Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Midnight Cry - Continued


Revelation 12:11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

We overcome our enemies by the blood of Jesus and our testimony. Never underestimate the power of a testimony!

Sunday morning, when we ran out of time, I was in the middle of a testimony about a 25 year old man I met in 1980 named Nick, who was temporarily living on a park bench. (By the way: Everything is temporary in this life – but everything becomes permanent after the final judgment day – that’s what “final” means!) I shan’t go back over the whole story but will trust that you will visit our website and either listen to the archived sermon or download the notes and read the story.

Tonight I want to pick up where we left off in Acts 16. Turn with me please.

This account takes place after Paul and Silas had cast an evil spirit out of a woman who had been telling fortunes. Perhaps she was happy, we know God was happy, but the men who owned the fortune telling business were not happy. They were so angry that they dragged Paul and Silas into the market place where the city officials had them stripped naked, beaten and thrown into prison.

The jailer was charged with threats to keep these men under guard. He went a step farther and put them into the dungeon and clamped their feet irons. It was a terrible injustice to be suffered: humiliated in public; unjustly punished; wrongfully imprisoned; unduly burdened. In pain, no doubt hungry and hurting, Paul and Silas did not allow their situation to dominate their spirits. In their midnight hour … well, let’s read it again:

Acts 16
25 ¶ And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.

God heard their midnight cry, as He will hear ours!

Remember Nick? The young man on that park bench whom I was sent to by the Lord. He was in a terrible situation of life, yet the Lord heard his midnight cry. When I awakened him from his sleep that day, he first thought I was a policeman and then he thought I was an angel.

As I listened to the prophecy I was giving him from the Lord, I learned that Nick had been in a fight with his father who ultimately kicked him out of his house. The Lord said to Nick that He was going to begin helping him and giving him the desires of his heart. As well, the Lord told Nick that He was going to restore the relationship with his father.

After taking Nick to church that next morning and the miracles God gave to get Nick on that bus to Dallas, Brenda and I knew that God had used us to help answer the midnight cry of this young man. When Nick left on the bus we prayed that just as God had sent us to that park bench, that He would also send someone to meet Nick at the bus station in Dallas and help him with a place to live, a job and the beginnings of the new life God had spoken about. We had given our mailing address, we didn’t have a home phone and cell phones were not invented yet, so there was no phone number we could give him, as well personal computers did not exist so email was not yet even thought about.

It was about two weeks when we received our first letter from Nick. We opened the letter to read that our prayers had been specifically answered by God. Nick wrote that when he stepped off the bus he bumped into a man and they struck up a conversation. The man was a Christian and upon hearing Nick’s most recent encounter with the Lord, the man offered Nick a place to stay and helped him get a job at an automotive glass shop. Nick was at home, going to church, learning the word, working a job and on his way to building his new life.

Our prayer had been dynamically answered but God was not finished yet. About 3 months later, just before we moved from those apartments, I received a letter from the Pastor of a Baptist Church in the Dallas area. He wrote to inform me, thank me and encourage me concerning Nick.

This pastor informed me that the week before he was driving from Dallas to Austin and had occasion to pick up a young man who was hitchhiking, on his way to a new job in Austin. You guessed it … it was Nick. This pastor said that Nick was a bright eyed, cheerful young man, filled with the joy of the Lord and full of the witness of Christ. The pastor told me that he did not even let Nick know he was a pastor or even a Christian, but rather wanted to see where this young man would take the conversation.

He said that Nick shared his testimony of what had happened to him on a park bench in Texarkana and how that a man named Ron Hammonds had awakened him, prophesied to him, fed him his last hamburger, took him to church and put him on a bus to Dallas. He gave all the glory to God but wanted the man to know that Jesus was real.

He said that Nick had gotten a job at another glass place in Austin which was connected with the one in Dallas. When it came time to transfer Nick decided to hitchhike in hopes that he would get to witness to someone about Jesus. Before this pastor let Nick out in Austin, he allowed Nick to pray with him and Nick also gave him my name and address just in case he wanted to know more about Jesus.

The Pastor said that he never told Nick he was a Pastor but that Nick had changed his life. He wanted me thank me for my witness to him and for the example I was. The Pastor was convicted about his personal witness and had rededicated his life to Christ. He also encouraged me to not stop believing in people, lifting them up and giving them a chance to succeed. Needless to say, I was encouraged.

Shortly thereafter we moved from the College Drive Apartments without leaving a forwarding address since our next residence was a 23 foot camper trailer which I borrowed from a friend and moved my family into. I parked this trailer beside my parent’s house in rural Simms, Texas, on the site where we would later move a building onto and remodel as our new church. With the move and having no mailing address, as it were, we lost contact with Nick.

During the next couple of years we worked hard birthing and building a church. We started it in a home with 7 people, all but one was family. In only one year we had grown to 16 people and met in a different house each week. Our first missionary support in 1981 was sending a box of clothes to a man named Musa Njuguna of Kenya, East Africa.

The second year my dad bought an old church building which we moved onto his property in that community of 200 people and remodeled it for our church … the church grew exponentially. Soon we were running 50 people, then 75, then 100 … at our heyday we had 180 members on our roles and a packed out church building every service. I did a daily live radio program, operated a Christian school from grades K5 through 12th grade, and busied the church with evangelistic outreaches and community service. We were having fun!

One Sunday morning during our third year, I was in my little corner office before service, watching out the window and praying for families as they got out of their cars and walked into church. I saw a man get out of the backseat of a car a long ways down the driveway. He opened the front door for a woman I knew while her husband got out of the driver’s side. This was a family I had encountered by chance, one day when I was in Texarkana, and won the whole family to the Lord. They faithfully drove 30 miles to come to church each service and their lives had gone from a horrible pit to lives filled with joy and Jesus.

I knew a little about them and had been praying with them about some family problems from the past. I looked closer and then called out to Brenda to come into my little, 6’ by 6’ office and look out this window with me. “Who is that?”, I asked her. It looked like the young man we had helped over 3 years earlier in that park.

Brenda and I ran out of the office and out onto the front porch of the church … he looked at us and we looked at him and we both recognized each other about the same time. It was Nick! He was all dressed up, clean shaven and smiling.

Turns out that without knowing it, while Nick was off building a new life in Christ, the Lord had directed me meet his father and lead the whole family to the Lord. Nick had felt the leadership of the Lord that it was time to come home and reestablish relationship with his family. When he got home, instead of being rejected, he was welcomed by a family who had found Jesus just like he had and were praying for him all the while he was praying for them. When he heard that they were going to church 30 miles out of Texarkana in a little rural community, he never imagined that it might be me who was pastor of the church. Nick’s dad was going to surprise me by introducing me to his son who we had believed God to save and restore relationship.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering towards us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

You can imagine the lessons God taught me through all of this … God hears the midnight cry! And, when “Thus saith the Lord”, is the Lord, the Lord will perform what the Lord has promised.

God not only hears your midnight cry, but also the cries of souls who do not even know they are crying. People who sit in darkness shall yet see a great light.

Acts 16
27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,
30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

God wants to save you and save your whole house … and He will, if you will only pray and praise Him, even in your midnight hour!

Be a part of God’s plan. Reach out to others, build your testimony and give others a chance to build theirs. We overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of our testimony. Cry out to God!