Hello everyone! As I reflect on the events in my life that have taken place in the last year, I’m not sure what all I’m feeling. I have mixed emotions. 2018 was a significant time of change. A true transition year for myself and my family. Literally everything has changed. My children have all entered adulthood and are well on their way to being amazing young men and women who are impacting the world. This has drastically changed my focus. For so many years I have been zoomed in to “raise my children in the way they should go” and Ive recently wondered how well have I really done? I’m about to find out! The resolve I have in my spirit coming into 2019 is that God has it. He doesnt just have some of it. He’s got it all! He has my family, my finances, and my future! This picture is really a representation of 2018. Its been a year of letting go. We let go of our home. We let go of our lives that we were comfortable in. We let go of some friendships. We left the region that we grew up in and fought for all of our lives. And most of all, we left the security of the familiar to follow the call of God!
This was a year of stepping out on the water into the unknown. I dont know about you, but for me personally, that is a scary place. Dont get me wrong, I like some adventure. But I’m not the one who truly enjoys hanging on the edge all the time. However, the uncomfortable is the place I’m growing in desire to live in. What i’m finding, is that Jesus is more real and tangible in the uncomfortable. When I run out of me, He shows up in a greater way!
Having said that, the last 3 months of 2018 we have been in northwestern Alabama in a very small town on a sort of “sabbatical”. The toll of life and the exhaustive schedule of ministry the last 5 years had really worn me out. Mindy had pushed for time to rest recoup and refocus. It was the best advice I have had in years. My only regret is that I didnt listen sooner. As we finished up our ministry engagements and settled into a time of rest I began to have a series of encounters with Jesus. These encounters were some of the most itense visitations from God that I have ever experienced. I really want to take time with each of the 4 because I believe that you can receive from them as well. I believe these experience are prophetically symbolic of what God wants to do with His Church in 2019.
The first thing I want to note is that these encounters were with the most tangible expression of Jesus himself that I have ever experienced. Some very important events took place leading up to the first encounter I had. My daughter Ella had come to me months earlier and shared that she felt as if God was about to do some really deep work in me. A couple of months later a pastor in Florida called me out and spoke the exact same thing over me. You know, I thought God had already done deep work in me. I mean, he delivered me from addiction, alcoholism, prison, and from all the hurt, pain and mess I made! What could possibly be left. I could not have in a million years imagined what was going to take place next.
The first encounter was at a time where I felt like had been needing rest but it just seemed like the business would never end. I was burning out and miserable. In October, I found myself in the middle of a really amazing worship service and all of the sudden it was as if Jesus himself stood before me. I was afraid to even open my eyes. It my sound strange but I could feel the warmth of His body and His breath on my face. All of the sudden I could see His face and He gave me this smile. The only way I know how to explain the smile is that it was almost ornery.
It was communicated to me that “this was going to hurt”. All of the sudden Jesus plunges His hand into my chest and grabs ahold of my heart. He takes it in His hands and I can see these specks of dark all over it. He begins picking these black specks off of my heart and each one of them has a name. They were called rejection, betrayal, grief, shame, guilt, pain, loss, deception, and on and on. As Jesus cleaned my heart it physically hurt. I could feel the ache in my chest tangibly. I noticed something amazing though. The spots in my heart where the specks had been began to flood with pink color and come back to life. Literally, areas of my heart came back to life. So the encounter ends. As it ends, there is a call from the pastor for anyone that feels like they have missed it. Who feel like they were missing their calling or their greatest moment had come and gone!
The place I was at in that moment was very much a reflection of that statement. I wondered what had my whole life really been for. Had I squandered it? Had I missed it. Was I broken? What’s really wrong with me? And on and on….I stood in that moment and fought with whether I answer the call for prayer or not. I dont know these people. Even if I did, do I trust them? Shouldnt I be grown up enough in the faith that I should be beyond these kind of things? All of the sudden I hear God say, “I’m calling you to step out so I can minister to you, Its not about the ministers up front!” A fresh reverence for God came over me. My feet somehow took me to the altar where a young man laid his hands on me and spoke these words: “I see the hand of God on your heart. He is healing your heart. I see the dead spots growing pink with new life. He’s healing the deep.” In that moment something unlocked. A flood of emotion and memories from the past began to flood through me. A deep work had begun that I didnt know if I was ready for. Over the next week God started to show me where I had placed blame, held unforgiveness, carried regrets, had not grieved, and ultimately was sick in my soul over my past. Areas of pride, arrogance, and self-righteousness began to become evident. Ugly was beginning to surface and I didnt know if I was ready. However, the depth in which God means to heal is amazing to me. Jesus means full deliverance, total healing and restoration of His Sons and Daughters.
This is significant. I have known this to a degree. But its very clear that God means to deep heal and deep clean His Church. There a call to allow for a stripping down of the extra things in our lives and in the Church. This stripping off of distractions and unnecessary traditions and rituals will make way for Jesus to come in a fresh measure. 2019 is about encounter with Jesus. Lifechanging, transformational, encounters with Jesus. But, will we position ourselves appropriatley. Everything is about Jesus, for Jesus, and to glorify Jesus. The thing about that kind of closeness with Jesus is the nakedness that you feel. Like you are literally being x-rayed by conviction, truth, righteousness, and a measure of God that exposes everything. Is that a super fun place? Of course not. Its super uncomfortable and carries a weight of fear. Its the fear that I will be seen for who I really am. I’m finding there is no place I would rather be. The Father knows best. His intention is to strip me down to a place that I can magnify Him. Where my giftings, my character, my words and actions glorify Him. Where my life will make Jesus famous!
The question and the challenge at the beginning of 2019 is encapsulated in this scripture:
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul!” – Matthew 16:26
I will follow up next time with the second encounter in detail. Together they are all profoud. I know this, that Jesus is about to do something truly amazing throughout the Church, because He means to do something amazing throughout the earth! Will you allow for Jesus to come and encounter you in the deep?