what did it mean when I felt enveloped by you?
You must decrease so that I may increase.
Lord, how could that power come out of me and yet engulf me?
I am in you and you are in me.
He reminded her of Psalm 91, and she immediately knew why He had given her a feather the night before. He was showing her that he is faithful to his promise to cover her with His feathers as He provides refuge under His wings.
Then Darlene saw a vision of the Lord’s hand reaching out and picking up what appeared to be a cloth—not a rag, but a nice cloth like a jeweler would use. He gently gave it a shake and said, “This cloth represents the church. I am shaking all that can be shaken. All that doesn’t belong will be purged, and once more I will shake the nations. All power and authority resides in the name of Jesus and the church has played with it, not really understanding the power and authority in his name. My people play with my son’s name, not realizing the power they’re playing with, BUT SOON THEY WILL KNOW—SOON THEY WILL KNOW!!!” Darlene continued to pray and the LORD told her that when those two guys heard them yelling the name of Jesus they heard the entire gospel—the entire Word of God.
How can that be?
Because Jesus is the Word of God. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John1:1-5)
The guy was a glutton for punishment. It didn’t seem to matter how many times he was knocked down—he just kept coming back for more, each time with a big, silly grin on his face. But it was the way he was designed—his name was BoBo and he was the inflatable bop-bag clown that my son loved to trounce.
As I struggled through the maze of breast cancer, I could relate to BoBo for it felt like every time I’d manage to get up I’d be knocked off my feet again—first it was the diagnosis; then two surgeries instead of one; then a full, thirty-five day course of radiation instead of the one-week short version; then chemotherapy that nobody initially thought was necessary; then not just one but two rounds of chemo; then my mother’s strokes in the midst of everything else; then my husband’s open heart surgery sandwiched in between chemo and radiation—would it ever end? Unlike BoBo, while I may have kept getting back up, there certainly wasn’t always a smile on my face.
But BoBo had a lesson to teach me about how to keep on keeping on. He was unstoppable as long as he was full of air—it didn’t matter how hard you hit him, he’d pop right back up. However, if his air was leaking he would become progressively weaker, unable to bounce back; even developing wrinkles in his cheerful demeanor. Worse, if he popped his plug and all of his air escaped he would end up in a shriveled heap on the floor, totally unable to do what he was made to do. And I realized that the Spirit of God, the very Breath of Life, is the air I need to keep me pumped up and living out the purpose for which he created me.
Long ago, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans that the Spirit helps us in our weakness and that even when we’re so distraught that we don’t even know what to pray he is there, interceding for us with yearnings or groanings that are inexpressible in human language. I wonder if he thought of Stephen as he penned those words—Stephen who, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices; they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:55-60) This man of God, in the fullness of the Spirit, was not only able to endure persecution, ridicule and a painful death, but was also able to pray for the forgiveness of his tormentors. I’ll bet he even had a smile on his face—how could he not, given the vision set before him? Surely if the Spirit of God could empower Stephen like that, he could provide the strength I needed too.
So there I was, in the Valley of the Shadow of Death (you’ve got to admit, breast cancer can cast a pretty big shadow!), and I continued to think about BoBo. I figured there were times that he would have liked to have just popped his plug so he could lay down and hide and not have anyone hitting him anymore. If so, I could identify—comfort and rest sounded very attractive. But, to be honest, the threat of death was not all that frightening because I so totally related to the words of the Apostle Paul, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.” (Philippians 1:20-26)
“Fruitful labor,” he said. How could my life be fruitful during this season? And then one day Psalms 119:50 jumped out at me as never before, my comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. Always before, my concept of this verse had been one of God throwing out a life preserver when I was sinking down, but this time memories from my childhood of my mother in the kitchen making blackberry preserves flooded into my mind. How wonderful it smelled! How great it tasted on a peanut butter sandwich! And I realized that the LORD wasn’t just rescuing me, he was making me into fruit preserves. According to his word, his law, his promises and his love; he was preserving me in his righteousness. What kind of fruit would be evident in me? The fruit of the Spirit [which] is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
It would be nice to be able to say that I walked through the year of cancer treatment in total victory with a smile on my face, but there were a lot of times when I focused on the problems instead of LORD, and then I’d feel as if I’d been beaten up and thrown down to the floor, and I’d begin to slouch, just like BoBo with a leak. But God was always there with me—his word as true today as when it was written, “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” (1 Corinthians 1:9) So, like Jesus’ disciples as described in Acts 13:52, I have been filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.