Friday, April 12, 2013

The Most Amazing Weekend of My Life

We've been to Jamaica a number of times. It's probably around a dozen, but I've lost count. Every time we've been there, mostly on Mission Trips, we've gone to church at Red Hills Baptist Church, in St. Andrews, just outside Kingston. It's my favorite church in the whole world.

Our vacation in January 2001 was exceptional in every way I can think of. We'd rented a house there ... that's it up there ... and we were accompanied by our friends Neal & Debbie Blackwelder, and we got to go to the church at Red Hills .. perhaps 1/2 mile from the house we'd rented. But it was a series of seemingly unrelated events that made it so special.

First, I arranged to rent the house through a friend in Kingston, and I met with the owner the morning we arrived in Kingston, at the house we were renting. While we were sitting and talking, after I'd paid him for the week, I brought up the Lord and we chatted a bit about him. He wasn't a Christian, but seemed a little bit hesitant to discuss it with this white dude from America. So I asked him if he'd like to discuss Spiritual matters with someone from Red Hills. He said he'd like that.

OK. Hold that thought. 

The house was a duplex .. we had the left half. There was a couple in the other half, but we never saw them. We heard their car leave, some mornings, and likewise in the evenings, we heard them come home. Aside from that, the house being concrete, we wouldn't have known they were there. 

Hang onto that thought, too.

We had arrived there on a Friday night and had stopped by the church, and saw Pastor Calvin Matthews, whom I'd known since 1991. I'd mentioned to him that a message had been running through my head, I'd been preaching it to myself for a month or so, and when that happened it usually meant that God was going to want me to present it somewhere. He then asked me if I'd preach for him on Sunday. That would also give him the opportunity to preach at Cypress Hall church, a sister church to Red Hills, perhaps 3 miles (but 15 minutes) away). So we agreed that's what would happen.

Yup. Hold that thought, too.

Saturday, I drove around a bit and went up to the road above the rental house, to get a decent picture of it. While I was up there, my good friend Merrick Bethune happened by in his car and stopped to talk.  He's the Dad of Keri-Ann, who I blogged about here. We talked a few minutes and then he mentioned that he knew he needed to get closer to Jesus ... to do more in the Kingdom work ... and that he just knew God had more for him. I told him I agreed with him, and I think I recall praying with him.

Hold that thought. I promise, we're going somewhere with this.

Debbie Blackwelder had brought along a book to read, which she'd read on the airplane. When I saw it on the coffee table at the house, I picked it up and started reading. It was "Fresh Power", by Jim Cymbala. In it, one thing he said really, really struck me. It was that we need to be more like the disciples in the "upper room" ... we needed to hear from God. See, Cymbala said, nothing happens Spiritually, unless God sends power from on high, to accomplish what He wants done here. And that thought really stuck with me.

Hold that thought, too. Let's see ... so far we're up to the Landlord, the Couple Next Door, Pastor Calvin asking me to preach, Merrick Bethune saying he needed to be more active in his walk with the Lord, and Jim Cymbala's thoughts from "Fresh Power".

Finally, Sunday morning rolls around and we drive the half mile or so to the Red Hills Church. While they were taking up the offering, just before I was supposed to speak, I went into a hallway behind the pulpit area, and prayed for God to send power. I knew I needed something from above. God then placed this in my head: "If you were back home, you'd be on your face, worshiping and praying.

We had an hour before our service when a small band of us got together in the sanctuary, put on worship music, and just got with God.

I said to God "But this floor is really dirty and I have black slacks on". God did not respond. But I knew what He meant, and I got on my face in the hallway and asked for something from on high. Then I went out to preach. I even told them, first thing, that nothing was going to happen there unless God sent something down from Heaven.

The message was simple. It's why I think these are the end times. And it has nothing to do with earthquakes or wars. At the end of the sermon (and I call it that reluctantly), I turned the service over to one of their more visible, Spiritual and involved members, Alphonso Blake (Google the name some time ... he's now a well-known Caribbean artist), to extend the invitation. And he did.

After a couple of choruses of whatever hymn it was, nothing was happening. So I went to Merrick Bethune, who was standing in the front row, and asked him if he'd meant what he'd said the day before. He said he did, and I asked when he was going to start. He said "Right now, I guess". And he went to the altar.

Wow. That started a flood of responses. The altar filled ... perhaps half the people there, went forward.  I was completely devastated and went to the pastor's office, in the back hallway, to pray. After a few minutes, someone brought me a young man who wanted to be saved. The invitation went on for about an hour.

I could not speak. It was just overwhelming, and we spent another 45 minutes there fellowshipping and rejoicing. But the best part came later in the afternoon.

We were sitting in the living room, at the rental house, and the phone rang. Neal Blackwelder answered it and said who he was, and then said something like "Yes it was. He's here .. do you want to talk to him?" Apparently they said yes, as he handed me the phone.

It was the lady who lived with her hubby next door ... the folks we had not seen. She said ... and the words are burned into my memory: "We were at the church in Red Hills this morning and heard you speak. And we have come to the conclusion that our lives do not count unless we are pointing people to Jesus".

Wow. I told her that was surely a message from God, because I had said nothing remotely like that, in my talk!

And I hadn't!

Then the light bulb finally lit in my brain, and I said the following: "Are you ready for your first assignment?" She said "YES!"

I said "Well .. talk to your landlord!" And I explained my conversation with him, the previous Friday evening.

In looking back on that for a dozen years, I was outside my comfort zone, knew I had nothing going for me unless God sent down the same Holy Spirit that took those guys out of their comfort zone at Pentecost, and I simply delivered the message God had put in my heart to deliver.

He took care of the rest. I think He still does that when He wants to prove a point and call some people to Himself.

Do it again, Lord, Do it again!





2 Comments:

At 5:49 AM, April 13, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob,
It's amazing how people miss out on God's blessings because they don't want to be moved from their comfort zone.

 
At 9:57 AM, April 13, 2013, Blogger Wade Burleson said...

Wow, what an amazing weekend and equally amazing narrative. Thanks for sharing! There's a message there for all of us.

 

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