Learning to Love More
In 1994 songs written by people like David Ruis gave the words to express the longings of our spirits. Even now when I sing David’s song, “Let Your Glory Fall.” I remember being crammed into the old Toronto Airport Vineyard building on Dixie Road. Although we cried out then, “Let Your glory fall in this room, let it go forth from here to the nations...” we had no idea what we were singing. I’ve since wondered if those of us worshipping shouldn’t have had to show proof of a valid passport before singing that song.
It’s certainly been the case for me. I am now in my tenth year of itinerant ministry, and it staggers me to consider the distances that I’ve been able to cover. My cumulative air travel amounts to over a million miles! That’s the distance to the moon and back twice. I have also developed precious friendships in 29 countries and have ministered to over 190 different church families. And to think, none of this was on my five-year plan!
The way in which I serve the Church has also changed over the years.
Prior to 1994, I had served local Baptist churches. Then from '94 through '96, I helped pastors and leaders to understand the wonderful outpouring of God's Spirit, known globally as “The Toronto Blessing,” by teaching in Toronto on the biblical foundations and historical dynamics of revival. Through this door, I was invited to speak in conferences hosted predominantly in the West.
While the emphasis of my ministry has continued to focus on training and equipping pastors, leaders and congregations as they respond to the call of the Spirit, my involvement in the West has diminished markedly, while relationships with mission works, ministry schools, and church plants has wonderfully increased. In 1999, this involvement represented 21% of the year’s ministry; by 2001, 60% was mission work; this year it will amount to over 80%. This has meant that I have had the awesome privilege of seeing thousands saved each year. I have also enjoyed helping to train local pastors and missionaries who have been able to disciple these converts and incorporate them into healthy, vibrant congregations.
MIRACLES OF HEALING AND SALVATION
It has been a blessing to me to see first hand the signs and wonders of revival that I studied about in seminary. For example, I was in Pemba, a city in northern Mozambique with Heidi and Rolland Baker in May ’02. The newly planted church there was then four months old. At that time, they had converted 60 adults and had planted two new village churches. When we returned to Pemba in December ’02 seven months later, the church had grown to over 1000 and had planted another eight churches.
In five nights of outdoor meetings we saw over 500 give their lives to the Lord.
1 Peter 2:9 is now visually imprinted in my spirit. It reads, “He has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Near the end of one of the messages I preached there, I called on a group of men standing in the shadows at the very back of the meeting. As they came forward into the light of the fluorescent lanterns around the platform, we prayed for them, and literally led them to the Light.
A few days later on a Sunday afternoon, the church sang their way down to the Indian Ocean where we baptized over 200 of the recent converts. Nearly all of them had come from Muslim backgrounds. What a thrill to ask, “Como se chama?” (“What is your name?”) And to hear over and over names like “Ishmael, Mohammed...” We even baptized a young man wearing a Bin Laden t-shirt! (I confess – we held him under a little longer than perhaps we should have).
In June ’03, I returned to Pemba. By then the church had planted 32 new village churches and had recently begun a Bible school for the area pastors. All of this has occurred in an area described as a “hard province” by a disillusioned missionary. In six years of a very difficult and disappointing ministry, she had seen only nine converts there before the present revival began.
Conversions are not the only miracles that testify to the awesome presence and power of the Lord’s Spirit at work in our day. While packing up the sound equipment at the end of a meeting in Cuamba, Mozambique, a young man named Andrew began coughing up bright red, clotted blood. Soon there was an 18" puddle of blood at his feet. He was sure he had a ruptured tuberculin cyst. While he was coughing, he looked at me and said, “This is a death sentence.”
As there’s no TB in heaven, I prayed for Andrew. Twenty minutes later, he had stopped coughing and had stopped spitting out blood. He slept peacefully through the night and sat through the six hours of teaching the next day completely restored. On my return to Canada, I checked with two doctors who have served in Africa. They both felt that given my description of Andrew’s situation, he would have bled to death without medical intervention. It’s always good to get a second opinion from Dr. Jesus!
In January 2003, I was in Naples, Italy with a church when had been planted by Betel, an international association of churches founded by American missionaries, Mary and Elliott Tepper, that cares predominantly for heroin addicts. They have planted 54 churches in 13 nations, 52 of which are pastored by recovered addicts. During ministry time, we prayed for Luigi whose eye had been blinded in a BB gun injury when he was a child. That night his eye stopped its chronic weeping, and the gritty feeling was gone. Although his eyesight was not restored, his unrelenting leg pain from a smash-up in a motorbike accident disappeared. He was able to walk all day for four days in a row delivering flyers. Previously Luigi had been unable to walk for more than an hour.
In February, I was again with Betel in Birmingham, England. The previous year while with them, I had the privilege of leading a heroin addict who had recently arrived at the center to Jesus. His name was Bruce. When I arrived this year, he came running up to me. How wonderful it was to see him now strong, and bright, and so full of the Lord. Bruce enthusiastically recapped to me his first year of walking with the Lord, and concluded by telling me of his desire to join the worship team. As a child he had played the flute. The community he lives with joined with him and asked the Lord for the gift of a flute. Shortly thereafter, one was donated to the church and passed on to him. But as he took it up, his fingers were numb and stiff from many years of injecting heroin. He prayed for healing, and the next morning, his hands were suppler than they had been when he was as a child.
Saturday afternoon, we prayed for Robbie, an ex-pro footballer. He had been an alcoholic for decades. In part he drank to try to deaden the pain of crippling arthritis. He pulled up his loose track-pants exposing the fact that his knees and ankles were badly swollen, and his toes had started to curl such that he could only wear bedroom slippers. His nights were sleepless because of the pain, and he couldn’t stand for any length of time. As we prayed for his healing, I lavishly anointed him, smearing oil from knee to toes. The next day, Sunday, he was pain-free and wearing shoes. He stood for all of worship, and at the end of the service, he asked if he could testify. He reviewed all that the Lord had done for him, and concluded by saying:
"I scored over 300 goals during my professional career. Now I have only one goal in sight – Jesus.”
Over that same weekend, Paul, an aggressive, argumentative Muslim continuously asked me cynical questions regarding Christianity, one of which was, "What's the deal with the raised hands during worship? Seems so phony.” My short answer, “It’s an international sign of surrender.” Sunday morning, he had moved from the very back to the front row, his arms raised throughout the worship. He’d given his life to Jesus late the night before.
I finished up the February UK tour in Tonbridge. We had a great conference at Church on the Way, and my gracious host took me to his golf club, Royal Cinque Ports, for a Sunday afternoon game. After the round, we were talking to Andrew, the club professional, and club secretary. My host, Peter, told them Robbie’s healing story, and the Secretary blurted, “Pray for my feet.” He was in chronic, crippling pain, too. I sat on the floor at his feet while the barmaid looked at us bug-eyed.
Three minutes later Colin said, “I feel such a tingling and heat, and most of the pain’s gone.” I asked where he still had pain and prayed again. Minutes later, he said that all the pain had gone. Over and over, he said, “This is amazing; this is remarkable!”
I told him that it was because Jesus loved him so much. His reply: “I guess so.”
My host, Peter, was back at the golf club a week later. Colin had told anyone who would listen, “I was prayed for, and Jesus healed me!” It’s a GREAT day when the unsaved are running around testifying to the goodness of God.
HIS ASSAULT ON MY HEART
The Lord continues to assault my heart, too. One particular night back in ’94 in Toronto, my life was forever changed while I lay prostrate on the floor for four hours as Carol Arnott prayed for me. At times I had to cry out as the Lord took my stony heart and put in me a heart of flesh and a new spirit. (Ezekiel 36) That work continues.
While I rested at an overnight “oasis” between bush conferences in Malawi, in southern Africa, the Lord gave me a prophetic picture that had me laughing out loud. I was thoroughly enjoying my hotel breakfast, when I noticed my waiter’s name tag, “LOVEMORE.” I asked if it was pronounced as it looked.
He grinned and said that it was. I said, “What a great name, the BEST of names!” Lovemore beamed. I said, “What a wonderful world it would be if we all lived your name.” He bowed. Moments later, his boss walked by, also wearing a name tag, “DARWIN.”
I couldn’t contain myself. There passing before me was an enacted parable, a brief scenario that became perhaps the shortest of Bible commentaries on the entire book, Genesis through Revelation. Here were Adam’s mandate, Lovemore, and the grim consequences of the fall, Darwin; unbounded grace and the survival of the fittest; unconditional kindness and the cruelties of natural selection. Lovemore was the servant-waiter, laying down his life for others. Darwin was the over- lord, asserting himself and his will. All of that occurred while I was meditating on Matthew 25.31, the parable of the sheep and the goats, the last teaching of Jesus before His crucifixion and resurrection. As never before, it seemed as if the Lord was saying:
“If you should forget everything else, remember this, “LOVE MORE.”
It’s the key He’s giving you and me in this outpouring that opens the doorway to the kingdom of heaven and brings it to earth.