“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
I shared this message of personal testimony at the 24-Hour Fasting and Prayer Event on November 2, 2018 at my church. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Let us pray. Faithful Shepherd, You persistently pursue Your children until You find them. Tonight, we ask for hearts sensitive to those who are lost and outside the family of God, as well as sensitive to those struggling within. Heavenly Father, we ask for confident faith like Abraham who, despite stumbling at times, walked in obedience and faith, even believing You for the seemingly impossible. For scripture teaches us that Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness (Romans 4:3). Like Abraham, we know that nothing is impossible for God. Holy Spirit, we ask that You convict our lukewarm hearts, ignite them, set them ablaze, with Your righteous love overflowing, and mold us into the image of Jesus Christ. And it is in Jesus’ holy and precious name we pray. Amen.
God’s grace is nothing short of amazing! And the fact that I am standing here tonight sharing my walk with Jesus Christ is not only proof that God doesn’t call the qualified, rather qualifies those He calls, but it also attests to the fact that all things are truly possible with God. Believe me when I say, brothers and sisters, that I am a most unlikely vessel. Everything that I have experienced, all that God has shown me, none of it has been the result of my own righteousness. No, every bit of it is the product of God’s grace. My life, my eternal destiny, my very existence, bear witness to His unfathomable grace. And tonight, I am going to share with you an unimaginable, exciting, humbling, powerful, loving, words cannot do justice, spiritual encounter, which continues to reverberate in my life today. From the time I was a little boy, I had wanted to give Jesus a hug, and one night, several years ago, my request was granted; actually, Jesus was the one who hugged me. And He did so much more. I’m going to share with you the night I met Jesus.
One night, several years ago, a friend and I were praying in my living room. My friend was sitting on my couch, and I was kneeling on the floor, directly across the coffee table from him. Suddenly, as calmly as can be, my friend looked over and said that the Lord was standing next to me. Before I could react, Jesus leaned down and hugged me. I don’t know how to describe my immediate reaction; it all happened so fast. I was already on my knees, so I turned and knelt before Him with my face down at His feet, but the Lord directed me to stand up. Jesus said to me that sons do not kneel before their fathers; that moment, I hope I never forget, for as long as I live! The Lord smiled at me with such great love, while I fumbled about. I can still feel His smile. I realize now that when Jesus looked at me that night, He wasn’t looking upon my sins; in fact, there was no sin to look upon, at least not in that moment, because when the Lord looked at me, He saw Himself. I just knew that I was in the presence of the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, yet I was struck by His gentleness, His humility, and His understanding. It would have been an impossibility not to see that Jesus held the universe in his hand. Yet there was no pride, absolutely no haughtiness; I was all that mattered to Him. Jesus saw into my innermost being; He knew my thoughts and everything else there is to know about me. He answered my questions before I asked them; He knew my thoughts before I thought them. The Lord went on to tell me that He is always with me, and that He has always been with me; moreover, Jesus said that He stands behind me on my left, with his hand on my shoulder; His right hand, I believe. I only shared this miraculous encounter with a handful of people, at the time. Now fast forward, to a few months ago, I was visiting with my friend, the same friend with me that night, and as we were talking, in a flash, I saw myself kneeling in my living room, on the other side of my coffee table. Next I saw a man dressed in white put his arm around me. The man was Jesus, and everything was just as it was that night. I didn’t even realize what I had been shown, fully, until the next day. And from that vision, I finally felt free to share the experience openly. The Lord’s expression of love was not just meant for me, alone, and that is why I am so overjoyed to share it with anyone willing to listen.
My recollection of that night is like that of an extremely vivid dream; a memory that is more profound, more substantial, more real to me, than my recollection of just a few minutes ago. And that is why I can still see His face; I can still feel the warmth of His smile; I can still sense His presence with me. It’s difficult to put into words what a joy it is for me to have finally been given the opportunity to share this wondrous account with you tonight! Tonight is surely a divine appointment, which has taken time, the fruit of circumstances and events, and of course, God working all things out for His good purpose, because I’ve carried this amazing encounter, around with me, for a quite a while now, and I never anticipated standing here before you recounting it. No, I did not. Nothing in any of the dreams, visions, or words, which I have ever received, by the Holy Spirit, is new; the Bible is already written, and God has always spoken to me through, and according to, His Word. He does not add to His Word, nor does God take away, and that night was no different. Everything Jesus said and everything Jesus did that night was said and done for a precise purpose. There is nothing idle about God; God is deliberate and purposeful. God is never wasteful; God is fruitful. “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace —as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Each of Jesus’ words and actions were full of meaning. That night reaffirmed that sinners, never find themselves. I mean, come on now, how could one stumbling in darkness ever find the light on their own? No, the Good Shepherd comes for His sheep. So, what other truths, what other promises of God did the Lord impart that night? Let’ us take a closer look at six points.
1. Before I could react, Jesus leaned down and hugged me. I don’t know how to describe my immediate reaction; it all happened so fast. I was already on my knees, so I turned and knelt before Him with my face down at His feet, but the Lord directed me to stand up. Jesus said to me that sons do not kneel before their fathers; that moment, I hope I never forget, for as long as I live! Wow! All of a sudden Romans 8:17 became a whole lot more real to me! “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Humanity is like no other creation. I am a co-heir with Christ! You are a co-heir too, if you belong to Him. We are predestined to be conformed to the image of our Lord. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Romans 8:29). Just think about that!
2. I realize now that when Jesus looked at me that night, He wasn’t looking upon my sins; in fact, there was no sin to look upon, at least not in that moment, because when the Lord looked at me, I realize He saw Himself. And why should that have come as such a surprise to me? “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19). So, no, this is not a new revelation at all. We in Christ are righteous and holy, because He is righteous and holy.
3. I just knew that I was in the presence of the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, yet I was struck by His gentleness, His humility, and His understanding. We humans, more often than not, exert an awful lot of effort beating our chests, and puffing ourselves up, in order to exemplify strength. After all, the natural human response to being struck on the cheek is definitely not to turn and offer up the other. Don’t believe me? Just think about all the terrible insults onlookers said to our Lord, while He hung on the cross. “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!’” (Mark 15:29-30). And that got me wondering; based on my own behavior at times, what insults might I have hurled at Jesus. I might have yelled at our Lord to strike back. Remind Him that He didn’t start this fight, but He ought to finish it. Tell Him that He deserves to be happy. Who knows? I may have even accused our Lord of being a doormat. I recognize that I sound an awful lot like Satan when He tempted the Lord in the desert, and worse yet, that’s what the world has too often seen in my witness. Not an easy admission for me, but a necessary one. You see, God doesn’t need my excuses, but He does want my confession.
4. It would have been an impossibility not to see that Jesus held the universe in his hand. Yet there was no pride, absolutely no haughtiness; I was all that mattered to Him. Jesus saw into my innermost being; He knew my thoughts and everything else there is to know about me. Satan whispers in our ear that God is far away, and too often, we believe his lie, but what does scripture tell us? “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” (1 John 3:1). Therefore, let us not be content to go on confining Jesus to the pages of the bible we read, or think of God from a far off distance, let alone remain ignorant of the reality of the principalities and powers beseeching the people of God. There is a war raging all around us rather we like it or not. But take heart, brothers and sisters, if you’re in Christ, then Christ is in you. God’s never far away from those who love Him. Rest assured, each and every one of your hairs are numbered. You are loved.
5. He answered my questions before I asked them. He knew my thoughts before I thought them. One of the specific points Jesus made that night was that He is past, present, and future all rolled into one. Now let’s be honest, outside of young, googly-eyed lovers, all that finishing sentences and thoughts done by anyone else would’ve probably gotten pretty irritating, but Jesus knew exactly what He was doing, and it still encourages me to this day. Jesus met my needs. Jesus demonstrated His faithfulness. “’Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’” (Matthew 14:28-32).
6. The Lord went on to tell me that He is always with me, and that He has always been with me; moreover, Jesus said that He stands behind me on my left, with his hand on my shoulder; His right hand, I believe. Jesus’ words made it plain to me that He knew me before I was born, even before time began, in fact. I was redeemed, not through my effort, but by the Father’s righteous decree, and everything else, which has happened, in my life has been me living out that salvation. Remember what Jesus said to His disciples, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life” (John 6:44-47). Check out what Jesus says in verses 45 and 46, “Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.” Was Jesus referring to merely Himself, or was Jesus referring to those of us sent to Him by the Father? I contend the latter is true. Consider what Jesus goes on to say later in John, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (10:27-29). Consider what God says to Moses in Exodus 33:19 upon whom He’ll have mercy. Consider the potter and the clay. Consider the Parable of the Weeds. Consider Romans Chapter 8 and God’s “foreknowledge”. I strongly encourage you to spend this time of fasting and prayer pondering the deepness and richness of God’s love. I’ve merely touched the surface of how entrenched we are in the Father’s love; our relationship runs deeper than any of us can possibly understand. I am speaking to you tonight of agape; the highest form of love.
How could I not begin to wonder how much of what I’ve come to believe, how much of what I’ve come to understand, has poured out of that one brief encounter with God? I had a similar experience, prior to this night, in which I consumed the Word of God in a dream. I dreamt that I was standing in a dark place and saw a bible sitting on a pedestal in front of me. I opened the bible, and the brightest light shined from within its pages, yet it didn’t hurt to look. I began to rip out pages, one after the other, as someone starved, and ate them. The pages tasted sweet and satisfied my hunger. I was filled. Afterward, the dream lead me think of Ezekiel eating a scroll. I see how the two events are intertwined, not only as they bear witness to my own walk, but how they bear witness to all of yours’ as well. God has shown me that the blessing never belonged to me. The blessing was never mine to possess all to myself. So, keep an eye on anyone touting their blessings, and see what they do with them, because blessings are meant to be shared, to be fruitful, not hoarded away, and certainly not buried in the ground (Matthew 25:25; Luke 19:20). People of God, heed the Parable of the Talents, for we are the light of the world. We know that a city on a hill cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14). We must step out of obscurity. We must step outside of complacency. We must resist our pride, as well as our fear, and let God shine our light, His light, into a dark world, which will only despise us all the more for it. Go back and read the parable sometime; consider the master’s response to the unfruitful, unfaithful servant. We will also be recognized by our fruit. If our words lose their saltiness, then what good are they to anyone? (Matthew 5:13)
I’ll close this evening by sharing two visions I received pertaining to Riverlawn, but I believe also just as relevant to the church at large. In the first vision I received, fire flew into the sanctuary engulfing everyone and everything in its path. When the flames disappeared much less remained, but what remained had been refined. “If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). And I saw the devil standing off to the side observing all that had happened. Years later (actually just a few months ago), I received another vision standing outside the cottage looking toward the gym. When I stretched out my hand, and touched the air with my finger, I saw some kind of rippling effect; the best description would be that of a force field on Star Trek. I looked up into the sky and saw a dark spiritual power hovering above the church. Next, the Holy Spirit took me into the sanctuary and showed me a large beating heart that had grown lukewarm, and I was given the impression that it was dying. Speaking to the Church in Laodicea, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16). I was deeply troubled and saddened by what I was shown, but I was also grateful for the warning. God is rich in mercy.
Our Jesus, the same gentle and understanding Jesus I met that night, called the Pharisees “a brood of vipers”, and the Apostle Peter admonished Simon the Sorcerer that his heart was “full of bitterness and captive to sin.” Jesus is God, and Peter was surely operating in the Holy Spirit. Yet today, I fear that Jesus and Peter would be the ones vilified, while the Pharisees and Simon would be the ones indulged. What a shame that our witness has been so diminished, and our credibility compromised, that even Jesus Christ, Himself, and the Apostle Peter, would likely be tossed out onto the street by any number of congregations today. Too many of us seem perfectly content to know only a side of our Savior, but He is the law and the prophets fulfilled! I fear our idea of love is too often shortsighted, and consequently, our perception of God is too often a creation crafted in our likeness. But the Lord is gentle in His rebuke, for creating idols is easy to do. Referring to King Hezekiah, “He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan)” (2 Kings 18:4). Even that which God gives us for our good, in this case the bronze serpent, we can turn into an idol. You see, the Jesus I met that night was the same Jesus who called the Pharisees “a brood of vipers”. He was of the same Spirit who moved Peter to rebuke Simon. But whereas, we, humans, habitually operate out of pride, resort to slander, pick up a stone as a favorite “go-to” response to anything, or anyone, we find objectionable, Jesus, on the other hand, whether in complement or correction, always operated in love. There’s so much more to Jesus than what we might be accustomed to reading on the side of a coffee mug, or finding in a feel-good, inspirational meme. There is a reason why Jesus was nailed to a cross. There is a reason why the world hated Him then and continues to hate Him today. We must embrace the whole person of Jesus Christ, or we embrace none of Him. You know that business of not being able to serve two masters in Matthew 6; that isn’t just about money.
The Apostle Paul called Corinth a carnal church: “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). We must ask ourselves here at Riverlawn are we not also carnal? Do we not have division? Is there not jealousy and quarreling among us? Are we not also worldly? How is it that our hearts have grown lukewarm? And to be fair, it’s not just us here; no church, no tradition, from Roman Catholic to Presbyterian to Pentecostal, which I can think of, is immune. As with a little yeast, carnality has worked its way through the entire lump. Therefore, let us humble ourselves, let us repent, let us confess our sins to God and to one another, let us build each other up and not tear each other down. Let us cease worshiping a god that we have conformed to our image, and instead, be conformed to the image of God that is Christ Jesus (Romans 8:29)! Let us not be content to remain as lost sheep meandering about, but rather, desire to grow and mature, because brothers and sisters we’ve been found! Instead, let us be a people of thanksgiving! Let us seek and receive the promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14: “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” We are a people hard pressed, but not crushed; we are a people struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). Pray without ceasing church, because you will be tested, and yes, you’re going to stumble, but keep pressing toward the prize, because it is in pressing toward the prize that you will be revealed! After all, Jesus doesn’t just save souls, though that would be enough; Jesus changes lives! News, much too good, for any of us to keep all to ourselves. Amen!
The most I can offer in terms of his human appearance is that Jesus resembles a typical Middle Eastern man. The painting Prince of Peace by Akiane Kramarik is the closest likeness I have found. I understand this image may not set well with some of the more popular representations of our Lord. There are even some who claim that Kramarik’s painting is a fraud. In any event, the painting most closely portrays the Jesus who visited me that night. But to actually gaze upon the Lord, let me assure you, the focus isn’t on His human appearance; physical appearance seemed inconsequential when compared to the reality of gazing upon the very face of God.
And this is the end of the message I was given to share tonight. To God be the glory.
Thank you Lord. Amen!
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