Monday, April 22, 2013

Lebanon - A stressful peace

I'm back from Beirut. 

Before I tell you how powerfully God is moving in Lebanon, it would be helpful to give you some geopolitical background on the country.

Lebanon is an amazing place with a deep history. I bet it's hard to dig anywhere without uncovering Greek ruins or unearthing Roman coins. The alphabet was invented there and exported to the world by the Phoenicians. Elijah walked there, as did the Apostle Paul. Jesus talked about Tyre and Saidon, two Lebanese cities, in the Gospels. The Romans, Greeks, Alexander the Great, the French Foreign Legion, Syria, Iran, and the US Marine Corps have all laid claim to Lebanon in one way or another over the last few thousand years.

Many have taken a piece of Lebanon and very few let go without a fight. And that's the problem. Lebanon is deeply scarred by war.

Lebanon is a small country. It's 10,000 square kilometers and it feels like a three-hour drive could get you almost anywhere, if it weren't for the horrific traffic. There are only 4 million Lebanese but over 1 million Syrian refugees who have arrived in the past year -- an incredibly destabilizing force that I'll write about in subsequent blog posts.

Of the 4 million Lebanese an estimated 30 per cent are "Christian." Most of these people are Maronite Catholics and since you're born into the faith with many having no personal relationship with Jesus, it seems like the term Christian in Lebanon is mostly an ethnic designation rather than a stamp of faith.

The other 70 per cent of Lebanese are mainly either Shiite Muslim or Sunni Muslim. And they hate each other. Sunni Islam is the state religion in Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, Sunnis are more often linked with the small but infamous terrorist organization, Al-Qaeda.

Shia Islam is the state religion in Iran. Iran funds the large terrorist organization Hezbollah, which control most of southern Lebanon. It's a state within a state, funding health care, building roads, and, of course, running it's own military, which periodically picks fights with Israel.

Going to Tyre or Baalbek, two Hezbollah strongholds, is a surreal experience. Outside Baalbek the road suddenly becomes a four-lane divided highway, funded by Iran. Large posters of famous Shiite martyrs line the road, including a picture of the man who was the mastermind behind the bombing of the US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut in 1983 that killed 299 people. The Ayatollah, the supreme religious leader in Iran, also gets big play.

There isn't any fighting in the streets right now but everyone is ready to dance should the drumbeat for war start up. One of my American friends told me of a dispute over a parking space in Beirut between a Shiite and Sunni a couple of years ago. It escalated quickly from yelling and fist-shaking to handguns to AK-47 assault rifles. Then someone pulled a rocket propelled grenade launcher out of their closet. That's when clerics from both sides got on the radio and TV telling everyone to stand down. Keep your guns handy, but for now, stand down.

Tourism has dried up in Lebanon since the last war with Israel in 2006. The Canadian and US state departments tell citizens not to travel there. But when you're there, it feels safe as long as you stay in the right neighbourhoods. 

Lebanon is a beautiful, fascinating country. I can't wait to tell you more about it. The people are incredible.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

An update on Denise

For the last week, I've visited Denise and Wayne every day to pray, take food and keep company. I've become more and more humbled by their relentless faith and unfaltering love for the Lord and stunning gratitude for His goodness. Even Emma noticed, "They keep saying, 'Thank you Lord,' even when it doesn't seem like things are getting better."

Over the week, others have joined me. Each of my three kids came to pray. I was in awe when Denise anointed Cam with oil and prayed for him, when we were there to pray for her.

There have been worship and prayer meetings with our friends and Bethel church family at Denise and Wayne's. Each time a new person comes to pray, faith arises. God is speaking powerfully to Wayne and to our prayer gatherings on a nonstop basis, giving pictures and scriptures that are confirmed by others. For instance, Andrew got a picture of springtime, I got a verse about spring and someone else who's been in praying regularly has been singing songs about spring to Denise, all of this independently of one another. Also, in the last few days, three different people—two in Redding and one in Guelph—felt the Holy Spirit led them to pray from Ezekiel 37 for Denise.

Each time we pray, there is some small improvement or evidence that God is at work. But still, she seems to be slipping away.

I've struggled with standing faithfully with Wayne and contending for healing versus managing my own emotions. When I'm with them, I feel full of hope and grace and faith, but when I'm not, it's hard. Yesterday, I lost it a little bit during worship at school. I know that they didn't come here for compassion, they came here for healing. They need my faith, not my tears.

And so we thank Him for the good things He is doing, knowing that Jesus' blood paid for everything, including healing. We declare more, ongoing healing for Denise in His powerful name. We stand in faith, like the writer of Hebrews, being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not yet see.

Please keep praying.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A prayer request

Yesterday I went to visit a beautiful woman in her mid-forties named Denise. She and her husband Wayne are from Australia. They're here for three weeks because the doctors have told Denise there's nothing more they can do for her. Four years ago, Denise was diagnosed with breast cancer, now it has spread to her bones.

Wayne and Denise are beautiful, passionate believers. They've left their five children, ages four to sixteen, to come to Bethel, where there's a powerful anointing for healing. They went to the Healing Rooms last Saturday but so far, they haven't received their breakthrough.

We had lunch together and got to know each other a little. After lunch, Denise lay her frail body back in bed and we prayed together. The presence of God filled the room. The intimacy these wonderful people have with the Lord was radiant, and it was evident to me that Holy Spirit loves to be with them. It was humbling and heart wrenching.

I felt Holy Spirit warmth all through my body and my hands grew hot. As I laid hands on Denise, told the cancer to leave her body and prayed for the healing power of Jesus to fill her, I knew I owed it to them to focus on faith for her healing and not let my heartache for them cloud my prayers.

During our prayer, her difficulty breathing improved somewhat, and we praised Jesus for evidence that He is at work.

I believe there will be gradual healing for Denise while she's here. I know God is so proud of their radical trust in Him. I have faith that she will be healed.

Please join with me in interceding for Denise.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Supernatural Evangelism

This semester, I took a class called "Supernatural Evangelism." What’s supernatural evangelism you ask? Well, it’s evangelism in which your main goal is to bring God’s presence, love and power into someone’s reality.

Chris Overstreet, my evangelism teacher
The teacher is this guy named Chris Overstreet, who at one point was a 300-pound convict. He found Jesus in jail. Or Jesus found him. Anyway, he’s now a passionate, fearless, rasping, shouting, spit-flying evangelist who travels to many countries in the world. He even preached the gospel when he gave an announcement at church a few weeks ago.  

One thing he said in class struck my heart: “When you tell someone that Jesus died for them, the Holy Spirit falls.”

I thought a lot about that. And the following Thursday morning, treasure hunt day, I woke up with a prayer on my lips: “Jesus, I want to tell someone today that you died for them.”

You see, I’ve gotten into this treasure hunt thing. I love speaking Spirit-inspired words of life and encouragement to people, praying for their needs and injuries, but telling them that Jesus died for them seemed just too… well… I thought I’d feel like caricature of a soapbox preacher on a street corner.

Right now, some of you might be thinking: Who is this? What have you done with  my Anne? Has she turned into some prosthelytizing fundamentalist type?

Since I fell in love with Jesus when I was fifteen, I’ve wanted to share him with people who didn’t know about him but I never knew how, nor had the courage in this “I’m okay, you’re okay” relativistic North American culture. I feel like sharing various aspects of His love has been part of me for a long time, it’s just growing more now.

That Thursday, we headed out behind the Civic Auditorium, where our school meets, across the Sundial Bridge and along the Sacramento River. I was with Marianne, a second-year student from England, and Cassie, a first-year student from Australia.

I saw him coming from far away. I sensed the word “SON” emblazoned over him.

Keith is an older, retired fellow from the San Fran area. He was interested in Marianne’s and Cassie’s accents. We chatted with him. He told us that after he retired, he moved to Redding for the scenery and nature trails. He now works in a group home caring for the elderly. We shared some prophetic encouragement about his job. He seemed moved.

Prophecy declares a person’s destiny or future, while a word of knowledge is something the Holy Spirit tells you about their present reality. I mustered up the courage to share the word of knowledge I felt God was giving me for him.

“I think God’s saying you’re a good son,” I said. “Does that mean anything to you?”

“Yes, actually it does,” he answered. “My Dad and I are having trouble with our relationship these days. I'm trying to care for him but he can be very difficult. I’m trying to be a good son but it’s hard.”

I took a deep breath. “You know, Jesus didn’t just die to take away sin, he died to heal broken relationships.”

He nodded thoughtfully. I continued, “Do you know Jesus at all?”

He told us how he was raised Catholic but hasn’t thought about the church in a long time, although he considers himself a spiritual person.

Along with my love and admiration for this gentle, humble man who loves to serve the elderly, I felt a rising conviction that God wanted him to know more about Jesus. So I told him about how when Jesus died, it’s like a big heavy curtain between us and God was torn down the middle, so we can step through it into the Holy place and have a relationship with God. And how when Jesus died, the curtain separating the Holy of Holies in the temple in Jerusalem actually did tear in two as God’s tangible message to us that He wants us to be able to step into His presence.

We talked more. Keith asked a few questions. After a bit, Marianne said, “Keith, would you like to experience God’s presence?”

He nodded. He held out his hands. We prayed. A blanket of peace fell upon all of us. She said, “Keith, are you feeling anything?” He nodded again. “I feel peace,” he said.

Marianne went on. “Keith, do you want to accept Jesus into your heart?”

He nodded.

As Marianne led him through a prayer, my spirit surged heavenward. I felt giddy with God’s presence and joy. And from the look on his face, so did Keith.

I’m no spit-flying, raspy evangelist like Chris Overstreet, but wow, I think I like telling God's beloved children how Jesus died for them.

- Anne