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The phone rang at 10 minutes before 6:00 PM. I was at work and figured it was a work-related call. I picked up the phone to find Bill's voice (one of my pastors) at the other end of the line. It always brightens my day to talk to Bill, so it was a blessing.
"Hi Teresa.... Are you going to the meeting tonight?"
"Meeting?" Had I forgotten some meeting I was supposed to be at? I was planning to leave work shortly for minstry team pre-prayer. Was I supposed to be there earlier for some meeting? Sometimes there are so many meetings... "what meeting is this?"
"The renewal meeting."
"Oh yea!" I perked up. "I'll definately be there. 'Looking forward to it."
"How would you feel about running that meeting tonight?"
"Me?" My mind immediately flashed back to my devotions the previous Monday morning. I had thought I'd heard the Lord tell me I'd be running the renewal meeting at Church that week. I'd immediately discounted that as mis-hearing. After all, it was pretty far-fetched. Generally only the full- time staff folks ran the renewal meetings. I had been given lots of pre-warning and had a whole week to prepare a teaching. But since I'd discounted that as NOT the Lord's voice, I had not prepared. "Sure, I'd love to run the meeting. But I don't think I'll be able to put a teaching together on this short of notice." (The meetings started in 1 1/2 hours.)
Bill when on to tell me that he had a "hunch" that the Lord would give me a teaching on the subway (which I'd have to ride to go get my car). Bill is fairly prophetic, himself. I asked him if it would be ok to open it up for some testamonies. Bill said ok, but instructed me to keep ahold of the mike so that if the folks ran on forever or got weird, I could get control back. He gave me full authority over that evening, including responsibility to assure that the Church was locked up afterwards.
Then Bill threw in a piece of advice: "I've leared that God really does not like to be controlled at these meetings. It's up to you, but I recommend that you don't try to control God."
I nodded, unaware that he could not see me over the phone. Yes, it would be a pretty stupid thing to try and control or manipulate God.
"Well, let me pray over you and I have to run. I'm tied up in a staff meeting that is going very late. It's really worn me out. That's why I need someone to take the meeting for me tonight." So he said a three minute prayer asking God to impart authority and wisdom and anoiting on me. Then we were off the phone.
I decided that maybe I'd better leave work right away (about 15 minutes earlier than I'd planned) so I could get to church and try to perpare. An unsaved co-worker walked to the BART (subway) station with me. I mentioned that I'd just found out I was preaching that night. He asked if I had any clue what I was going to say. I said no.
"In that case, just tell some jokes and wing it."
Divine instruction from an unexpected source. Neat how God can use anyone to speak to you!
All of the sudden the Lord reminded me of a joke about prayer. The punch line is funny because we don't really expect God to answer abundantly when we pray. Then the Lord reminded me of the "ask - seek - knock" passage in Matthew 7 and Luke 11. Before I knew it, a teaching had fallen into place and I did not even have a bible with me. (I was silently greatful for those days years ago when He made me memorize a whole bunch of scripture.) God started showing me how the not getting a scorpion when you ask for an egg meant that we don't have to worry about opening ourselves up to demons when we sincerely seek the Lord at a renewal meeting (or anywhere else for that matter). He showed how deeply and abundantly He wanted to answer our prayers, especially our prayers for Him to give us more of the Holy Spirit. (See Luke 11:9-13).
I got to Church about 15 minutes early, so I went into the sacntuary. The team was setting up -- the regular worship leader was out of town, so someone else was leading worship -- it was his first time leading worship at a renewal meeting in a long time.
I no sooner walked in the room when Allen (one of the worship team) pointed at me and said "You're in charge tonight." I sorta laughted and said that actually God was in charge. Then worship leader needed to know what format I was planning to run the meeting in and how many songs I wanted before the sermon, etc. I asked him what type of format he'd most like to do and it matched up exactly with what I'd been thinking. So we agreed on that format. (I guess it helped that we'd both been asking the Lord to show us how He wanted to run the meeting that night. Seems like we heard the same thing. It was reassuring for both of us.)
Then I went upstairs for to pray with the Ministry team. I guess the pastoral staff meeting had just ended a few minutes before and some of the pastors were still there. I walked in the office area and Glen (one of the pastors) pointed at me and said in a very loud voice - "Ah, there is Teresa -- the lady with total authority over the meeting tonight. She's running the meeting tonight."
Well, now everyone on the prayer team knew -- I had been debating on whether or not to tell them or to surprise them. So we started our preservice prayer. I literally gave control of the meeting to the Lord, sincerly meaning every word of it, inviting Him to run the meeting however He wanted to -- even if it blew our preplanned format.
At one point the prayer team gathered around me and prayed for peace and discrenment for me. One person explicitely asked God to remove any nervousness and replace it with His peace. That made me realize that I should have been feeling nervous at that point -- but I did not feel nervous. I ran a mental check and discovered that I'd not had a single nervous thought or feeling since I'd given Him control of the service about 15 minutes before. I snuck out of the prayer room about 10 minutes before service began so I could go pray with the worship team. Some of them were regulars at the renewal meeting, but others (including the leader) were not.
The team was running a few minutes late, so it gave me the opportunity to hunt up Loni and ask her if she'd like to share a sort (3-4 minute) testamony. She said she'd be delighted. She also wanted to introduce me to someone -- a pastor's wife visiting from Oregon. The Lord had touched this woman in Toronto about a year ago and she was very excited about it. After chatting with her for a few minutes, I asked her if she'd like to give her testamony. She was delighted to do so. Seems like I had my "testamonies" all lined up without hardly trying.
The worship started and the Lord's presense seemed to fall more strongly than usual. I figured that it was probably just that I was more receptive since I was "running the meeting". But the anointing was SO strong. (Later, when folks were giving me feedback of the meeting, many said that the Lord's presense/anointing seemed stronger than usual.)
When the first part of the worship was over, I came up to the microphone. Everyone was in an attitude of prayer. As I looked out over the room, I could literally see what the Lord was doing. I just started speaking out what I saw Him doing, and His presense seemed to fall much more intensely on many of the people. So, here I was leading a corporate ministry time. I'd never done anything like that before. In fact, when I'd watched Bill doing that time after time in the meetings, I remembered thinking that I'd never be able to lead corporate ministry like that. But God was doing all the work and I was just sorta tagging along. It was so incredibly clear and so easy. (I am sure that I have a great deal of maturing to do in leading corporate ministry and lots of room for improvement); but God really showed up and really ministered to the group. It was so easy to see (in the spirit) what He was doing and to speak it out. I am sure that Bill (or others with more experience) would have done a better job. But God was moving on the group and it was so easy to see what He was doing. I'd always wondered how Bill was able to see in the spirit like he did when he led corporate ministry. I think I expected something mystical or tricky. But God just focused my eyes on an area of the room and told me what He was doing there. It was so easy -- I did not have to discern -- He just showed me. Everything was so blatently obvious as the Holy Spirit opened my eyes. It was so neat to work with Him this way!
It was a bit of a rough transition from the ministry time into the anoucements, but no one seemed to notice/mind. I was so green that I took the offering but forgot to pray for it.
I don't know where it came from, but I had a sense to use the format of meetings from when we first started renewal meetings, asking who the first time visiters were and where they were from. Then I dropped into my teaching. Everyone laughed at the joke, which was a good thing. I only taught for 10 or 15 minutes, and had not really tought out before hand what I was going to say. I am not the world's greatest public speaker, but it seemed to go ok. Then I asked Loni to come up and give her testamony.
Bless her heart, her testamony was great and went very well with what I had just taught on. She was short and concise and concentrated on the changes God had worked in her life as she asked Him for MORE of Him in her life. She talked about how faithful He was to always meet her. It went so fast. Then Loni started to head for her seat.
Now I had always intended to have the ministry team pray for her, but had forgot to tell Loni or the ministry team. So I asked Loni if she minded if we prayed for her. She said that would be fine. So I asked the team to come up and pray for her. While they were praying, I mentioned that we were modeling prayer, but that God might meet any of them differently than He was meeting her. I mentioned that the main point was to connect with God. For some it might be fireworks, for some laughing, for others deep healing and lots of tears, or others a deep peace and for others a sort of holy bored-ness, etc. I said that it did not matter if you stood or fell or shook or whatever. What mattered was connecting with God and inviting Him to touch you and minister to you however He wanted to. By then Loni was a laughing heap on the floor.
Then I invited the lady from Oregon up. She was sitting near the back. As she walked forward, the Holy Spirit seemed to fall on her. She began doing a crunching motion from the midsection as she walked forward.
About then the Lord whispered to me, "Teresa, I am in what she is going to say. Let her talk and don't try to control it too much."
She got to the front and started to share, as I held the microphone for her. She was having trouble standing up as the Lord was on her so heavily, so she sort of put her arm around my waste for support. So I put my free arm (the one that was NOT holding the mike) around her waste. We stood there arm in arm as she shared.
She gave the basics of being a pastor's wife from Oregon. Then she started to share her trip to Toronto (almost a year ago). She spoke primarily about the physical manifestations -- primarily how her head kept shaking "NO" violently and would occasionally shake it "yes". She was demonstrating for the group. She was a humorous speaker and everyone was having fun listening to her.
I remembered thinking to myself, "Oh God, what are You doing to me?" I began to figure that my first renewal meeting would also be my last if I let someone go on about physical manifestations. But God told me not to stop her and reminded me that I had given Him control of the meeting.
Well, about 90 seconds after she started talking about the physical manifestations (which seemed like an eternity to me), she said that the Lord showed her that she was having these manifestations because she was stiff-necked -- that she had certain very strigent guidelines of how she would let God move. She started expanding on what God was speaking to her heart about Him wanting to be in control and not limited by our ridgid expectations. She shared how God came and deeply met and restored her once she repented of being stiff-necked and rebellious. Once she stopped limitting God to act only a certain ridgid way, He was able to come and really meet her and set her free from a bunch of things. She went on to explain how He wanted to be the one who was in control -- He wanted to be the Lord. It turned into a very powerful testamony. The emphasis was not on manifestations but on the process of how He taught her to give Him Lordship in her life and of the wonderful change's He'd done in it since she gave Him control. She was go good that I let her talk for close to 10 minutes. The people seemed to be drinking in every word. It was also sort of fun and humorous because the Holy Spirit was on her so heavily that she would sometimes have a bit of trouble speaking and just want to worship Him -- then she'd drop right back into her story from exacatly the point where she'd left off. God's name was glorified and a very strong message when on that not only does He want to be Lord, but it is very good to let Him be Lord.
God orcherstrated it so well. I could not have asked for better testamonies. I breathed a silent prayer of thanksgiving then had the ministry team come up and pray for her. While the prayed for her, I reminded the folks that the main point of ministry is to meet with God, and then asked folks if they'd like to worship a bit and meet with Him. The worship team came up and did another three songs. The songs went right along with the teaching and the testamonies. You'd have tought each detail was carefully planned.
Well, I supposed it was carefully planned -- by God. He is the one who orcherstarted it and made everything fit together so well. It works really good to give Him control of a service -- he does a really good job with it.
At the end of the 3rd worship song, I went back to the mike to invite those who wanted prayer to come forward. The Spirit was already moving heavily over the people and He started showing me what He was doing again. I shared some of what He was doing with the people and remembered being amazed at how easy it was to see in the spirit regarding this. When we invited folks who wanted prayer, the entire congregation seemed to practically run forward, eagar antisipation written all over their faces. It was so neat to watch the people come forward seeking the Lord and watch the Lord meet them. He met many of them before anyone even started to pray for them. It was definately a sovereign work of God and He met with His children. It was so fun and exciting to get to be a part of it. I watched the ministry team members start to move among the people and pray for them. I could see the Lord's presense covering folks like a gentle blanket. Then I started praying for people too. The Lord continued to show up and it was a good evening.
About an hour and a half later, the lady from Oregon came up to me. She had been on the floor receiving from the Lord most of that time and she was simply glowing. I thanked her for her testamony and we gave each other a hug. As we hugged, the Lord's presense seemed to really fall on us. I could barely remain standing. She went down and we both started laughing. I prayed for her for a few minutes and her husband came over and sat on the floor next to her. So I had them take hands and prayed for the both of them -- the next thing I knew, he was overcome with laughter too. Her brother, a member of our church, came over and joined them. Within a few minutes, he was laughing too. Well, folks kept coming up and the Lord kept releasing His joy on them and pretty soon there was a big group of folks on the floor laying side by side and holding hands and full of the joy of the Lord. They were very aware of the Lord's presense and joy on them, but they were also very aware of each other and the Lord seemed to be bonding them together in love. I was struck that this was a prophetic acting out of what God wants to be doing in His Church -- fitting us together in unity and love and allowing us to delight in Him and in each other.
It was an awesome evening for me. I went home truely rejoicing and also filled with a sense of awe. I was so greatful that the Lord allowed me to partisipate with Him in that evening and I was delighted at how wondefully He had shown up and touched/blessed His people.
The next day I got some phone calls -- folks calling to tell me how blessed they were at the meeting and how powerfully God had touched them. In fact, reports kept coming in for several days after that.
On Sunday Bill asked if we could chat after Church. He told me that he'd had lots of really positive feedback on the renewal meeting. He wanted to debreif with me. I told him how I'd taken his suggestion and given control to God and how wonderfully God had shown up and run the meeting. We both rejoiced in the Lord together and then Bill told me that he'd like to have me run more renewal meetings in the future.
It felt like the Lord was saying to me, "See, Teresa. As you give me control and Lordship, I will open more and more doors for you. It really is true -- I am the Vine and you are a branch. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. If you remain in Me and I remain in you, you will bear much fruit -- but without Me you can do nothing... As you choose to remain in Me and to allow Me Lordship, you will be amazed at how I will come into a situation and bring My beauty and My glory into it."
He certainly brought His beauty and His glory into that renewal meeting and I am so greatful that He let me partisipate in it with Him! It was so much fun!
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