BE The Church

Have you ever had a God moment? A moment when you actually felt like God was sharing something with you …directly and personally? Well, I had one that I felt would be fun to share especially as we’ve been talking about the vision for church and how we want to be.

A few years ago, some friends of ours faced a heart stopping and tragic challenge when their teen daughter was diagnosed with a case of terminal cancer. They had tried all medical methods and were desperate and asked us if we would go with them to a church we had attended for many years - which is famous for healings and miracles- Bethel church in Redding CA.

Now I’ve always had very mixed feelings about this kind of thing. Seeking People and Places to “get to God” or “get more of or closer to God”.

I get it and we sometimes have done some of that. I mean we did actually move to this ‘middle of nowhere’ city in N California to be part of this church my friends wanted us to take them to.

And we had hosted dozens of people over the 6 years we lived there who had come to that church for healing or a touch from God- literally from all over the world. Many who got what they came for: and many who did not.

BUT I ‘ve always felt the need to point out that God is everywhere and in all believers! Just saying!

In fact, in contrast, we’d also seen literally hundreds of miracles and wonders during the 20 years we lived full time here in Japan- JAPAN- arguably one of the least Christian countries in the world! Less than 1%!

And further, we’ve seen little kids do signs and bring miracles as well as people who just got saved and knew almost nothing about their new faith– so just saying…. God is everywhere and as believers, we’re all carriers of His presence. Amen? Ok.

So, we went. It was a great way to bond with the family, it’s a nice place to visit and so we were there. There at this world-famous church where on a given Sunday literally hundreds of people have come from all over the world – every week - to go to this church. At one of these services while we were there I look over and see this guy with a shirt that says – Be the Church-

and it was like everything else around me faded- I felt so strongly stirred and moved- this was literally one of those holy God Moments and what I was seeing felt so true, powerful, profound, my mind raced –

what that little phrase implied, the power of US actually BEING the church. God was showing me a big truth in that moment and that a guy was wearing that T-shirt here, in a church that almost risks being too great, is genuinely almost a distraction from that core truth, and then…

…he turned a little, and I realized… that his shirt had simply folded over, ever so slightly, and what it REALLY said was … Bethel Churchnot Be the Church but Bethel Church!! Yea., The “L” had been hidden. But it was too late- I’d already had my moment and its stuck with me solidly ever since!

So, I’m sharing this with you all now because I think this truly is a ‘God word’ – I use the phrase a ‘God Quote’- I heard HIM say and it and now am quoting HIM! So, I’m trying to work out the details of this cool and meaningful challenge and I’d like to share just 3 practical ways we might all lean into this big revealed truth:

First- be the person who stops- my kids will all laugh and tell you that if I see someone in trouble or an accident or anything that looks wrong – I’ll probably stop and, if appropriate, call 911- my thinking is… what if everyone thinks someone else will be that one! Who’s going to be that person?! Like that passage in Isaiah 6:8where God is looking for some help

“Then I heard the voice of the LORD saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

- Be the one who stops.

One time I was driving home fairly late at night and standing in the middle of an intersection was what looked like a crazy person ranting and screaming in the rain- it honestly looked really scary in the natural- I could see in a quick glance around the faces of other drivers trying to get away as quickly as they could but

I felt that familiar nudge or whisper of the Holy spirit that I usually recognize- saying “its ok- stop and check on the guy”–so I pulled up and just asked him what was going on and if he needed help- he was sobbing and hard to understand and was clearly under the influence of something – so I told him to get in the car and tell me what was going on. (That too was ‘a moment’ actually!!) It makes me really smile now imagining others seeing me do that as they quickly drove past!

Turns out the guy had been meeting with his estranged father who had left him as a boy- this was the first time for the Dad to reach out to him in like 15 years.

The Dad had taken the kid out for drinks, although the kid told him that he didn’t drink. Well, after a couple of hours the Dad finally revealed the reason for the sudden appearance - he needed money. The kid was devastated and said he just didn’t have money to give.

So, the dad left him at the bar- drunk, stranded, stuck with the check, with rain pouring down and, in that state, he sort of just broke down.

I ended up driving the kid home, praying with him and sharing what our heavenlyFather, heavenly Dad, might have wanted to say to him- it was truly an awesome experience! I was so glad I had stopped.

So here is my second challenge -after stoppingLISTEN. So, First is STOP and second is LISTEN- to the person, of course, and that’s key- don’t stop to talk or pray or do something you did last time- I mean – be ready to do whatever – but first LISTEN- and listening to the HS is the most important- so

The first and most important 911 call needs to be to the Holy Spirit – we need to practice listening to what God might be saying -especially at times like these - to see what He would have us do –

One of the most memorable and powerful moments of listening came a few years ago while shopping at Walmart with my kids. Some of you may remember me sharing the story because it too was a powerful God Moment which left me forever changed.

The girls and I were walking up to Walmart and – as is common- just outside was a street person asking for some money- so it seemed- and -as was and is common for me- I will usually stop and chat and offer them a few dollars --- but this guy was different-

He didn’t start out the usual way asking for spare change but instead asked, “Would you like to buy a poem?” What? I laughed. “Wow”, I said, “that’s pretty cool- you are actually selling poems?” Yea, he says, he wrote them, copied them and then asks for a donation. So, I say, ok, this is good- so I say, ….”ok, man, what’s your story, how did you get here?”

Even as I said the words, I felt something shift, something happened to me and him- the words were suddenly not just mine but as though the Holy Spirit had just touched us both as I spoke- I felt my breathing slow, my heart literally slowed down and as I looked at this guy- I felt the presence of God come over us both.

He told me his story and I listened- I mean- I really, really listenedwith my heart- it sort of freaked me out! I loved it – but it just felt so---- almost unnatural- but awesome.

After a few minutes- I don’t even know how much time actually passed- I said, “well, brother, I’m really sorry to hear all that and good on you for trying to do what you can and sure- I’ve got a few dollars for a poem.”

But then, he stopped me, “No, no, man- I don’t want your money now.” He said –“ what you just did- what you just did – you see me- you see me –- nobody sees me.”

And then he hugged me – I mean he got hold of me and we just stood there holding each other- outside the Walmart- this big tall skinny homeless black guy with dirty clothes and poems.

God blessed us both with what it can mean to listen- to someone and the HS- selah.

So #1 is stop and #2 is listen- be the person who listens more than talks, listens more than rushing to do your whatever thing-

listens to the Holy spirit. Amen?

Okay, so I know that story might be a stretch for some - I totally get it- it’s a bit bold for some but I could also tell you dozens of stories where all I felt was like a tickle in my spirit - like a whisper …and prompted by, that I texted or emailed or called a person – not sure what would happen –

I wish I had time because I have some amazing stories of people at crisis points in their lives who needed God but they also needed someone to help them make that connection and God was whispering…be that person?

be the person who listens- listens to people and listens for the whisper.

My third and final point is be the person who PRAYS for people- it’s great to offer help but don’t miss that our most powerful asset by far is prayer. Simple, short, eyes open, it’s okay, I mostly pray for people like this.

Sometimes, to make it easier and less awkward, I’ll even say, “well, if I were to pray for youI’d probably ask God to… whatever” and I’ve prayed!

One day after church we went out to lunch with a guy we had just met that morning. Near the end of the meal, he asked if he could extend his leg, under the table. He explained it was football and soccer related injuries– 30 years of pain- 3 surgeries – no change- in fact he told us he was an x-ray technician, so he had seen clearly what he felt every day- bone on bone- pain 24/7 – well, that was sort of a suspiciously lot of information to us and we felt like it was a God set up of sorts- we felt the HS tickle.

So, Kelly and I asked if we could pray for it- we just touched his knee under the table and prayed a short 5-10 second prayer- then we just kept talking– he said thanks – then about 3 minutes later I said – “you know, sometimes we find we need to pray again for stuff- would that be ok?”

Jesus did that you know- one time in the Bible he prayed twice for a blind guy- just saying there is precedence!

“yea, sure, of course” Again – a 5 second prayer- like “knee be healed in the name of Jesus”- and then…he looked a little funny, he seemed confused,

I actually thought maybe I had talked too much, or we’d missed the social cues that it was time to go! I can do that….

Then he started to tear up, he got a little excited – and said, “there’s no pain, there’s no pain!”- We were all stunned. Wow, wow, just like that.

– that easy- that simple- now a couple of years later I got back in touch with him - it has literally changed his life- he works out again, plays golf, and more-

he says he will never be the same- spiritually- he went back to church but with a new perspective and knowing God had seen Him and Touched Him. Be the one who prays- short, simple, no big deal but what might be a big deal with what happens! Amen?

IF you want to see Neil share his story it’s on our new website

And IF this message feels like a ‘God word’ for you- do me a favor- don’t tell anyone about it or share it- NOT until you create at least one story of your own – don’t just be hearers of the word like James 1:22 says- be doers! This works-

Be the person who STOPS,

Be the person who LISTENS- to people and the Holy Spirit,

Be the person who PRAYS!

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