A young Dutch woman, Mejori, came to my office years ago and told a story of great courage and great heartbreak. What happened that day has a profound message for you. Listen carefully as her experience touches your own need. Courage involved Mejori's work; she was a secret Christian missionary to Moslem women in one of the Arab republics. Such a role is dangerous beyond our comprehension. For her protection I will not say where she is working. Nor is Mejori her real name.
Heartbreak involved her family; her parents and an older brother lived through the Nazi occupation of Holland in the Second World War and were left mentally damaged. All suffered severe depression with the brother requiring periodic institutional care. Mejori was born after the war and was spared the trauma the others endured. Because of her normalcy and the family's melancholia, a gap existed between them. Through discipline and self-effort, Mejori had become a well educated, committed believer who devoted her life to Christian missions.
"Pastor," She began, "My problem is this: When I leave the U.S. and return to my work in the Middle East, my parents expect me to stop in Europe to see them." She began to cry, "And I want to see them! I need to see them! But the depression in their home is so overwhelming that I can't fight it. I get depressed too. It takes me weeks --- sometimes months --- to recover. After I get back to my post I can't function. All I can think about is the misery my parents are in." She stopped long enough to regain her composure. "Being with them is the most difficult thing I have to do--but if I don't stop in Holland they think I'm rejecting them and get more depressed." She began sobbing, "I don't know what to do! Please help me."
I hope you will listen carefully to what I shared with this young woman. The family's circumstance was complex but God's remedy for Mejori was not. I took her hand and made her look at me, "Mejori," I said, "It is not God's will that your parents control your sense of security. Under no circumstances does He want your confidence dominated by people around you--even though they are people you love. He is the only One worthy of such trust." She listened. "God wants you to cherish your family, visit them, minister to them, but He never wants them to subdue you in the way you have allowed."
Mejori's situation is common. Husbands and wives frequently find themselves unable to help their partner because both are spiritually dependent on the other for support. When one crashes, the other crashes. If one is up, both are up. If one quarrels, both quarrel. The name given to such relationships is “co-dependency”. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to this tragedy in their dating experience. Their sense of happiness depends totally on how the other reacts. Apart from their date's reassurance, they are usually powerless to maintain a consistent level of security. Lives trapped in this emotional roller-coaster are on a wild, erratic ride. Such people absolutely must recognize the danger they are in and stop it. Hear me: It can be stopped.
In Mejori's case, I illustrated God's remedy for her by pointing to a spot near the ceiling. "Today," I said, "You are going to tell the Lord that you nail your security in Him, so high on the wall, that no matter how hard your parents try, they cannot knock it down." She listened intently. "You are not merely hanging it beyond their reach," I said, "you are nailing to the wall so securely that it can never be moved." Again, I made her look at me, "Your security must be anchored into Christ so tightly that it cannot be changed."
I gave Mejori several minutes to prepare herself for the "act of commitment", then led her in prayer in which she dedicated her security to God alone. It was that simple. Quietly, she prayed, making that decision a life-long promise. “Lord,” she said, “You are the only one I trust with my soul-security and sense of well-being. Never again will I allow others to be in charge of my mental safety. You have given me the power to “tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy.” Luke 10:19. A few minutes later she left the office and headed for Holland.
A month passed before I heard from her again. The letter was exciting. After spending two weeks with her parents, she was back in her secret mission field. The letter had taken another two weeks to arrive. She said,"Pastor, I want you to know that I had the most wonderful visit with my family that I have ever had. The first day I arrived the depression was so bad that I did not think I could stand it. But I remembered what I had promised the Lord and determined that I would not give in. On the second day something wonderful happened: I saw my family coming up to where I was. That encouraged me! Would you believe, on the third day I heard my mother laugh for the first time in years. It was thrilling to see her smile again ... I am so grateful to God! We had the most wonderful visit we have ever had .. Thank you, Love, Mejori."
By standing secure in the Lord, Mejori had been able to minister security to her family. Thankfully, she saw immediate results. What she did is true of all forms of ministry: Good or bad, right or wrong, depression or exhilaration, we minister whatever is in us. Insecure people will automatically minister insecurity to those around them. Secure people will minister security. Believers empowered with the Holy Spirit impart that blessing. Whatever "anointing" is on the head will run down upon the rest of the body. If anger, jealousy, rebellion, suspicion, etc., is on the leader (be it home or church) it will infect those around it. The only safeguard is to make a deliberate effort to stop it. Mejori's decision not only ended the power of her family's negative depression in herself but benefitted them as well.
In my travels, I meet many Christians (some are pastors and church leaders) who need deliverance from destructive behavioral patterns. Oftentimes, these mannerisms of pride, anger, egotism, insecurity, arrogance, etc, can be traced back to childhood trauma. In many instances, the injury was not caused by deliberate abuse by the parents but carelessness and neglect. In such cases, the devil never misses an opportunity to expand and intensify the problem. The best example I can give of God's recovery program from such problems is found in the Old Testament. Judges 6:28. It is twofold.
One: The pagan altar must be demolished, torn down, its' remains scattered. Two: The Altar of God must be rebuilt securely on the site of the old.
By "pagan", I mean anything that usurps our confidence in the Lord and places it back in the hands of men. The rebuilding of the Altar of God is accomplished by re-filling our lives with the power of the Holy Spirit; that involves worship, fellowship with other believers, study of the Word, etc.
My question to you is this: Is your sense of security nailed to God's wall? Is it beyond the reach of those who would pull you down? Is your life controlled by the Holy Spirit or by annoying controversies? If you are experiencing insecurity, get your hammer and go to work! Nail your security into God's wall. That is where it belongs. Mejori's testimony can become yours. CC
A TESTIMONY FROM A CHURCH OF CHRIST ELDER
Charles, our first meeting took place in March of 1994 at the Holiday Inn Medical Center in Midtown Memphis. You came in town to lead a three-day Conference on the Holy Spirit. I had never been to a meeting like that in my life. I listened to your message Wednesday night, running it through my “church of Christ / seminary degree / book, chapter and verse” mental filters. I found nothing “suspect” in your message; on the contrary, it was quite faith-building. When you were through, you pointed to my wife and me and said: “That couple right there ...” I surmised you wanted to pray for us, which was fine with me, so we went to you.
In front of some two hundred people, you first gently prayed for my wife, then moved onto me. I don’t remember your touching me, but I do remember that the next thing I was laying flat on my back on the floor of the Holiday Inn ballroom looking up at the fluorescent lights in the ceiling I was thinking: “What in the world just happened — What am I doing on the floor?,” and “I don’t believe in this stuff.” (Meaning: I didn’t believe in tangible demonstrations of the power of God…since they ceased with the death of the last original apostle according to my cessationist theology.)Well, I got up in a few minutes and determined that I would return the next night intending to pepper you with questions about the incident. When I arrived that next night, you saw me down a hallway and said: “Brother, would you help with the ministry tonight?,” and then you disappeared into a side room. I asked the fellow hosting the Conference what you meant and he told me that meant you would like for me to help break people’s falls if the Spirit so moved on them. Needless to say, I felt quite out of place as I assisted breaking the falls of dozens of people who responded to your message that night! I wasn’t able to catch up with you that night, so, I returned the third night, with a robust list of questions, determined to corner you and to get some answers. Well, around 10 pm as I thought things were winding down, I saw you across the ballroom and headed your way. You saw me coming towards you and with a great big smile on your face you lifted your hands in my direction from about 20 feet away and the next thing I knew I was down on my face, on the carpet, in the ballroom at the Holiday Inn.
No sooner had I hit the floor than a flood of belly-laughter began pouring out of me from the depths of my being. I lay there for about 45 minutes in non-stop laughter, in a pool of slobber (from all the laughter), carpet fuzz between my teeth, experiencing being “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8) I experienced first hand Psalm 126:2 “Our mouths were filled with laughter…” That evening opened a glorious new dimension for me in my walk with our Lord. The blinders were taken off and I came to learn about the Kingdom of “power” that Jesus came to bring, experiencing new life and power in my personal life and in my ministry to others. I cherish the personal friendship you and I have developed through the years, your influence in my life, and the example you set for me in your unquenchable desire for more of Him. Love you! Shane O’Conner, Memphis, Tennessee. On that memorable night 17 years ago Shane experienced the baptism-in-the-Spirit and became one of my devoted “sons in ministry”. We have maintained a constant fellowship since then. CC
THE MYSTERY OF HANDS-ON MINISTRY
At the end of a sermon I frequently identify specific people in the audience and call them out for hands-on ministry. Sometimes the Holy Spirit gives such an instruction before the message--or it may happen in the middle. Somehow I “know” which one is to be first receiving ministry. Whenever the order comes, I try to be obedient and minister to the party promptly. But it hasn’t always been that way. The first time I received such direction was at a Conference in Indianapolis. All the while I spoke, it was as if the Holy Spirit were saying about a young woman in the congregation, “This one! This one! Now!” Whatever my reasons were, I allowed fear to stop me. She left without receiving ministry. God never let me forget my defiance--nor did He let me forget her need. Even today, I vividly recall her face in the congregation.
Later, at Belmont Church, Nashville, in a most surprising way, God gave me a second chance. I was alone in the building one afternoon, walking up an aisle praying, when the Holy Spirit stopped me, pointed out a specific seat and said, “She will be here.” The message was precise. That night, however, the woman was not present. Nor did she attend the next service. To my amazement (and disappointment) the meeting closed, I went home, without ever ministering to this special person. Each time, someone else had been in her seat but the “sign” was not on them. The whole experience was puzzling.
A year later I returned to Belmont, was concluding the sermon, when I looked across the congregation and to my absolute joy she was there! It was a little white haired lady. I didn’t know who she was but the “sign” was on her. Distinctly, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “This is the one.” I was amazed. He not only had told me about her, where she would be sitting, but had known it a year in advance. I quickly left the pulpit, walked back to her row as I kept preaching, called her out, and laid hands on her. She instantly dropped under the blessing of God. That experience was a turning-point in my ministry. But He had made me wait a whole year to learn my lesson. In it, I discovered how to better hear the Holy Spirit and avoid “religious” routines in ministering. More than ever, I realized God’s method is always fresh, alive, vibrant. He never follows religious tradition. Our methods frequently become methodical and stiff. That stiffness usually turns into performance. Performance converts spirituality into religion.
After that, my hands-on ministry opened in an amazing way. Let me explain: Once, in Amarati, Turkey, at Derek Prince’s “Balkan Conference,” I was standing at the rear of the building with other members of the Ministry Team. Representatives from 27 different nations had been called forward for prayer but I was unable to see the pulpit or the people crowded around it. Suddenly, I had a “word” that there was a young man to the right of the pulpit (whom I could not see) but on whom I was to lay-hands. The room was packed but I made my way to the front.
Pushing through, I saw him. Immediately I knew which one God had intended. Later, I learned he was a converted Moslem, ministering in a dangerous situation, and in urgent need of God’s full provision of New Testament authority. His ministry required what Paul identified as an “imparting of spiritual gifts.” Romans 1:11. When I laid hands on him it was as if he had been struck by lightening. In all my years of ministry, I don’t think I have ever seen anyone more impacted by the power of God. Half an hour later he was still on the floor, unconscious, vibrating in the Glory of the Holy Spirit. Finally, we carried him from the platform area and laid him down in the rear of the auditorium. Without realizing it, we had placed him in the walkway where Moslem waiters passed from kitchen to dinning room. This was significant. The man was still unconscious, jerking as if electrified. Many of the waiters stopped, watched him in amazement, then continued on their way. But they were deeply affected. They knew they were seeing a genuine manifestation of the power of God. Several of them returned afterward, asking questions, and wanting to know more about Jesus. Some were saved.
The question arises, “But why is ‘hands-on’ ministry so powerful? What does it mean?” First of all, there is absolutely no power in the human hand. None. Nor is “laying hands” a formality. Power is released from the “Temple of the Holy Spirit” which is inside the human body. The hand has value only because it is an extension of the Temple. Of the 27 times the New Testament talks about “laying-on-hands” it devotes only four references to the ordination of pastors and deacons. Much of the modern church however, has relegated hands-on ministry totally to that subject alone. Someone says, “I am laying-on-hands and nothing happens. What do I do?” Keep doing it! You and I are not responsible for the results. We are responsible only to obey. At some point when you lay hands on another person the Holy Spirit will move in power. Our duty is to trust Jesus who said, “These signs will follow those who believe. They will lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.” Amen and amen!