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.
Yup. Hold that thought, too.
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!