My out of body experience.
Remember the other day I said I had a sort of out of body experience? And when it was over, it had caught me so off guard, I had to ask the people sitting near me what had preceded it. It was wild.
Here's what happened at the closing meeting of the pastors' conference at the Billy Graham Center at the Cove in Asheville, North Carolina last weekend:
Jim Cymbala1 was stressing the importance of being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit-that when he prompts an action-we are listening and what's more, we do not ignore it, but are responsive. He illustrated his point by recalling a story of how the Spirit of God prompted him to get out of his seat and tell the people about Jesus very early on in the service, before the choir even sang their second song, long before it was time for his message. 'The prompting came when Calvin was singing'2-pastor was recalling how God had radically saved Calvin and set him free from crack. 'Get up, Jim, tell the folks about me.' 'But God, now? This is not in the order of things. The choir has another special song to do, and me getting up now will interrupt the flow... get up now, God? Really?' 'Yes, and I mean now. Get up now, Jim.' So he did.
Pastor Cymbala got up and asked Calvin to give an impromptu testimony of how God had changed him. Smiling, Calvin told how Jesus met him and set him free from crack cocaine. Pastor Cymbala then shared the gospel - about the one and only Jesus, the hope of the world. He then gave folks the opportunity to respond to Jesus personally, to get out of their seats, wherever they sat in the huge old art deco theatre-now-church. Come they did, by the droves. Pastor took note of a young man, probably 18 or 19, who made his way to the front, overcome by weeping.
And then, as different as all that was from the ordinary course of things, the Sunday service resumed and concluded a little more typically. That was until Tuesday when a call came in to the church, and a man ardently explained what had happened on Sunday.
'Turns out he had brought his wife and teen-aged son from Dallas for a weekend in the Big Apple. Convinced by the promise of great food and theatre, he agreed to go to church as well. However, the dad had made a big mistake on the timing of the return flights, so the family had to leave the service 45 minutes early.
But God knew that-and spoke to Pastor Cymbala to present the compelling message of Jesus early in the service-and that was just what was meant to happen, so the boy could respond!
The father explained, "When my wife and I got on the plane and looked at our son, he was not the same boy we had flown to New York City with - he was our old son, changed, transformed! We are so grateful to God."
And then apparently, the Holy Spirit did it again. He prompted Pastor Cymbala to do something off script, and Cymbala did it again-he listened and responded. He stepped off the stage and down four steps, and stopped right in front of my chair... I mean, right in front of my chair.
He stopped talking, and looked down at me.
"I just have this feeling that there are those in this room who have children who are far from God . . . if that is you, will you stand? We are going to pray for your children, your grandchildren, right now, together. We are going to pray that they come back to God."
I'm sure I was the first one on my feet and in short order, dropped to my knees, asking God to bring my sons back to himself. Yes, for me, it was a God-orchestrated moment, shockingly so, and it felt a lot like an out of body experience3. How could Cymbala know to stop right in front of me and look down at me as though he knew I was desperate for prayer for my boys?!
What does this have to do with you? Why should you care? Because
~just as God hears my prayers, he hears yours too
~He is a good Father. Look how Jesus described it - "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Matthew 7.11
~God is at work, even when we cannot see what he is doing
~"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8.28 Take it to the bank!
~the Holy Spirit of God leads and guides us in the way we should go,
if we will but heed his prompts. Look up John 16.13.
~God is desirous for all to come to him
I remember the verse in the King James Version, of course - 'The Lord is not willing that any should perish ... no, not one!'
Well, I know my out of body experience or elements of it will encourage you that God is at work and wants to lead and guide you if you let him!
He was our encouraging teacher for the conference.
3 - out of body experience - well, I guess it was like that. How would I know? I don't even know if I believe in such a thing, just describing how divinely bizarre it was!