Last week, I got a series of twitter messages that brought some inspiration for this post. They are as follow:
• The no heat/AC garage storage room where my dad birthed a 1,000 soul revival at 5AM daily 1:42 PM Aug 20th via Twitter for iPhone
• The financial cost? Zero! The killing the flesh cost? Staggering. Went on for 20 years. 1:45 PM Aug 20th via Twitter for iPhone
• I looked inside that tiny hot closet yesterday and it felt like I was standing in front of a burning bush. Take off your shoes 1:48 PM Aug 20th via Twitter for iPhone
• His altar was a knee high floor fan with a blanket on top and a quilt on the floor. When Zion travails. Let's have another planning session 1:50 PM Aug 20th via Twitter for iPhone
• God, where is Elijah? He put his head between his knees into the Oriental birthing position. The effectual fervent prayer ... availeth much Friday, August 20, 2010 1:55:31 PM via Twitter for iPhone
• Planning is essential and I need help in this area. However Paul said, first of all PRAYER Friday, August 20, 2010 2:20:11 PM via Twitter for iPhone
All of these came from Pastor Jerry Dean who pastors The Pentecostals of Bossier City in Louisiana. The pictures that accompanied the first tweet:
When I read those tweets, I felt immediately convicted. Here I am the same kind of pastor, preaching the same kind of doctrine, moving in the same avenues of men, attempting to move in same realms of the Spirit. . . . minus a 5 AM prayer meeting. . . or a 6 AM prayer meeting. . . or a 7 AM prayer meeting. “Oh, I pray,” I say to myself. But confronted by a garage closet that had no heat or AC, I realize that my little prayer is so disjointed and distracted that there is no wonder that active apostolic ministry only occasionally finds its way into my life.
Brother Dean’s father, Bill, also a WW II vet, found a place to move his world in a very humble place. Try to put the majority of modern day pastors and evangelists in a little hovel like that and tell them to pray and one would hear loud protests. No carpet? No wall murals? No music? No books? No cool office? When the real facts are that the modern day apostolic church is choking on carpet, wall murals, music, books, and fancy offices. Devoid of power but “wow!” don’t we have all the nifty gadgets and tricks and the stuff? All the planning sessions in the world will only fill our churches with crowds who never experience the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit. Could it be that we are so busy pursuing cool that we have become lukewarm?
I feel the overwhelming weight of ministry. I am consumed with the busy responsibilities of the problems of people’s lives. I feel the financial pressures of embarking on a building program while trying to juggle our responsibilities to our Foreign Missionaries and Home Missionaries who need our money too. I feel the grip of evil on the families in the church I pastor. I stay awake at night worrying and wrestling with their challenges. Sometimes I am awakened at night with the same burdens for the people. I wonder at the fits and starts of those who cannot make up their mind as to whether or not God is big enough to work out the tangled webs they weave. I feel the pressure of preaching holiness to a generation that does not want to hear my cry for separation from the world. I feel the pressure of feeling like I am too mean and too authoritative and too dictatorial while at the same time knowing the terror of the Lord and trying to persuade them as Paul did.
But I have to confess that I am also rigorously busy trying to get the best out of both worlds—my material world and God’s spiritual world. I want the big house in the gated community, the fancy car(s) in the garage, the big bank account, the nifty executive suite of an office, the honor and respect of the community AND a walloping apostolic church where people are delivered, the prophet’s mantle, a command of the Scriptures, and a powerful prayer life. See. . . the best of both worlds. . .
Then the jolt comes, I see Brother Dean’s father’s prayer closet in a garage via twitter. Another jolt comes as I look at a rock that Tim Kelley got for me from G. A. Mangun’s memorial service. Another shock comes when I read the scribbled words in J. T. Pugh’s book “The Wisdom and the Power of the Cross” that he personally addressed to me back in 1995. Still another jolt comes when I look at the mantle that I received in the Columbus, Ohio General Conference hanging on a towel rod in my study. It will never happen until I can find a closet of prayer.
When Brother Dean’s twitter came across last week, for once in about a 1000 times, TECHNOLOGY was used by the Spirit and it smote my heart! I felt so humbled. . . I felt so convicted. . . I felt so average. . . I felt so lukewarm. . . To my crowd and under (I am 43) the old men are leaving us! Note it . . . in the last few years we have lost N. A. Urshan, E. L. and Nona Freeman, T. W. Barnes, J. T. Pugh, and most recently G. A. Mangun. . . Who will replace them? They were men who prayed earnestly and moved forward in the place of prayer. Prayer mattered to them. . . it doesn't matter as much to us because we fall for the snare of superficial substitutes.
So I prayed. . . and prayed. . . and prayed. . . maybe this is a new beginning. . .
Gracious God, forgive us of our backslidings from our closets. Forgive us of thinking that we can manage and manipulate true spiritual revival with weak, human, beggarly techniques. Forgive us for getting so exalted with our education, our gadgets, our stuff, our things, and our money. Please forgive us for not being able to get on our knees and cry out for You to invade our churches, one more time. Forgive us for loading our bookshelves with books so we look like we are in touch and are smart. Gracious God, forgive us of our backslidings from our closets.
Gracious God, please forgive us for making ministry a profession instead of calling. Forgive us for our petty competitions and ceaseless bickering that does nothing but put little scorecards in our spirits that keep getting longer and longer. Please, God, help us forget the offenses and the little slights for it is eating our passion and our dreams and our visions away. . .
Great God, please wash us from the dirtiness of our human ambition and elevate us to a place where we are willing to sweat as we tug our Crosses. Help us to quit glorying in how big our crowds are and how big the budget is and how good the sermons are. Pull that kind of glory out of us and put the glory of the Cross in us. Help us to find comfort in our crosses and let those crosses put us in closets, just like the one that Brother Dean has shared with us. Please pull all the hurt from our heart no matter where it came from whether it was from district boards, church boards, or just regular folks. It can even be the disappointments with where we are and what we have done, please pull all of that stuff out of us! We know that all of that stuff only makes us fresh targets for bitterness and revenge and it paralyzes Your Spirit in us. Gracious God, please, please forgive us of our backslidings from our closets.
Savior, Redeemer, Shepherd, when You are finished cleansing us all the filthiness of the flesh, would You please just show up one more time in our places of worship on Sunday? Can You please brush us one more time with the innocence of that first anointing that came to us in the early years? Just once more, Lord, move through your men in America. We are fragile, weak, and sometimes confused vessels but way down deep we still feel the remnants of that first calling, that first burst of strength that came from another world, and even though it has been so long ago, we remember. . . The glory may have departed but we well remember what it was like so long ago. Gracious God, forgive us of our backslidings from our closets.
Lord, it isn’t just for our sakes that we are pleading with You about this restoration of the closet. It is for the mostly good folks who come every week to a place of worship. They need You just as badly as I do. So as I stumble to my closet, I am sure that You will be there! Amen. . .