I was looking through some old family pictures of Lois’s the other day when I picked myself and Lois out of a group shot. As a former hippie, I had what would pass as the ideal Keith Green haircut, and Lois’s hairstyle and clothes were reminiscent of the hippie style of the ’70s. No one else in the picture looked like they had taken part in the rebellion of the sixties, so we pretty much stood out from the crowd. Our transformation had been so radical that our relatives still talk about the change that took place in our lives which took us from being hardcore hippies to being radically saved for Jesus.
I know my parents were sure they would find me standing on a soapbox on some street corner preaching the Good News. In the years since we gave our hearts to Jesus, we have gone to over twenty countries, many of them over and over, praying for the sick and leading people to Jesus. I admit some of the places we preached; my parents could easily imagine me standing on the proverbial soapbox. At other times, they would have been amazed to see us preaching and ministering individually and with others in crowds of over twenty thousand.
It was a long road from being hippies in western South Dakota to worldwide healing evangelists, but it was a journey that neither one of us would have wanted to miss. Moving from South Dakota to nine miles outside of a town of 1,000 in Montana wouldn’t be what some would call a fast track to travel the world, but God knew exactly what and where we needed to be so that our hearts would be ready and prepared to accept all that Jesus had for our lives. We spent so many years running from Jesus that we didn’t realize when we were running toward Him. It reminded me of the dog who had been trying to catch the fast-moving car for so long that when he did catch it, he didn’t know what he was supposed to do now that he caught it.
How we got involved in praying for the sick was equally amazing. The church Lois and I attended was a cessationist church. Cessationists believe that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as tongues, prophecy, and faith healing, ceased being practiced early in Christian Church history. Once in between our having a pastor, I was asked to be an interim pastor until they could find a full-time pastor. For six months, I pastored the church and spent quite a bit of time teaching the gift of healing. I remember an older retired pastor coming up to me recommending that I stop teaching on healing. I tried it, but it seemed that Jesus wasn’t going to accommodate me because each time I taught, He would be healing someone. It seemed Jesus did a lot of that when He traveled around.
The gifts of speaking in tongues and prophesy turned them off the most. Our church had gone through a split years earlier over the issue of tongues, which started the town’s only Pentecostal Church. I remember when a woman would come to the Sunday Service every couple of months from across the proverbial tracks, stand up and begin speaking in tongues. Since no one else spoke in tongues that would admit it, she would immediately interpret what she said, which she happily did. I did notice that each time she spoke, it always sounded the same, and the interpretation was always the same. To tell you the truth, I didn’t know what to think about it all, being new to it all.
I was always amazed at how many problems even talking about the power gifts caused in the church. In the first six months of being saved, I read the Bible from beginning to end. I liked it, but I was also confused by it as well. After all, it wasn’t written in chronological order, meaning some of the 66 books were put in the Bible out of order, and some of the stories were repeated. Not to mention that some of the subject matter was pretty wild. But when I got to the New Testament and ran into Jesus, I felt at home and excited about what I was reading. I was excited to learn that what Jesus did, we would be doing as well. And if that seemed to be too much, even greater things we would be doing as well. Mark 16:15-18. “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name, they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
Picking up snakes wasn’t something I was anxious about doing, and drinking poison was not on my bucket list either. A few years back, Lois and I went to Kentucky to hold a series of meetings at a Pentecostal Church that was the picture of what a Hollywood movie would portray a snake-handling church to be like. So much so that I stopped the pastor and asked him before we entered the building if there were any snakes inside and, if there were, if they were in the habit of tossing them around the room. He chuckled and said no, but he did know of some churches that did, and if I was interested, he would take me over for a visit. I turned him down.
But I was excited about praying for the sick, and going into all the world to preach the gospel sounded interesting though it would take a while before I would be open to the idea. But God has a way of putting it all together, and if you are open to the possibility, He will make a way to get you there. When I read what Jesus said in John 14: 12-14, I knew this was exactly what I had signed up for. “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
I knew what I needed, especially if I was to do any of the above; I just wasn’t too sure how to go about receiving it. Then I read Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The man who pastored the church we first attended returned after getting his degree from Dallas Theology. On his way back stopped at the Vineyard Church in Anaheim, CA. He had an experience with the Holy Spirit and brought that experience back with him to our small cessationist church. Soon, I was going to experience what it was like to ‘receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, but it wasn’t until ten years later that Lois and I really began to understand what it means to receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and be my witnesses…’ More to follow in our October Newsletter!
May the Lord overwhelm you with His goodness and mercy, and may He overshadow you with His love and capture your heart. And again, we would say More Lord!
Thank you for the great post. You are a consummate story-teller. These are wonderfully true tales of the unpredictable, uncontainable God who has made himself known. May you continue to burn brightly with his glory.
Hi Charles, I want to thank you for the words of affirmation you shared with us after reading our post. May God continue to bless you.