In one of those seasons of life, the kind where you have pressed in, stayed faithful and expected a lot from God; where you have not seen things change in the natural, that's where I found a series of miracles. I don't simply mean the coincidental kind of miracles, but the kind that you are totally awed by God. This is the kind of stuff that you tell a stranger on the street because you can't contain it. Let me explain.
This week your Kingdom Bloggers are going to write about a personal victory. Every Christian needs to get a hold of Jesus and let him work in their lives to do the very things that they cannot do for themselves. Here is my story - a victory over addiction to cigarettes - along with an added touch or two from the Lord. The following was once posted on my personal blog Fire & Grace, and will eventually be in the pages of my book.
I was told by a pastor to stop reading books by Kenneth Hagin Sr; I didn't. Those books, bad theology or good, really built my faith. I was later told by another pastor and friend, to read books about revival. He lent them to me and as I returned them, he gave me more. In between books, I was on my own.
One day I went to the mailbox. I honestly don't remember now if it was something that I did everyday or just from time-to-time. Because the mailbox wasn't right in front of the house, we often stopped at it when we were returning from work or some other errand; pulling up and rolling down the window. This particular day there was an over-sized postcard from Marilyn Hickey Ministries. It said something about saving the family and I dismissed it; tossing it into the the abyss of coffee cups and empty cigarette packs on the floor of my pickup truck. I didn't give it a second thought.
I don't remember how much time had passed, but one day I hit the brakes hard and my Bible slid from the front seat onto the floor. When I picked it up, the "Save the Family Encounter" postcard was stuck to the Bible. My name and address was handwritten in the address block. Now, that's something that caught my attention. I was thinking about who might have personally sent this to me and how many thousand others? Who would have had my name?
As I was pondering those thoughts, I heard the Lord say, "you need to go."
Having the strong sense that I should go, deepened my interest. I read it in more detail. It was about 80 or 90 miles from my house, it was during the work week, and I had little kids that would need babysitting. And I wasn't going alone to some Family Encounter. I was discouraged before I drove the 50 yards back to my driveway.
The postcard kept haunting me. I had stuffed it in my Bible and took it out at church the next Sunday. I asked someone that I knew if she had ever heard of this Marilyn Hickey? Oh, she's got a TV show on at 6 am. She rolled her eyes and said, "she's no Baptist." There were a number of us undercover Charismatics there at that church. I think she was one of them. Actually that place more like a scene from the movie, The Brother From Another Planet.
Now I was more interested then ever. I knew I was supposed to go, I just didn't see how. Getting there was going to be a challenge I was sure. Finally, I just walked over to the head of the deacon's board and asked him, "can someone watch my kids on Thursday night from 5 PM until 10 PM, all day Friday from 9 AM until 10 PM and the same on Saturday?"
He replied with a gulp, "That's what we're here for." I will tell my wife. I am sure we can do the evenings at our house and I will round up someone for the daytime meetings.
Next the owner of the studio where I worked was at church that same morning. We had an agreement that we wouldn't talk business at church, but I am not too much for rules. Besides, I was on a roll. "Bill," I said, "I am going to need next Friday and Saturday off." I saw that look come over him.
"For what?" He asked.
"I want to go to this Christian conference," and I pulled out the postcard to show him.
"I guess it will be alright as long as everything is done before you go." he said.
Next I had to ask my wife (not Mary Anne!). She had no idea what I was up to. I had learned a long time ago that there isn't really a way to approach people with things that they are not going to like. So, I simply pulled out the postcard and said, "What do you think about us going to this?"
"It will cost too much." she said.
"It's free," I quietly replied.
"You can't take time off from work." She said escalating her tone.
"Bill already said it was OK. I just asked him" I said.
"We don't have anyone to watch the girls." she fired back.
The deacons are going to pool their resources and do it," I said.
"Why can't we just go to church here?" she said, trying to change the subject.
"Because God said we should go," I said.
"Yeah right." She firmly replied.
"Everything is all set, I would like to go," I said.
"I guess we could go to one meeting." - a softening tone.
It's a conference, we should go to all the meetings," I said.
"I'll let you know." she snapped, and turned to walk away.
"Whatever," I said, nearly defeated.
The next Thursday I dropped the kids off and we headed for the first meeting. We enjoyed wonderful worship and some good word-of-faith teaching; enough for us to commit to the next days meetings. During the morning meeting someone felt led to buy us the workbook for $50, which we received with joy. We met people that felt impressed to share the miracle that God was about to do. Honestly I didn't have a clue. I just knew I was supposed to be there.
The last meeting on Saturday was called the Miracle Service. If nothing else happened, we were full from simply being there. The worship team was playing Are God Is an Awesome God. My knees were shaking in the presence of God. I had never experienced such awe, such power or felt such a reverence for God like this. King Jesus was in the house!
Marilyn started the meeting by asking if there was anyone that had been delivered from alcoholism or other addictions. I stood up. I was sober 14 or 15 years at that time. Then we sat. She said, "if you need to break the addiction to cigarettes, then stand up and claim your miracle." She walked between those standing and proclaimed victory over them. When she walked by me I heard a voice, which wasn't hers. It said, "You'll never have to smoke again." It was audible to me, but no one around me acknowledged hearing it. I have since come to know the internal audible voice of God. I had been smoking 2 to 3 packs of Marlboros a day for 20 years, and I have never had a cigarette since. Not one! I actually quit smoking in a house with another smoker.
Next she asked anyone with eye problems to stand up. I had worn glasses since I was in second grade, having a fairly typical astigmatism and some farsightedness. I stood up and she talked about faith for a minute or so. Then she said if you are healed keep standing. Feeling nothing, I sat down. She handed a Bible to an elderly man a few rows away and said, "Can you read it?"
He replied "No, things are actually worse." She pulled the thick glasses from his face, "How is that she asked?" He began to read John 3:16. People clapped as she went around getting testimonies. I bowed my head and closed my eyes and said, "God, I want that." I took off my glasses that night and have never had a problem with an astigmatism since!
I was on a roll. The next call was for ears that needed to be healed. I had played electric guitar on "10" for many years, and it had taken it's toll. I had persistent ringing and some other nerve damage that made it almost impossible to hear in a room where there was any sort of noise. I stood there and she said very little. She began to ask people to stay standing that were healed. She began to whisper and I heard it! It wasn't until the next morning when I heard the kids bare feet sticking to the hardwood floors that I realized how much hearing had been restored!
The meeting ended with anyone that had been healed standing. "Look around you," Marilyn said. "This is Jesus at work!" Then she preached the gospel for just a few minutes. "If you want Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, stand up." The room was full of new converts!
Our God is an awesome God!