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Friday, December 9, 2011

THE CONTINUING JOURNEY

Whew! Dizzy with sleep and feeling nauseous from a combination of jet lag and back to back meetings, I flopped onto the familiarity of my own bed and slept undisturbed for four hours.
My whirlwind ministry tour, which began on November 11, had come to an end.

I flew firstly to Ireland, where I spoke to 190 young people at a retreat center, about an hour out of Dublin. The first question I asked these Irish kids was, "What are you doing inviting a near 60 year old to speak to you? Don't you know there is a supposed generation gap?" At the end of the meetings I was dubbed, 'the 60 year old teenager.'  I took this as a compliment. I am a firm believer God keeps us young at heart, but mature in experience.
The young people in Ireland

We witnessed kids from conflict fatigued Belfast, rough, tough, and ready to rumble, throw down their cigarettes and attitudes and give their lives to Christ. We saw bunches of young people at the altar, jumping and dancing and praising God for nearly an hour. They were free and they knew it.  The New Covenant, not only maintains revival, it creates it.

From the youth retreat I next went to a bible school, in Cork. Noline, joined me on this part of the journey. What a delight to again be among the young and dedicated, who have accepted the invitation to become equipped for God to use. Let me tell you, there is a new generation of radical Christians on the rise. Globally, we are witnessing a reviving of young people. Kids, who are sick of the world wide recession, and the mess parents and grandparents have made of the economy, are turning in huge numbers to Jesus Christ for the answer.

Pastor Nick & Katherine Cassidy
From Cork, we flew on to Greenock, Scotland. Here several churches gathered together in their city hall, for a combined meeting. Again, we saw the Lord touch many hearts as they responded to a call to serve God unashamedly.

No sooner were we back in Ukraine from Scotland, and I was off to the USA, to meet with long time friend and pastor, Gary Wilkerson, and The Springs Church. (Read on down and get the whole scoop on the next leg of our journey.) By this time, while in CO, I must be honest, I did not know whether I should be sleeping or waking. My only prayer was, 'Lord, please make sense of everything I should say.'

Back to Ukraine, after a week in Colorado and with just one day to catch up on washing, I was off again to Ivano Frankivsk, and the revival meetings there. One more time, I witnessed dozens of young people hit the front of the hall to commit their lives to Christ. The end of the meeting resulted in them dancing and jumping to the beat of the Holy Spirit's call on their lives. We are witnessing a fresh awakening everywhere, no one person is heading up this work. It is a move of the Spirit. It is simply a joy to behold and play a small part in what God is doing.

Now, down to earth a little. I must confess, one of the great delights of my heart is still riding the Ukrainian, trains. Call me a romantic, or just silly, but you just can't beat the clickity-clack, of tons of steel rumbling along its tracks. I love the smile I get from the overnight conductor of our car, when I try to ask for tea and snacks in my limited Russian. No one can be offended with you if you truly love people, they know it and they feel it.

Let me take a few moments to encourage you in your faith. Now stay tuned, don't get bored after reading the "catch-up" of recent events. I want to finish up on this third message which I have called, "Bumping into God."

Initially, it doesn't sound too theological, in fact it does not sound like a book title, I would necessarily pick up and read. However, it is a fact, throughout the bible, men and women continuously 'bumped into God.' They were not deliberately seeking or even trying to find God, in any etherial manner, but bump into God they did.
Some of the young people from W.Ukraine

Take for instance, an old man, probably resigned to life in the remote parts of the Sinai, peninsular, who sees a bush on fire, yet the plant is not consumed. The scriptures do not say he was seeking God at the time, or that there was any indication he was in deep meditative prayer. Yet, here, this matured sage, all alone, sees in the distance an unusual sight which grips his imagination. His intrigue and inquisitiveness to investigate this phenomena would change his life and direction forever.

Little did Moses, know, but he was about to "bump" into God, when he got out of bed that particular morning. Those familiar with the bible story, know this historical account became the turning point for 80 year old Moses, the children of Israel, and Egypt. God who had promised deliverance 400+ years earlier, was now about to make good on His word and set His people free. And it began by allowing Moses to 'bump' into His presence in that desert.

Take the military strategist, Joshua. He is on a recce to Jericho, in order to calculate just how to over power that great walled city, and destroy it. Yet, it is here, while Joshua is standing alone, that he "bumps" into God. Suddenly, he is confronted by a man with a sword drawn,  a symbol of being ready to fight. Most commentators agree, this was a Theophany. A manifestation of Christ. Joshua, was about to learn one of the greatest secrets of all. God, is still the God of the impossible.


Praying for those at the altar in Ukraine
I think of Saul of Tarsus, intoxicated with anger and murder towards the Christians of his day. With giddying speed he was journeying to Damascus in order to imprison believers in that city. Yet, on his road of destruction he "bumps" into the glory of Christ and falls to the ground, being both stunned and bewildered. "Who are you?" Saul enquired. And the answer came through loud and clear, "I am Jesus!"

His life was changed and his journey of penal retribution was reverted to one of grace and mercy. I could go on ad infinitum with similar incredible stories of biblical and historical magnitude. But the amazing fact remains, THERE ARE TIMES when you are not looking for God in any particular way and yet He shows up, you bump into Him, and your lives are forever changed.

Let me now bring this into view in our own lives.
Kris playing his sax

This last summer, was to be a non-preaching trip back to the United States from Ukraine. We were going to visit our two other children and their families in Denver, CO, and Boca Raton, FL, respectively. Both sets had requested we do not book any preaching engagements. They wanted uninterrupted quality time with their parents. I guess we must be loved after all. Lol.

On the first leg of our family tour, we went to Denver. To my surprise, since we had told no one we were in town, I received a call from Gary Wilkerson, in Colorado Springs. It was a Saturday evening and he asked if I would drive down the next day and speak for him at the Springs church. I was delighted to hear from him. Our mutual love and friendship goes back almost 17 years. Noline, and I felt at "home" with Gary and Kelly, from the very first visit to their church in 1995.

After the service that Sunday, Gary and I were chatting casually. He asked how long I anticipated being in Ukraine, and I told him honestly, approximately 10 years. His response was a sigh followed by, "I was worried about that." I asked him why? And then the 'bomb shell.' "Well, I was wanting to ask you if you would come and join me in the work here at The Springs Church."

Listen, folks, this is what I call, BUMPING INTO GOD! This was God asking me through Pastor Gary. God has these moments in life which cannot be planned for, or orchestrated by human ingenuity. These are as far as we are concerned, spontaneous and course changing encounters. Nothing less! It is all of God and His plans. You know it, just like Moses knew it, at the burning bush, and like Gideon hiding by the winepress threshing wheat, knew it.

You know it is God because the Holy Spirit is there at these moments bringing back to memory conversations held years ago. In an instant, I had a 'flash back' to nine years earlier. Noline and I were sitting in the courtyard of World Wide Plaza, in NYC. We were drinking a "Venti, skim, extra hot, no foam latte." She very casually said, "I had an interesting devotional time today." "Go on." I said. "Well, while in prayer, I had the strongest sense you would be working with Gary again." "Hmmm, well, Noline, I can't see that happening in the near future but keep it in your heart and we will let God be God." I said.

So when Gary, mentioned joining him in The Springs Church, Noline's devotional time flooded back instantly into my memory. I immediately shared it with Gary and said, "I will give you a provisional yes, right now, based on what God spoke to Noline years earlier." We met a few more times to pray together and discuss the future.

Am I sad to be leaving Ukraine? Absolutely! God has done a marvelous reviving work among the churches here. And not only Ukraine, but Ireland, Scotland, England, Poland and Latvia. He has also given us friends who have loved us whole heartedly. They have stood with us and helped us with some of the most basic things here, like getting our furnace fixed.

A missionary and his Ukrainian wife, an artist, here in the village we live in, chose to make friends with 'old people.' Yes we will miss them. We are sorrowful, and rightly so, as we also leave behind our "dortchka," (daughter) and her family. Yes, there has to be sorrow unless we were nothing more than 'game players.' Grieving, is part of the package. You give your heart to people and it is hard to walk away unaffected by their love in return.

But God, who has our heart, stood in the way and we "bumped" right into Him. His plans supersede all of our own. You just need to have courage to go with Him. You need courage to say "yes," when you know everyone else will probably see things only from their perspective.

The road to Colorado Springs from Denver
Noline and I are positively excited and over the moon happy to join the staff with Gary and Kelly Wilkerson. They are family, we have history, and we greatly respect the two of them. The founding leaders of the Springs Church, are phenomenal people, whom we already love and respect. And as this season in Ukraine draws to a close, we honestly, with bated breath, await God's mighty outworking in Colorado Springs.

Thank you Lord, for standing in the way and allowing us to "BUMP INTO YOU."