Oh brothers and sisters LISTEN!!! - do not harbor unforgiveness in your heart to others whether brothers or sisters or unbelievers or you will be put on "hold" in your walk with God until you deal with that situation to God's satisfaction! You may tithe faithfully and may give abundant offerings but if you have unforgiveness toward any person the work of God in your life and your service to Him will be hindered. I remind myself where God has brought me from, where He has taken me to and how He has done that. He does not first require that we apologize before He extends His forgiveness to us through His Son. But after we are born-again and have His Holy Spirit resident in us He does require something of us - and He has a right to do so. He requires that we "Go and do likewise" (Luke 10:37) to others. It is so important that we determine to walk in an attitude of forgiveness - whether we feel like it or not. If you feel resentment or bitterness arising in you because of the way another person is acting remember how God had mercy on you and extended His grace to you. If the feeling persists, give it to God and act in a forgiving manner toward the offending person and let God deal with what you feel in your heart. WE MUST LEARN TO WALK IN FORGIVENESS!!! That is where the "rubber meets the road" in Christianity. (Matt. 6:14-15 & 7:1-5; Luke: 9:23; 2 Cor. 5:17-21, 1 Jn. 2:6, etc.) A forgiving attitude is requisite to a walk of Love which in turn is requisite to experiencing God's healing power working through us to others as we serve Him where He has placed us. It is a necessary attitude to have if you truly want to be involved in what God is doing in His Church in the end-times and not be left outside as one of the "foolish virgins." (Matt. 25:1-13) PLEASE HEAR THIS!!!
As a member of the Body of Christ, each of us needs of course to be in the Word daily, to receive "our daily bread" (Matt. 6:11) so that our growth in the knowledge of the things of God not be stunted and we are properly nourished. But there are also "key words" that we should take note of and study the passages in which they occur in the Word, so that we know how to walk as followers of Christ - especially in these end-times, as the time for the return of our Lord draws near.
There are no more important "key words" to study than love and forgive, and the passages in the Bible in which they occur. If as much time was spent on studying and teaching and preaching what is involved in these words as other important matters, the Body of Christ would be properly nourished and grow into the fullness God desires (Eph. 4). Unfortunately, when important subjects such as "faith" are addressed, "love"and "forgiveness" are often left languishing on the sidelines, and the teaching falls short of what is needed for proper understanding. For example, when the passage in Mark 11:22-24 is taught, not only is it often lifted out of the context of what the Lord Jesus states in Matt. 6:33 and John 15:1-17, but Mark 11:25 is ignored. The result is that the hearers come away from the teaching with a false impression of what faith is and their faith inevitably falls short of the purposes of God and instead is self-centered. They remain in their "kindergarten" level of faith till they receive proper teaching or, in their private times of study, hopefully discover what God truly wants them to know.
Furthermore, God has revealed to me that the level of love He desires for His people to live in is misunderstood. In Rom. 12:9, we are told that love should be "without hypocrisy." In the Amplified version, 1 Cor. 13:5 is translated, "Love (God's love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking..." God has shown me that if we truly obey "the great and foremost commandment" which is "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND," and "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF" (Matt. 22:37-39), then we will not be looking for any sort of reward or blessing or gratitude from men, because love is its own reward and our attitude should be that of the "unworthy slave" in Luke 17:7-10. For example, if we do an act of loving-kindness toward a fellow human being (believer or unbeliever), are we expecting "gratitude" from that person? If so, then our love is hypocritical, because it is based on the expectation of a "reward," and it is therefore in disobedience of 1 Cor. 13:5. It is insisting on its own rights or its own way, for it is self-seeking (selfish). Such "love" is not actually love but a source of pride and therefore sham.
May each of us strive to become "an effectual doer" of God's Word, "blessed in (our) doing." (James 1:22-25)
We were invited at one time to share during an evening service at our church, and each of us took turns speaking. God had brought certain Scriptures to my mind to share (1 Cor. 12:4-25; Eph. 5:15-21; Col. 3:12-17). When I told my cousin, he was not pleased with me, telling me that this church was very healthy and good. I had no quarrel with that and was surprised at his attitude since I had very great respect for the church and the pastor, and was not aware of any problems in it. It seemed to me the Scriptures would be an encouragement to the church. When it came my time to share at the evening service, I read the Scriptures and made follow-up comments I felt the Lord had placed on my heart. I was totally unprepared for the response. Not only was the leadership team of our ministry divided - 50% for, 50% against what I had said, but so was the church split down the middle in their reaction - the pastor was visibly angry with me and later personally admonished me, telling me that he thought I had no right quoting Scripture to others when my own life exhibited problems. I knew that God certainly had a long way to go in His work in my life (Phil. 2:12-13), but I could not tell Him He could not use me as He saw fit because of that. The Scriptures and the comments God had given me had brought to the surface problems of division in this church of which I was totally and blissfully unaware until that evening service had ended. Though the very positive reaction of some was encouraging, the fact that the pastor and others were angry with me was so painful that I cried out to the Lord please do not use me in such a way again - I can't bear it! But later I repented, knowing I would have to be submissively obedient if He did.
The work God had done in me, turning me from atheism to Him, was quite radical and observed by others, so we had quite a "revival" in our area with many giving their hearts to Jesus. I came to realize that my participation in the leadership, though it inspired some controversy, was essential to the continued functioning and usefulness of the ministry God had given us - "Teen Hope." Nevertheless, the work the Lord was doing in my life had been so dramatic - and was continuing to be - that it and the work of our ministry was being observed in an area far beyond that of which I was initially aware. I had been thrust into the "limelight" of notoriety and scrutiny - a position which I had not at all sought of course but was the result of God's work in our lives and our growing commitment to Him and His work. And there were the unflattering, derogatory, jealous comments that hurt. We were even denounced by one local pastor from his pulpit, who attributed our work to "Satan." I was still very young in my Christian walk and one day while I was driving home from work, my heart was so burdened with these things, I suddenly pulled my car over to the curb, parked, turned off the engine, bowed my head and cried out to the Lord. "God, please make me anonymous - if you can, if you will - use me anonymously - in the background - in some ministry." God answered that prayer, and that's pretty much where I've been since then - in the "background" - "anonymous."
Previously I told how God finally let me know it was time to look for a job after months of watching my finances dwindling literally to nothing, and opened a door for me to be employed at the position I was previously - that of a workmen's compensation insurance underwriter - but with a different company. Some time after beginning working there in '70, God instructed me to put a couple of Christian bumper stickers on the rear of my car - on the trunk of my '61 Volvo PV544 (which had a sloping rear reminiscent of late '40s Fords & Mercs - perfect for displaying such bumper stickers prominently). After spending some useless time responding with "Who, me?" procrastination, I complied. Christian bumper stickers had just recently appeared at the local Christian book store, and my car was one of the first to display them locally. At work, I had been assigned a parking place near the front entrance of the building so that the stickers were very noticeable and during the day I received some strange looks and the general mood of the company seemed to be quite somber. In fact, my car's rear also faced the office of the president on the first floor, through whose windows it could easily be seen. The next day, upon arriving at work, I noticed that there were only a handful of employees present. I went into my boss's office and asked him where everyone was. He stared at me silently for a long and unnerving moment, then replied, "This company is owned by Jews and most of the employees are Jews. They are not here because today is the start of the Jewish High Holy Days." Then it was my turn to stare back, silently and desperatly asking God, "What have you gotten me into?"
Needless to say, my time at that company trying to witness for Christ as a very young believer, was interesting. There was a variety of opportunities to witness, some initiated by others, some by me - but it was a very frustrating time, a very hard "mission field." And there came a time when I was feeling very depressed, feeling that I had failed at what the Lord had given me to do there as a "witness." So one day I asked my boss if I could take a day off to "pray and fast." He agreed, and I stayed home the next day - not knowing till later that it was also a Jewish day of prayer and fasting. But I felt so depressed, so "down," that I thought I would have to "look up in order to see bottom." While trying to pray, all I could say was, "Help!" But God didn't answer me then, and I returned to work. At lunch time, in the company's lunch room, God finally answered me. He told me, "What I gave you to do is not possible for you to do." Immediately I remembered what Jesus had told His disciples: "And looking upon them Jesus said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matt. 19:26) I thought, "PTL! Now I will really see something happen here!" But as it turned out, my time at the insurance company was drawing to a close, and God would direct me elsewhere. However, a year or so after leaving there I was attending a home Bible study meeting at which a couple of ladies looked at me strangely when I was introduced. After the meeting, they asked if I had worked for a certain insurance company and when I answered, "Yes," they told me they were waitresses at a corner restaurant where the Jewish executives of the insurance company I had worked for would regularly come to eat. They told me that they had heard these men discuss the "Christian who had Christian bumper stickers on his car who used to work for their company."
While working there, I sometimes took my lunch at a nearby small park that was shady and had picnic tables. One day, as I returned to my car, a woman approached me and smilingly told me she had seen the Christian bumper stickers on my car and asked if I would tell her "about Jesus." I told her I'd be glad to, but my lunch hour was ended and asked if she would meet me there the next day. She agreed, but when the next day she did not show up, I knew Satan had done a number on her and so prayed for her. The day after that she did appear, but her demeanor was totally changed. She first paused at the edge of the park, then wandered very erratically throughout it, finally sitting down at my table opposite me. Without looking at me, she began talking - and her talk was as erratic as her walk through the park had been. She had not been talking five minutes when I knew I was in this completely "over my head" and the situation was "impossible." Her mind was in what I could only describe as a "fractured state," totally disoriented, she existed in a warped state of unreality. While she continued speaking, I tried to think of some Christian help in the area for her, but did not know of any. I was at a total loss of what to do, except to pray and ask God for guidance. This woman had asked to be told about Jesus, I reminded myself, and somehow I must keep my promise to her. She had the most negative perspective on life I had yet encountered, not to mention weird. We were sitting in this very nice little park that had green grass, shady trees with abundant green leaves, and there was green shrubbery - yet she said she despised the color green. And she went on and on in a non-stop fashion about everything else she hated, and that her only hope was that men in spaceships would come rescue her, and the mayor of the city would welcome them. I was not at all surprised when she eventually told me that she had been at one time committed to a California mental institution, had received a number of shock treatments which did not help her, and was eventually discharged as "incurable." The State had also taken her children from her as they had found her "incompetent" to keep them. There were some days I came to that park at lunch time with my knees literally shaking, as I continued to pray to God about the situation. We would sit opposite each other, and I would share my lunch with her, and she would talk. As I continued praying to God, He began to put words in my mouth to say things that were opposite to what she was expressing about the negative world she lived in. I wouldn't argue with her. I know God has gifted me with a "listening ear" - to listen patiently to people with problems, who need to talk with someone. But He began giving me words to speak - words in the context of Phil. 4:8, about things that were "true...honorable... right...pure...lovely....of good report....virtuous....worthy of praise..." As these positive words intruded lovingly into her negativism, she would pause more and more to listen and finally I was able to start talking about Jesus, reading portions of Scripture to her from the Gospels. I met with her for a total of two weeks, at the end of which time she told me she had to move upstate out of the Los Angeles area. On the last day as we sat opposite each other, she looked at me and I saw that her eyes were clear and her demeanor calm. She said to me, "Paul, I feel such peace when I'm with you." God had healed her and given her new life. What He had done for me He had done even more dramatically for her, using me as his instrument. "Go and do likewise," He had told me - and had allowed me the privilege of seeing the wondrous healing power of His love first-hand. God's love is the greatest power in the universe, and He has given us the honor to make it available to others.
God will lead in various ways to deal with demonic influence in people's lives. In 1975-6, when I was attending Melodyland School of Theology in Anaheim, California I held a part-time job to help pay my expenses. I remember a young man one day at lunch time telling us he had deliberately given himself to Satan because he thought Satan could give what he wanted in life. I sought God for help in prayer asking how to deal with what I was convinced was a case of demon possession. God replied, "Love him." "But God," I said, "Gotta cast out that demon." "Love him," God again answered. I was surprised but finally acquiesced. "Show me how to love him," I requested. So I began "loving" this young man and in no time he was following me around like a puppy-dog, getting as much of "God's love" as he could - he became like a shadow to me.
There is a time that demons must be dealt with directly and God will show it. One of the youths we dealt with had a bad addiction to drugs. One day when we were helping him walk off a trip - walking down the street with my cousin holding onto his left arm and another ministry worker holding onto the other arm supporting him, I was walking right behind him, looking at the back of his head while praying in tongues. Suddenly, while his body continued forward, his head spun around 180° on its axis and spit at me and just as quickly returned to its normal forward position. It happened so fast neither my cousin nor the other worker noticed. Years later, while I was working with another ministry, a female co-worker was oppressed by a demon of witchcraft which manifested itself largely through her very forceful manipulation of others - especially me. When I knew I was going to meet her - and she was yet perhaps miles away - I would bind the spirit at work in her life so that it would not interfere. When she would appear at these times, she would be the absolute opposite of her usual manipulative self - very meek, even obsequious - asking what she could do to please me. Finally, I was able to have a conversation with her in which she openly discussed this problem with me, and as a loving brother I was able to help her be set free from the demonic influence in her life.
At 4 P.M. one day, working in the insurance company at my underwriter's desk, I was suddenly aware of God's awesome presence settling on me. I became so filled with joy that I could hardly keep myself from jumping up , running around the room and shouting, "HALLELUJAH!!" at the top of my voice. I did restrain myself and, looking around the room, I saw that everyone was normally going about their business. So I gripped the desk and silently rejoiced in God's wondrous presence. Then I heard Him saying to me, "I want you to resign your job." I thought to myself, "How could He say something like that? This can't be God after all." He had just recently taught me that great lesson that the task He'd given me at this company was impossible for me to accomplish but possible for Him. So I asked myself, "Why not use a "fleece" like Gideon had?" I knew that asking for a pink cadillac to drive by in the next five minutes as a sign was unrealistic, but said instead, "God, if my boss calls me into his office I'll know it's of you and I'll resign." 5 P.M. - quitting time - came, God's presence left me, my boss wasn't even looking in my direction, so I went home. That was near the end of November. When God's presence left at the office, I entered one of the driest spiritual spells I have ever encountered. It lasted all December and my Christmas that year was not particularly happy. But as I awakened the first working day of the new year, 1972, there was God's presence again to greet me. A big "?" hung in the air - I knew the question, needed no prompting, and said immediately, "Yes, Lord," got dressed, had breakfast, drove to the office, went to my boss and told him, "I resign!" We had quite a talk, and I was frank with him about what had happened. Finally he said, "Please give me a month to find a replacement for you." I knew he really meant, "Please take a month to come to your senses!" I felt God's peace about complying with his request, but at the end of the month I nevertheless left the office for the last time.
Amazingly, as I sought God the first week after leaving my job, what began to come into my mind was the desire to go camping into the Sierra mountains here in California! So I not only prayed earnestly but avidly read books on the subject. Then I began visiting stores and investing in equipment, buying a backpack, sleeping bag (which I still have today), etc. I had it in my mind that I would study up on how to "live off the land" instead of packing a lot of food with me. WRONG!!! But I didn't know that till too late. I also bought maps and settled on an area to enter into below Sequoia park. My cousin agreed to drive me there. Shortly before I planned leaving, I visited an old family friend to leave with him a book of my dad's drawings. He told me that I had really come there for his advice and that his word to me was that I would "perish" on the trip. He said it very strongly, and it surprised and shocked me. I was sick with a cold and physically weakened by it, and his words - though I knew him as a "family friend" - were straight from the enemy. I knew he was into astrology and "Taoism," but I had not expected this demonic attack and had not properly prepared myself by prayer. I was also spiritually weakened by what he said. On the day I planned to leave, I told my cousin of this and together we prayed against the enemy and for God's protection during this trip. My cousin told me that many people were watching me and that I had to go through with the trip. My sister later told me this same "family friend" had told our mother many years previously, when I was in the Army overseas and she had not heard from me for some time, that I had "perished." I successfully returned from this trip of course, and subsequently every Christmas sent this "friend" a Christmas card telling him I was still alive. Many years later I had cause again to visit him. This time I properly prepared myself by prayer and during the visit with him had the opportunity to discuss with him in depth the reality of the God I knew and the Gospel. His heart was open and I have every reason to believe he entered heaven at his demise some years ago.
March, '72 I spent three weeks in the Sierra wilderness hiking mostly cross-country and didn't see anyone else. God was with me every step of the way. I was carrying a pack that weighed 55-60 lbs., and had many opportunities to hurt myself - or even break a leg or something else climbing over boulders. I was alone except for the presence of God and His angels - and I never even suffered so much as a skinned elbow. I fell many times though - flat on my face - and was exasperated by it - it's not easy to keep your balance with a pack of that weight and size on your back. But I always fell on muddy trails mostly into snow that didn't hurt anything but my pride. The first time I fell some pretty bad language came out of my mouth. I was ashamed, but didn't like falling. God told me, "By the end of this trip you will be praising and thanking me as you fall." I thought, "Why can't I just not fall?" But God was right. I remember that the last time I fell I was praising Him as I hit the ground.
Sometimes at night sitting by the campfire I would hear the whispering of the angels that accompanied me. They would become silent when I sang Psalms praising God. Out of all my experiences during those three weeks, there is one that I would like to share here. In the Army I had learned how to use a compass and a map. So when I passed by large boulder on my way to a lake I saw on the map and heard a still, small voice saying, "Climb the boulder," I replied, "But I have this compass and map which I know how to use and it would be such a bother to climb that boulder." And I continued on as I was going. Oh, how I came to wish I'd climbed that boulder as the Holy Spirit had said! I went on - and on - and on - far longer than it should have taken to arrive at that lake. Finally I stopped and made camp. I realized that in order to get my bearings I would have to climb the mountain on the side of which I was camped. A mountain is quite a bit bigger than a boulder but I had no other choice at this point. So I took off my backpack and began climbing up the mountain to its top. Thankfully it was fairly small mountain, not the type that required climbing equipment which I did not have. Nevertheless, I was very tired and undernourished as I had not brought sufficient food with me, and the climb up the mountain was exceedingly tedious - I felt as if I still had my pack on. Near the top a single-seater jet flew by level with me and I waved at the pilot but I don't think he saw me. I wished I could have hitched a ride. At the top the view was magnificent. I could see the lake I thought I had been headed for - and the boulder I had been told to climb that would indeed have shown me where the lake was and corrected my path. The view was for many miles in each direction - forest forever, it seemed, with no civilization in sight.
"Alright Father," I said, "I failed to hearken to your voice. There is about one hour of daylight left. Instead of returning by the way I came, I am going to descend the other side of this mountain - and You will guide me back to my camp. Your Holy Spirit will tell me when to turn right or left. Whether I reach the camp before nightfall comes is in Your hands. My life is in your hands." With that said, I began to descend the other side of the mountain. It was so much better running down rather than climbing up, and I became quickly refreshed. As I ran, I turned right or left as I felt the Holy Spirit say. When I came upon a field of wild onions by a clear mountain stream, I could not resist stopping and having a brief repast of beef jerky, wild onions and cold mountain water. Then I continued running. As the sun was setting and the light was diminishing I ran into my campsite - not to the left of it nor to the right but directly into it! I was very glad to be back at camp.
At the end of the third week I came to the end of the trail and pitched my tent in a group of deserted campsites. Waking the next morning, I saw that God had brought another camper with a VW bus and they took me to the Sequoia campground, where I stayed the final week of my trip. There was one campsite available and I was glad to take it. The following morning I awoke to the sounds of a brown bear tearing a hole in my backpack, which I had neglected to string up into a tree. I didn't feel like arguing with him/her about the matter so I took a walk around camp while the bear enjoyed what he found. He ate all my vitamin pills and I waved to him as he left. On Sunday, I made a 3-mile round-trip to the store to get some provisions, including some crackers and grape juice to have communion with - to celebrate God's bringing me safely back. I took communion on Sunday evening, and learned later that my church back home was having communion at exactly the same time. I spent a week resting and recuperating insofar as I was able. One day I was standing in my campsite and I saw a movement in a tree to my left. A blue jay appeared and sat on a branch looking at me, with something held in its beak which it then dropped. It looked at me again and then flew away. I walked over to the foot of the tree, picked up what it had dropped - it was a chocolate fudge brownie! "Yummy," I said as I ate it. "I wonder where the rest of this is." I loved brownies! Then I heard a movement in a tree on the other side of the campsite and looking there I saw a squirrel sitting on a tree branch looking at me. It held something in its mouth which it dropped. After looking at me again, it scampered away. I walked over to the tree and picked up what it had dropped. Another chocolate fudge brownie! "Thank you Jesus!" I exclaimed as I happily ate it. I knew this was God's hand reassuring me of His provision. Both of these forest critters were the noisy, scolding bothersome type - normally taking from a campsite rather than giving. Neither of these had made any noise at me. They had obviously been sent by God. HALLELUJAH!
God provided a ride for me all the way to the Los Angeles area, but not before I was able to stop at a nearby motel first and take about a half dozen consecutive showers to wash all the crud off me and do my laundry at a local laundromat. Sleeping so long on frozen ground had toughened my hide to the point I was actually able to sleep on the concrete sidewalk when several of us took off to Pasadena to witness at the the Rose Bowl Parade the following New Year's. But when I had resigned from my job, and realized that God was taking me out on the "mission field," I asked him if He could please work in some travel with it. I really enjoyed traveling - remembering the traveling I did in the Army years before. I felt almost guilty bothering my heavenly Father with such a trivial request - but He answered it in abundance: in the next 15 years He moved me (sometimes between various countries) approximately 35 times!!!
The first mission field experience involved living and working for 6 months during 1973 on Navajoland in Arizona. I went there at the invitation of a Bible Church missionary. Navajoland is a very hard mission field: The Navajo language is said to be the hardest language in the world to learn ( during WWII the Allies used it as a secret code and it was never broken by the enemy). The land is very hard to live on. During the summer the ground is rock-hard, beating a new vehicle to death quickly. It is almost impossible to grow anything unless in a greenhouse because the dry desert wind sucks up any water poured on the ground immediately. In the winter the hard ground turns to deep slush that quickly bogs down vehicles and requires a winch to get out of. The culture is matriarchal and includes "wolfmen" (who reportedly prey on widows) and "witchdoctors" and much superstition. But the desert can be beautiful even in its harshness. I used to enjoy arising early in the morning to spend one to two hours in the desert's solitude - alone with God in prayer and songs of worship.
As I observed the Navajos, I was saddened by the tragedy that was so often part of their lives. The legendary hold of "firewater" on Indians was only too true in their case. They seemed to have no resistance to it. There was a bar just outside the reservation limits not far from us - we could see it from our house. We took the owner to court and were finally able to get him shut down - and also able to witness to him why we did it. He said he was just trying to do some business and make a living, but the enemy lost a worker there nonetheless. I remember a Navajo male stopping by our house with his small daughter. I spoke with him while watching him spoon portions of jalapeno pepper out of a jar and eat them. He told me of two times he had near-death experiences while drunk. One of the times a truck ran over him while he was passed out on the nearby highway. The Holy Spirit showed me that what was happening in his life was basically similar to what had happened in my life previous to my encounter with God, and so I told the Navajo this and warned him he had better repent also, turn to God and give up drinking or the next time he would perish. But unfortunately he remained unresponsive and the next time he got drunk he froze to death.
There was another Navajo who when he was not drinking was the nicest person you would want to know. But when he was drinking he would become demon-possessed and it was very dangerous to be near him. He would even gash himself with stones and there were great scars on his arms from that. I remember him attending the AOG church once, sitting on a pew peacefully and attentively listening to the sermon. I would pray for him, desiring of course that be delivered but he died in one of his drunken rages and I attended his funeral instead. He would not respond to our requests to help him. I heard of a young Navajo who was released from jail and went to visit his mother. She refused to let him in out of the cold, and he stayed outside where she found him frozen to death the next morning and calmly phoned the police. The AOG missionary and I had to prepare his body for burial. After we had washed it, we held the funeral and tried to ignore the stench.