Thursday, May 27, 2010
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven....Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, "Ananias." Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Any man that is in Christ is a new creation. The old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.
Saul, or Paul as we know him, has a testimony. Paul was a religious zealot. He knew the bible. He kept the commandments. He did all those things that he were required to do, and then some. He went to "church". He memorized the scriptures. He kept the sabbath. He did all the festivals, etc, etc, etc. He was very religious and he had a good reputation with all the other religious people of his day. Paul's zeal and love for his religion makes most of us look like Hitler! But Paul lacked one thing and what he lacked made him an enemy of God (no matter how much scripture he knew. No matter how "good" he was. No matter how many times he went to church, or kept the sabbath, or did the religious "thing". ) What Paul lacked was the only thing which could bring him into a right relationship with the living God. Paul lacked a relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul was religious...God wants a relationship. No one knows for sure how old Paul (Saul) was when he experienced the presence of God in his life (see scriptures above), but one thing is for sure, he didn't waste another day. He lived the rest of his life for the Glory of God! On that day he became a new creation, he was born-again! For me, it happened on the night of March 4, 2004. But before I get to that point, let me briefly (hopefully) explain to you what my life was like before March 4, 2004.
I came from a pretty typical family (Dad, Mom, older brother, older sister, and me). My parents were very loving. They both had good jobs and worked hard for our family. I don't remember us ever lacking in money, food, clothing, etc. We had what we needed and then some. I don't think we were frivolous but we were well off, and more importantly. we were loved.
As far as religion, I grew up in a catholic home. We were faithful in our chruch attendance, confession, confirmation, stations of the cross, etc, etc, etc. We prayed before meals. Read devotions before meals. But in all honesty, God/Jesus meant nothing to me. I was just doing the religious thing. I wasn't trying to deceive anyone, I just thought this is what we were supposed to do. I don't remember our christian faith being a top priority in our home. Outside of church on sunday, and our quick meal prayers/devotions, I don't remember us talking about Jesus as a family. Of course, I may have been so blinded and deceived that I don't even remember it, but I need to write this from my perspective. To me, Jesus was a small part of our weekly life...but He wasn't OUR LIFE...and least not mine.
From time to time I would pray to God but it was only when I needed something (or didn't want to get something I deserved...like in trouble). My main focus in life was basketball, hunting, fishing, and woman. I found "satisfication" in those 4 things and by the time I was an adult and on my own, those things consumed me. I didn't realize it then, but as I was growing up those things never brought me true satisfaction. I would get tired of hunting and look forward to fishing. I would get tired of one girlfriend, so I would find another. I wouldn't work as hard on the basketball court because there was a more important game coming up. It was a continuous cycle, and I didn't even notice it (Proverbs 4:19). What I liked about all those things is that I was very good at them...and most people noticed! I was SOMEONE! My identify, who I was, was found in those things.
I eventually moved away from home, played college basketball, graduated from 2 colleges, and got a teaching job at a small school in northern MN...right on a great muskie fishing lake (how convenient, I loved musky fishing). The bible says God will allow the wicked to be filled with the fruit of their own fancies (Prov. 1:31). Well, I was loving my fill but it never satisfied.
What satisfies you? What do you fill your life with? What do you have to keep doing over and over and over and over and over again to keep you "satisfied"? For me, it was hunting, fishing, basketball, and woman. What about you?
As I continued coaching, teaching, and hunting/fishing I began to feel more and more unhappy. I thought if I switched schools, maybe that would help. It didn't. I thought if I got a new girlfriend, maybe that would help. It didn't. I thought if I bought a new boat, or a new bow, or whatever, maybe that would help. All those things DID help, but only temporary. I remember the last summer I was living on Leech Lake (2003), I would be heading out to fish, but inside I didn't want to go. I was beginning to hate it and I didn't know why, except that it wasn't giving me satisfaction. Ok, that's not completely true. It would bring me satisfaction if I caught a fish but the satisfaction was only temporary. I need to catch another one, or a bigger one. I needed more. There was this uneasiness while fishing, like something wasn't right. I remember one particular fish I caught that summer. It was a 52" muskie, my biggest one. I remember how awesome I felt when I netted it and got it into the boat for a picture. But after I let it go, I remember laying down in my boat crying. I knew no matter how many fish I caught and no matter how big they were, I would NEVER be satisfied. For the first time in my life, I realized I would NEVER be satisfied in ANYTHING. No matter how many girlfriends I had, it wasn't enough. No matter how many deer I shot, no matter how many basketball games my teams one, etc. I would NEVER be satisfied. Don't get me wrong, on the outside everything looked great, but on the inside I was dying (maybe this is speaking to YOU!). I didn't realize it then, but God was bringing me to the lowest of lows. He was beginning to show me my sin, my guilt, and my shame. He was beginning to show me that my life was just vanity and that nothing was going to satisfy me. I began to realize how awful I had treated my girlfriends (all the lies and cheating), how bad I had treated my family, how I wasted my time/energy/money on things that were just vanity. He was bringing me to repentance...which leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Finally in November of 2003, I had a very serious girlfriend. She was the perfect girl for me (or so I thought). I thought for sure we were going to get married, but in the end my selfishness and sin caught up to me. She eventually moved in with me but through the course of our relationship, once again, I wasn't satisfied. I eventually met another girl on one of those online dating things and since my current girlfriend was in my way, I asked her to move out. I ended it just so I could be with this other woman. It wasn't long after that the Lord began to really work on me (though I didn't know it was Him at the time). I began to feel very guilty and very bad about how wicked of a person I had been all my life. This circumstance was nothing new. I had dumped one girl for another a million times. But something WAS different. I felt horrible. I remember crying so hard one night because I hated the person I was. I needed something but I didn't know what I needed.
One evening as this new girlfriend was traveling to see me (she lived about 2 hours away), her car slipped on a patch of ice, went off the road, and got stuck. Her car wouldn't start so she called a tow truck, got her car towed to the nearest town (Grand Rapids, MN), and I picked her up and brought her back to my house. My sin had caught up to me and I was really down about life...it's purpose, meaning, etc. The next day, while laying in bed, I was at the lowest point of my life. It was March 4, 2004. I was so sick and tired of my life. I had no idea what life was about. I didn't know the reason or meaning of life. I was tired of the girlfriends, tired of the lies, tired of trying to be someone special, and tired of life itself. As I laid in bed that morning, I thought to myself, "what am I going to do". You can call me crazy, that's fine, but I heard, WITHOUT A DOUBT, a voice which said "What about God...what about Me?" Again, call me crazy, but I remember the voice literally startling me! I got up, walked into the kitchen and just started talking to this woman about God (which is very weird because I don't think I had even mentioned the word God to anyone in years). We talked for a while about "God", but eventually she changed the topic to about us. She eventually asked me "what do you think about me, how do you feel about me"? Now remember, I was notorious for lying and I had been asked this questions many times. I had the answer memorized...but I didn't use it. I was honest with her... and SHE FLIPPED OUT (not what I expected)! You probably want to know what I said, but it's not necessary. What is necessary is that she FLIPPED OUT...I mean FLIPPED OUT! I thought this woman was going to kill me. She went from normal to CRAZY in a matter of seconds. She started yelling, screaming, and demanding I take her to her car which was in the shop in Grand Rapids, MN...an hour away!! The last thing I wanted to do was drive an hour in my truck with this insane lady! Now I was REALLY confused. For the first time in my life I told the truth to a woman, and she didn't like it. I eventually conceded to drive her to her car (I brought my dog with me to keep me safe). All the while she was freaking out on me. I was scared and confused. When I dropped her off she said some obscenities to me, slammed the door, and walked away. As I was sitting in the parking lot, for the first time in my life I was scared, alone, and very confused. I'll never forget the place I was parked. Nor will I forget the feelings of loneliness, fear, and uncertainty. I had NO IDEA who I was, what life was about, nor did I care if I lived or died. I was numb!!! I didn't want to go back to the cabin because I was so lonely. For some reason I was scared to be alone (which was VERY weird for me because I was known as a loner).
I eventually made the decision to drive back to the cabin. As I was driving through Grand Rapids, I came to a stop light. While I was sitting there, I noticed a sign for a church. Before I knew it, I was driving down the road heading towards the church. I do not consciously remembering turning or even knowing why I wanted to go to the church. I just knew I had to go in that direction. As I started walking to the door of the church, I felt this warm, breeze coming over me. It was early March, very cold out, yet as I walked to the church this definite warm, cleaning breeze came over me.
I walked into the church and almost immediately a person meet me at the door. I asked if they had a prayer room, which they did. As we were walking through the church to the prayer room, I looked up above the alter and saw an image of "Jesus" that I will never forget. It was a catholic church and so they had the crucified "Jesus" on the cross. It was the most graphic statue I had ever seen. His head was hanging down and His body was completely lifeless (and not just because it was a statue)...it was horrific. I saw it and in one second I went from numb to an uncontrollable cry. I couldn't even walk. I asked the lady if I could just sit here and she said yes, and left me. For over 4 hours I sat in the pew, looking at the statue, thinking about the cross of Jesus, and I couldn't stop crying. I was a mess. I kept saying "I'm sorry", "I'm sorry", "I'm sorry"..."I'm sorry".... over and over and again. I eventually fell asleep in the pew, woke up, and talked to a few people who could tell I was struggling. They eventually prayed with me, and I went on my way. I was still feeling very alone, scared, and somewhat numb. In fact, as I was leaving, I don't remember really thinking about what just happened. All I knew is that it was getting late, I was hungry, and I needed to get home.
As I headed back out, I decided to get something to eat at McDonalds. I've done a lot of traveling in my days. I HATE to stop and eat. I've ALWAYS gone through the drive thru...always...I would order and eat on the go. For some reason this time was different. I went through the drive thru but then stopped to eat in the parking lot. It was just me and my dog. It was about 8:30pm, on March 4, 2004. I turned off my truck.
Let me digress here from a moment. The truck I was driving had been in my family since 1991/92. I don't remember it ever having any problems, and esp. since I owned it. It always started. Until this point, I was unaware of any mechanical problems but as I went to start the truck, nothing happened. It just cranked but would not turn over. It would crank and crank but wouldn't start. So here I was, lost and confused, scared, and in a city I knew nothing about. I was emotionally drained from my 4 hours of crying over the crucifixion, and now my truck wouldn't start. I saw a Super 8 motel down the road. So I kept my dog in the truck while I walked down the road. I remember it being VERY COLD out. When I got to the Super 8, I asked if they allowed dogs, which they did, so I got a room for the night while my truck was towed to the nearest service center. I got into my room, took a shower, and laid down on my bed. I remember sitting there, once again, being numb about life. Not really wanting to live (though I had no intentions of ending my life...I just didn't see thepoint of life).
As I was laying there, I looked over on the dresser and saw a bible sitting on top of the dresser (now that's "weird", the Gideon's bibles are ALWAYS in the dresser not on top). I leaned over, picked it up, and opened it randomly. The first scripture I read was Isaiah 1:16-17: Wash yourself, make yourself clean. Stop doing the evil things I see you do. Stop doing wrong. Learn to do good.
Remeber Paul's experience...and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven (Acts 9:3)...I can't explain it any other way.Words cannot explain what happened to me at that moment. I could try to explain the full impact of those words, but human words will always fall short. I'll let God's words say what happened:
...you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit...Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once...(Acts 9:17-18)...One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see. (John 9:25)....Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
At that moment, I saw all my sin, all my shame, and all my guilt. I saw the purpose of Jesus. I knew He died for me. I knew I could trust Him NO MATTER WHAT. I knew He loved me and died for me. I knew the bible was real, no matter how skeptical I was before. I know this words fall short, but it's the best I can do. If you are a born-again Christian, you know what I am talking about. I believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. At that moment, my life changed. I IMMEDIATELY saw meaning and purpose in life. I saw why I was created. It was as if scales had fallen off my eyes. In a matter of seconds, I was a completely new person.
I remember waking up the next day and having a complete peace and joy that surpassed all understanding. I had no fear about ANYTHING. I remember walking outside and seeing all the sin in the world (billboards, radio stations, songs, the way people dressed, etc). I NEVER noticed any of those things before. I just thought they were a part of life but now I saw them for what they are... a deception and mostly sinful. I had very little bible knowledge at this point, but the Holy Spirit illuminated me to seeing the sin in the world and seeing the sin in my life. I had such a hunger and thrist for the things of God, and it hasn't stopped to this day! I bought a bible. I read it once....and then again...and again. The bible was full of meaning, purpose, and life (Hebrews 4:12).
I KNOW my sins are forgiven! I KNOW I am on my way to heaven. To spend an eternity with the King of Glory...the Lamb that was slain...the Lion of Judah...JESUS!! All Glory to the one who created the heavens and the earth!! I could go on and on about how good God has been to me in my life. Giving me a Godly, God-fearing wife. Blessing me abundantly with children who are being trained up to fear the Lord. Giving me the Holy Spirit to walk in obedience to His commandments. To love righteousness and hate wickedness. To love God and not the things of the world.
I know my testimony is confusing to many people, maybe even you. You just don't understand it. You can't relate to it. I've had many people try to explain away my experience with their philosophy, theology, religion, etc. It is just so foreign to them. If you are not a born-again Christian but you are just religious, I expect you have no idea what I am talking about. It's like trying to tell someone who doesn't have kids what it is like to have and love kids! Again, they don't understand it. But if the Lord has so tugged at your heart and made you a new creation, you KNOW exactly what I'm talking about. You and I have experienced the Words of Life. You and I have come to the fountain of living water, we drank of it, and thirst no more! GOD IS SO GOOD!! God has revealed Himself to me over and over again in the last 6 years. The truth is, most people are filling their life with things that mean nothing, with things that do not satisfy. We watch endless TV. We spend hours on the internet. We spend money on books, clothes, cars, vacations, houses, sports, pleasures, and the list could go on and on. For me, it was basketball, hunting, fishing, and woman. Now, I know where my identity lies...in Christ. Who I am and what I boast in is all about Jesus. He is EVERYTHING to me. I serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! It's ALL ABOUT JESUS!! Clicking on the below link will send you to a video titled, That's My King. It is a 7 minute video that is AWESOME! Please watch it.
So what about you? What is your testimony? Are you saved? Are you a born-again Christian or you just religious? Do you know ABOUT Jesus or do you KNOW Jesus? Is Christ EVERYTHING to you!?!? Heed the words of Jesus, "YOU MUST BE BORN-AGAIN."
Wash yourself, make yourself clean. Stop doing the evil things I see you do. Stop doing wrong. Learn to do good. (Isaiah 1:16-17)
To God be the Glory for saving me and creating a clean heart in me, for HIS GLORY! It's all about Jesus!
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Probably the most memorable conversation I had (besides the 19 hour drive down) was with a New Orleans fireman. It was during the morning on Fat Tuesday and we were set up by the local fire department. As I was holding my sign, one of the older fireman started saying some pretty nasty and mean things to me (things with a lot of swear words). He was really mocking the Gospel and our "efforts" to share the truth. It really shocked me, not because he was saying these things, but because he was saying them in Uniform! It was pretty obvious he was, in part, trying to impress the "rookies" on the fireteam. Every now and then he would look over at his buddies and laugh.
My first comment to him was in regards to his behavior as a civil public servant for the city of New Orleans. In fact, for a lengthy time I didn't even address Jesus, but rather his poor representation of the NOFD and him being a horrible role model for the "rookies". It was pretty obvious he did not care for the things of God (although he did say he was a christian and goes to church every Sunday - big surprise)! It seemed like we went back and forth for 10-15 minutes about his behavior. But then something happened. I don't "know" what it was but the conversation turned to the Spiritual and this man's countenance changed. He stopped talking so much and asked a lot of good questions. He stopped swearing and mocking the Gospel. I was able to give him my testimony and I was able to give him the Gospel. I noticed several of the "rookies" were listening pretty intently...most "smiles" were gone. By the end of the conversation, this guy was thanking me for talking to him and he apologized for how he started our conversation. About 30 minutes after we got done talking, a girl was brought over to the fireteam. She was having trouble breathing and the entire team was around her. They placed her on the edge of the firetruck and gave her some oxygen. Out of the blue, the fireman I had been talking to yelled to me, "Hey Steve, this girl could really use your prayers right now. Pray for her." He said this in front of all the other fireman, and he wasn't kidding! Like I said, I don't know what happened but it seemed the Lord had softened his heart for the time being. When I was back at camp after the day was over, all the preachers were sitting around the dinner table. I was getting ready to go to the Airport. One of the preachers asked me if I had talked to a fireman earlier in the day. Which of course I had. He said the fireman specifically sought out the preacher and asked him if he knew Steve. The preacher said the fireman had nothing but good things to say about me and he said my passion for Jesus was very evident. He also said later in the day a fire was called in and for some reason the fireman was thinking about me on the way to the fire. I never saw the fireman again but maybe one day I will!!
The other conversation I was a part of happened on the evening of the last day, Fat Tuesday. Another preacher, Kevin, and I were doing one-on-one conversations with other preachers (for Kevin's weekly TV show). As we were setting up to interview one of the preachers, a young man ran up to Kevin. He had seen our banners from a distance and remembered Kevin from last year. To keep it short, this guy was a professing christian and had seen Kevin and his ministry on Bourbon Street last year. This guy was really mad at Kevin's ministry last year because of all the banners and preaching. He felt they were so "judgmental" and "condemning" and he voiced his opinion to them last year. However, this guys testimony doesn't stop there. I highly encourage you to watch the video below. Often times people say our type of ministry (open-air preaching/banners) produces no "fruit" and only turns people off or away from God. I won't defend this now, but the video below obviously proves this wrong. Praise the Lord!
To watch the video you need to click the "play" arrow at the lower left corner of the grey rectangle. It might take a few minutes to "buffer" before playing. If you still cannot view the video, click the following link:
1 Corinthians 3:5-8
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Video of "Blah, Blah, Blah"
Friday, February 26, 2010
Example of the rooms where we stayed at Jesus Miracle Power
At around 5pm all the preachers met in the sanctuary for debriefing and prayer time. There was about 15 of us, from all over the country, with one mission...sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. After prayer, we all jumped into our assigned vans, heading for Bourbon Street. Bourbon Street is a one-way street with bars, restaurants, and rental houses/apartments lining it. You can fit one maybe 2 cars on it. The people line the street for about 20 blocks or so, walking up and down, drinking, talking, partying, etc. Bourbon Street during the day and at night
For the first night, we all stayed together. Most preachers had banners, bullhorns, and video cameras. It was pretty neat when we walked onto Bourbon Street. There were a lot of people, most were drunk but we walked right into their "party" holding our massive signs.
We set up and began preaching using our bullhorns. If we didn't use bullhorns our voices would be gone within in hour because of how loud it was on Bourbon Street. The response we got was very typical to any other place I've preached. Some people loved that we were there, most hated it (John 7:7). But all that mattered to us is that the name of Jesus was exalted and we spoke truth into these people's lives. The bible tells us, "Open rebuke is better than secret love." (Proverbs 27:5). We spaced out a little which allowed several preachers to preach with bullhorns all at one time. We just faced different directions. We took turns preaching, passing out tracts, holding signs, and videotaping (you can see me videotaping another preacher in the above picture right of center).
The first night was pretty much what I expected. A lot of people and a lot of opportunities to share the Gospel. Even if we didn't preach, the people would come up to us and ask questions. This is one of the many reasons why I love using banners. So often we pray for opportunities to witness (or say something like "I'll just wait for God to bring me someone), when in reality we are called to GO OUT and tell the people. Sure, we get to share our faith in many different circumstances (like when God brings people to us by "chance" - like my road trip), but I have found much greater joy in actually being obedient to God's call to GO and lay it all out there for people to come to me. Don't get me wrong, I am always nervous but the Lord has never failed me. You GO and they'll COME!
The first night ended around midnight. We jumped back into our vans and headed back to "camp". Back at "camp" there is a guy named William. He is not a resident at the place, he is a helper. He is the cook and he cooked us three meals a day (and I'm not talking peanut butter and jelly)! He cooked us spaghetti, steak, ribs, roast beef...it was always a 3-5 course meal. Even when we came back at 1 or 2 in the morning, William was in the kitchen cooking food for the preachers. He would serve us individually and he would always ask us if we needed more. This was probably the best blessing about the whole trip. Little William doing his part to further the Kingdom of God. He's not a preacher. He's not a bible scholar. He's a servant of the Lord doing his part for the body of Christ. He was a true servant, laying down his life for the brethren. Of course we did not take advantage of him, but he would do anything he was asked to do, no complaints, always with a smile on his face. He was a true blessing and no doubt one of the main highlights of this trip. While we preached during the day, he would go into our rooms, make our beds and clean up. After about the 4th day, he even gave all of us a trash bag to put our individual clothes in. He then did our laundry, folded it, and returned it to us. NOW THAT'S SERVING THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND LOVING THE BRETHREN!
The hardest thing about preaching on Bourbon Street was the beads (you know, the things everyone wears around their neck). People wear them, not because of the woman, but because everyone else is wearing them. Really it is pretty stupid! But, these things were weapons for the people, and they used them. They would WHIP these things at us from the Balcony's above. Thankfully our banners offered us protection (and the fact that most people were too drunk to throw straight). I wore a baseball cap and this helped as well. Some preachers wore safety glasses which I would no doubt bring if I ever preach there again. By the end, the people began to whip them at us right in front of us. We'd be preaching and you'd keep your eye out for a flying bead necklace. Once again, praise the Lord that no one was seriously injured. A few red marks but that's about it.
By the time I finally went to sleep on Saturday it was past 3am (after preaching, eating, showering), I had been up for over 48 hours. I was exhausted but the Lord had blessed me abundantly!
And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
At the Budget Rental in the MSP Airport before leaving on our trip (one of the members was taking the picture)
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.