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CBN.com I received a request to host and speak at a large Christian conference. I normally don't take these kind of invitations, and based on that predisposition I offhandedly decided to dismiss the solicitation, when my wife Nedra casually mentioned that I might want to pray about it. "Why?" I intoned. "You know I don't do conferences."
"Well," she responded, "how do you know that God doesn't want to show you something if you haven't prayed about it?"
I walked into my study mumbling something about, "Who asked you anyway?" "But sometimes God has messages for husbands that He gives them through their wives." In fact, I often wonder that Nedra doesn't know things at about the same time God does!
So begrudgingly, I did pray and a few months later I found myself sitting up on a stage, looking out across a crowd of about 1,200 Christians getting cranked up for a charismatic blowout. The musicians started at about 90 decibels and a determination that we were heading for the third heaven. If Jesus wasn't coming back tonight, we were going to invade the upper echelons of the firmament. God was going to be impressed with our exuberance if nothing else.
This went on for about half-an-hour or more. There were of course the appropriate sentimental songs, and a big ending with a dramatic chorus that proclaimed that "Jesus was coming soon; maybe even tonight" Then an announcer bounced up to the podium underscoring all this with, "Glory! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!" He then went on to inform us all how strongly he felt the presence of the Lord and the Spirit in the place. I looked out at a lot of sweaty Christians. Then the speaker launched into a litany of accolades that turned out to be my introduction and he brought me on to a round of applause.
I just sat there. I honestly didn't know what to do. I have attended a lot of rock concerts over the years, and this event reeked of insincere "show biz" to me. I sure wasn't in the same spirit as the folks who had been performing for the last half-hour or so. I glanced down at my wife Nedra in the front row thinking, "Well if God wanted to show me something, I had already seen it and I was ready to go home." But I couldn't. I was on! It was ShowTime!
I stood up slowly and walked hesitatingly to the podium, not sure of what I should do or say, but I can tell you my prayer life increased. For an indeterminate amount of time I just stood there and gazed at the audience and then I found myself saying, "You know folks I haven't been around a meeting like this in a decade or so. And I don't think I've missed a thing."
I couldn't believe I just said that and it was obvious by some of the looks on the people's faces, neither could they. Then I found myself saying, "I believe we should just be still and wait silently on anything the Lord might want to say to us. Let's individually wait and listen for the "still small voice." I wasn't sure if I was trying to sound spiritual or just stalling until I could collect my thoughts.
The previous half-hour had been torture for me and as the meeting progressed it had become more difficult. By the time I had been introduced I felt I was completely out of sync with the majority of the people in the auditorium. I felt I didn't belong there. "God," I said under my breath, "what is going on?" The answer in the form of Scripture seemingly jumped into my mind:
"Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen and obey rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth; do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few." (Ecclesiastes 5.1-2)
It hit me like a kick in the stomach. And for the second time in this now,
very long gathering that had only been under way for a little more than a
half-hour, I just stood there. "Lord, what do I do?"
"Read that Scripture to the people." Again, the thought was just - there.
"But Lord," I argued, "that isn't going to exactly boost my ratings here!" I'm a TV guy, so I sometimes dialogue with the Lord in TV talk.
"I'm not interested in your rating son, I want your obedience. That is, in part, what that Scripture is saying. And it's what I want to say to these people through you. So unless you want to be disobedient, read the Scripture."
I pulled out a contemporary translation of the Bible I had in my briefcase, to check out what I thought I was hearing. I slowly leafed through the pages, found the reference, and quietly said to the people, "Let me read you something." I started reading, not knowing what I would do by the time I finished the two short verses. It was even more pointed. I was beginning to understand how Jesus got into so much trouble.
"As you enter the temple, keep your ears open and your mouth shut! Don't
be a fool who doesn't even realize it is sinful to make rash promises to God,
for He is in heaven and you are only here on earth, so let your words be few."
(Ecclesiastes 5.1-2 - Living Translation)
I finished faster than I hoped. Then I waited again. "Now what Lord?" I quietly pleaded. Nothing. "God, please what am I supposed to do?" Nothing. Now I was beginning to sweat but it was not from jumping around. It was from doing...nothing. I was just standing there and people were beginning to get restless. Some looked up at me with one eye open and the other closed; half praying. I was praying too, just barely under my breath, in desperation. "Lord I don't know what to do. I don't know what you want. Please speak to me."
Then He did in that quiet voice. "There is a woman here who experiencing terrible hurt and grief and she feels lonely and abandoned. Tell her I haven't left her and at this moment I hear her silent cries and see her tears. Just say that."
Now I have to tell you, this was not a booming voice; it was deeply subjective. How did I know it wasn't the pepperoni from last night's pizza?
But again, I felt it was a matter of obedience. So I said what I thought I heard. "There is a woman here who is experiencing terrible hurt and grief and you feel lonely and abandoned. God wants you to know He hasn't left you, and at this moment He hears your silent cries and sees your tears." And again I waited.
Then from the left-hand side of the large auditorium, a woman began a low sob that grew in crescendo until her cries tore at our hearts. Then a few others began to weep with her. This grew in intensity and then subsided.
Then another word entered my consciousness. "I am healing people's back problems. Say that now." I did and a moment later a man exclaimed loudly, "The pain in my back is gone! The Lord has healed me!"
It went on from there. God had His meeting where He wanted it and we went home about three hours later. Just the way He planned it.
The Lord had His meeting back, but what had this been all about? My initial thought was that this was bigger than just one meeting.
I was going to find out just how true that was.
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