Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Christmas Day 2011
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A Baby Born
When you look at a pregnant woman, what do you see? What does the growing baby in her womb mean to you? Immediately – in our days – this is where it is getting complicated. We could talk about abortion and the womb as an unsafe place for a child. But – on Christmas Day – this is not where I want to go. We also better ignore any foreknowledge of sleepless nights and teenage years. Husbands, parents, grand-parents, brothers and sisters, anyone – when you look at a pregnant woman who is your wife/daughter/mother/friend – what do you see? What does the growing baby in the womb mean to you? How do you feel? [Let the congregation give a few responses.]
Last week, I watched the movie “Children Of Men” which made a simple but most powerful point: A baby promises hope – something – always. It represents the future. In the movie – (a few years from now) – the human race became infertile. From one day to the next, pregnant women miscarried and – from then on – no new pregnancies were recorded anywhere. When the youngest person on the planet was killed in an accident – at eighteen – it made the headlines across the world and upset everyone. There was no escaping the doom of extinguishment. The current generation of people would be the last. Then the movie recorded the following scene. Somehow a young woman was in trouble. She was wanted by all the powers – and this was why.
[Show the movie scene (1 minute).]
Before I continue – maybe we can do this together. How many references to Jesus’ birth at Christmas can you pick up in this short one-minute-clip? (1) The first words out of the man’s mouth were “Jesus Christ”. (2) The music became like a heavenly choir of female voices. (3) The whole scene played in a stable. (4) The woman was poor (not in a position of power). (5) The pregnancy was called a miracle. (6) The baby promised to save the future of mankind.
I read from the Bible – Luke 2:8-20:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
The angels said to them: “I bring you good news, great joy.” And then he continued with the reason: “A Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Finally, there was a baby boy that would make all the difference. His name was Jesus and he would be the future of the world. When he was only eight days old, an elderly man – Simeon – close to his death but full of the Holy Spirit – met Jesus in the temple, recognized who he was, took him in his arms and cried out in praise to God – Luke 2:29-32: “At last, Lord, ... with my own eyes I have seen your salvation which you have made ready for every people – a light to show truth to foreign nations and bring glory to your people Israel.”
This morning – on Christmas Day – do you share his joy? Do you have a sense of excitement because – all over the world – entire nations celebrate Christmas – at least they still have Christmas as a public holiday – and why: Because two thousand years ago a Saviour was born to us – do you get excited about that?
You may look forward to a relaxing day with family and friends. At the end of the year – you may be winding down and don’t expect any life-changing encounters but – if you are not a Christian – this is the time to hear the good news. There is still no other Saviour but Jesus.
A few days ago, I needed a handyman and rang someone that I had used before. Only – he was sick and he was depressed. He had another tumour – cancer. I knew that he was past retirement age and – (gently, I hope) – asked him about coming to church this Christmas. He didn’t think that this would help. However, he recommended another handyman who came to our house and I talked to him about our common friend. I shared with him how I wanted to talk about Jesus to the sick man because there is a life after this life and he wasn’t ready. The replacement handyman agreed with me. It turned out that his three brothers were still Lutherans and he himself attended the Catholic Church with his girl-friend. He told me that some time ago he had an accident where he died and almost did not make it back. He told me how the medical staff jump-started his heart and how it hurt because the sternum was broken – and he was still conscious at the time. This made him think and this made him turn to a Saviour that set us free from the curse of death. I rejoiced with him but then put it to him: “This other handyman is your friend. You know him far better than I do. Go to him. He may listen to you. You may be his only chance to know Jesus and be saved.” This was a novel idea for him but how will anyone know the good news of Christmas if we don’t share it with others?
This morning – do you know the good news? This baby Jesus grew up to be a man – committing no sin – not joining with the rest of humanity in our rebellion against God: our unbelief, selfishness, pride, hardened hearts, the filth and violence that is on our TVs – on the evening news. Jesus remained pure – holy – clean – retaining his love for God the Father and the people around him – and then he gave his pure life into death on a cross as a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus saved us by dying for us – receiving in his own body the punishment for our sins (the punishment which we should have suffered) – so that we could be forgiven without any personal cost to us.
We could not have saved ourselves. The problem of sin is so serious that nothing but innocent blood can satisfy the wages of sin. (Hebrews 9:22: “ ... without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”) Therefore, Jesus paid for us the ultimate price – Revelation 5:9-10: “ ... you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation ... ” He loved us that much. Trust him. There was no sin – no shame – that was not with him on the cross. It was all laid upon him.
Then he was dead for three days but rose again on the third day – to new life. This means that Jesus is alive now – today – and he is what the angel announced to the shepherds: Jesus is Lord and Messiah (King) – above every other authority on earth and in the spiritual realm. The Bible explains – Acts 2:36: “ ... be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
This is good news for you and anyone because – in his name – under his dominion – you can be forgiven of your sins – set free from their consequences. Jesus is washing you clean and then promising you to raise you up also to new life – eternal life with him when this world has come to an end. There is going to be a day of judgement when this world with all of its pain and corruption and warfare will come to an end. God will judge the world – and he is going to judge by the highest standard imaginable: his own standard of holiness – but those of us who have been forgiven on account of Jesus – on account of his blood – will survive the judgement. When God the Father looks at us, he will see Jesus – his Son whom he sent to save us – because his blood makes us clean. This is awesome. There is no better news today.
Do you want good news – good news when sickness comes and death? Then understand the baby Jesus at Christmas. Maybe – sometimes – our Christmas traditions get in the way of real understanding. For many of us – baby Jesus is now a little figurine – (made out of wood) – lying in a manger and everything looks so cute – a few wise men here, donkeys and sheep over there, a rustic stable and a few angels, the night sky and a bright star. We package the whole scene into a nice display that is tucked away under our Christmas tree – (at least in our home). Yet, Jesus was more than a cute baby. He would not always be helpless in his crib – wrapped in cloths for nappies. What began as a baby would finish a man who would become the crucified and risen Lord.
The world was so much in need of saving but God did not send us Clint Eastwood. You know the typical Westerns where a ruthless gang oppresses a town and then a nameless stranger on a pale horse mysteriously appears and cleans up the place in the inevitable shootout. Jesus did not come as this ready-made hero-stranger – (without any history). He came – (and this seems to be a general principle with God) – as a baby who would need time to grow up and prepare himself. In fact, Jesus turned thirty before he preached his first sermon and performed his first miracle. This was a long wait – from baby Jesus at Christmas to thirty years of age.
This is important. God continues to work in this way. Jesus would save the world but he came to us as a baby first. Other people whom God wants to use – other organizations such as churches whom God wants to use – they first come as babies – they are first birthed as fledgling enterprises – and only with patient nurturing and time do these babies (and congregations) become mature people of God who make a difference in the kingdom of God. Think about yourself. The Bible is quite clear that a new Christian begins as a spiritual baby and only over time matures into an adult and then a parent who is finally able to nurture himself a new Christian:
1 Corinthians 3:1-4: “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 quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? ... ”
Therefore, we don’t despise small beginnings – not in our own lives and not in Jesus at Christmas. And just another word about Jesus: He chose to be a baby. He did not have to make himself small. He was before the world was – one with the Father in heaven – but he came to earth on a rescue mission as a baby. He demonstrated and submitted to God’s way of operation here on earth. There was a growing-up period even for him.
This has further implications for us today. When God moves among us – when God is raising someone up among us – when he is birthing something new among us – they usually come first with nappies wrapped around them. There is poo and helpless dependency. This means that any one of us is important even if we don’t become the top-leaders like Jesus. God placed Jesus into the care of Joseph and Mary – a poor carpenter and teenage mother. They would not save the world but form the character of a growing Jesus in their family. They were the faithful launching pad for Jesus who – (I hope that this is not saying too much) – would never have done anything without them.
At the moment, there are plenty of people – all across the world – who are saying that the next generation – the youth – will be special and “take the land” for God. They will be on fire, pray and fast, evangelize without fear, spurn riches and turn away from the sexualisation of everybody. They will bring in a global harvest of souls. This is all well and good but it seems to let the older generation off the hook. The youth is to regain – (and more) – what we have lost in our generation. They will be fervent and fast with passion while we have compromised with the comfortable life-style of the West. No – this is not going to work. How will the youth grow up and mature if there are no spiritual parents who have remained faithful to Jesus – who show the way – who form the character? Another pastor has similar misgivings:
Kris Vallotton & Bill Johnson: The Supernatural Ways Of Royalty, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2006, p115-116:
Over a period of 12 months, we had five different guest speakers come to Bethel Church and preach the message that “revival is coming from the youth.” The first few times I heard that message my mind was troubled and my spirit was grieved, but I couldn’t perceive what was wrong. As the end of the year approached, and a fifth speaker preached the same basic message again, I became upset and ran out of the church weeping. (This isn’t something I recommend pastors do.) I went home and lay on the floor crying. I still didn’t understand what was wrong so I began to question God about what was going on inside of me.
He told me, “Revival is not coming from the youth, but from ONE generation, old to young” He reminded me of the passage in the Book of Acts that says, “It shall be in the last days, God says, that I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17). Take note that revival does not have a gender, a generation, or a social class. God went on to show me that every time the “youth message” was preached, the middle-aged and the elderly were being told, through omission, that they weren’t important or valued anymore. He told me that the devil knew that he couldn’t stop worldwide revival by resisting it, so he has tried to curse the planet by separating the generations.
There is more. God the Father entrusted the baby Jesus to Joseph and Mary but – as much as they were needed to be his parents – they would never completely own him. God would consistently stretch them beyond what they knew and expected from their son Jesus. When God births something in you or your family – (also church family) – then nurture what is given to you but do not expect that you will be in control of the entire process. You are just the launching pad and – even if it is you that is launched – you will often be surprised where you end up.
When Simeon prophesied over Jesus in the temple of Jerusalem, Joseph and Mary could not comprehend the future. The Bible says – Luke 2:33: “The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him.” At a later visit to the temple, Jesus – twelve years old – stayed behind without telling his parents. Finally, Joseph and Mary found him but their son mystified them:
Luke 2:46-52: After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. [Cf. Luke 1:59-66.]
You nurture God’s baby – (and you may be God’s baby yourself) – but the baby is God’s and will accomplish what is possible with him – and not with you (cf. Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”). This has the further consequence that it will be so much harder to let the grown-up baby go. In the end, everything about Jesus was bursting the confines of his upbringing – Mark 3:20-21: “Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’” There is a price to pay. Not only will the baby Jesus open up new – unfamiliar – territory, there is also the persecution which comes from doing God’s work.
Whoever nurtures the babies of God – whoever loves new beginnings into maturity – will not be spared the pain. Thus – only eight days after Jesus’ birth – Simeon told Mary – Luke 2:34-35: “ ... This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Mary – as a mother – would share the agony of the cross where Jesus – her beloved son – died for the forgiveness of our sins. Be ready for this. Whatever God is doing in you – in our midst – will grow into something that we cannot even comprehend yet and suffering will also come in its wake – together with the salvation of many.
One more point: Jesus – lying in a manger – was a helpless baby which made him vulnerable to the devil’s attacks. This also remains true today. Whenever God is birthing something, the first stages of life are most threatened by the evil one – Matthew 2:13: “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’” [Cf. Revelation 12:4: “ ... The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born.” Also: Living Grace was most vulnerable in the first stages of renewal and not now when we have matured in our understanding of the Bible.] Fight for the new life. Baby Jesus was not yet doing anything but he was worth protecting in Egypt.
I close with the testimony of another baby who was destined to become a mighty man of God. Since Jesus came to us as a baby at Christmas, other babies are born today – including all of us – who will follow him as their Lord and Saviour who grew up to die for us [abbreviate and retell in your own words]:
[The baby’s name is Benny Hinn. I don’t know much about him and he may not always be above reproach. It’s not good that he is getting divorced now but – undoubtedly – for many years – he has been used mightily by God all across the world. He has been one of the top evangelists of our time.]
It was December 1952 in Jaffa, Israel.
Clemence Hinn, about to give birth to her second child, was in the hospital, gazing out the window of her maternity room at a beautiful sight. The deep blue waters of the Mediterranean were stretched to infinity. But the heart of this small woman of Armenian descent was troubled. She was torn with bitterness, fear, and shame.
Off in the distance she could see the black cluster of rocks in the sea, Andromeda’s Rocks. Greek legend holds that the maiden Andromeda was chained to one of them when Perseus flew down on his winged horse, slew the sea monster, and rescued her.
Clemence wanted someone somehow to swoop down and save her from another year of humiliation and disgrace. She was a devout Greek Orthodox woman, but she didn’t know much about the Lord. In that humble hospital room, however, she tried to make a bargain with Him.
As she stood by the window, her eyes pierced the sky, and she spoke from her heart: “God, I have only one request. If you’ll give me a boy, I’ll give him back to you.” She repeated it again, “Please, Lord. If you’ll give me a boy, I’ll give him back to you.”
The first child born to Costandi and Clemence Hinn was a lovely girl, named Rose. But in the stubborn culture of the Middle East—and especially in the Hinn ancestral tradition—the firstborn should have been a son and heir.
The family of Costandi, immigrants to Palestine from Greece, began to persecute Clemence for her failure to produce a boy. “After all,” they chided, “all of your other sister-in-laws had boys.” She was jeered at and mocked to tears, and she felt the embarrassment and shame in a marriage their parents had so carefully arranged.
Her eyes were still moist that evening as she fell asleep. And during the night she had a dream she still recalls. “I saw six roses—six beautiful roses in my hand,” she says. “And I saw Jesus enter my room. He came to me and asked me for one of them. And I gave him one rose.”
As the dream continued, a short, slim young man with dark hair—she remembers every feature of his face— came over to her and wrapped her in a warm cloth.
When she awakened, she asked herself, “What does this dream mean? What can it be?”
The next day, December 3, 1952, I was born.
Our family was eventually to have six boys and two girls, but my mother never forgot her bargain with God. She later told me of her dream—and that I was the rose she presented to Jesus.
[At Christmas, Jesus was a baby but now he is Lord and putting special calls on other human babies. Benny Hinn’s mum agreed to give her first son to God.]
I was christened in the Greek Orthodox Church by the patriarch of Jerusalem, Benedictus. In fact, during the ceremony he gave me his name.
Being born in the Holy Land meant being born in an atmosphere where religion casts an inescapably wide shadow. At the age of two I was enrolled in a Catholic preschool and was formally trained by nuns—and later monks—for fourteen years ...
As my education continued, I considered myself to be a Catholic. The process started very early. The preschool I attended was actually more like a convent. Mass was celebrated regularly. My parents didn’t protest because a private Catholic school education was considered to be the best available.
Weekdays I studied with the nuns, and on Sunday I went to the Greek Orthodox church with Mom and Dad ... Was I a Catholic? Absolutely. Catholicism was my prayer life. It occupied my time and attention five days a week. It became my mentality. I practically lived at the convent, and in that cocoon I become very detached from the world.
I was also separated from the world in an unfortunate way. From earliest childhood I was afflicted with a severe stutter. The smallest amount of social pressure or nervousness triggered my stammering, and it was almost unbearable. I found it difficult to make friends. Some children made fun of me—others just stayed away.
I knew very little of world events—only what my teachers wanted me to know. But I was an expert on the Catholic life. As the schooling continued, I attended the College de Frere (College of Brothers) and was taught by monks.
Even as a small boy, I was extremely religious. I prayed and I prayed—probably more than some Christians pray today. But all I knew how to pray was the Hail Mary, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and other prescribed prayers.
Only rarely did I really talk to the Lord. When I had some specific request, I mentioned it. Otherwise my prayer life was all very organized. Very routine ...
The Hinn family arrival in Toronto in July 1968 was an unheralded event. And that’s just the way my father wanted it ... What a shock to land suddenly in a “foreign” culture. I could stutter in several languages, but English was not one of them ...
Life changed rapidly for me. Instead of attending a private Catholic school, I went to a public high school— Georges Vanier Secondary School. And since most of the kids at school had part-time jobs, that’s what I wanted to do.
We lived in the North York section of Toronto, and not far from us the new Fairview Mall had opened. I applied at a little kiosk that sold hamburgers and ice cream. Even though I had no previous work experience, they hired me. And every day after school I headed there ...
I’ll never forget the day in 1970 when I came to work to find that Bob had done something quite strange. All over the walls of that little kiosk he had tacked little pieces of paper with Scripture verses written on them. I thought he’d lost his mind.
I knew he was a Christian—he told me so. But wasn’t this going a bit too far? I said to myself, “Why is he doing this? Is it for me? I probably know the Bible better than he does.”
Finally I asked him, “What’s the idea of all these pieces of paper?” Instantly, he began to witness to me. I thought he would never quit. And when it was over, I was determined to stay as far away from this crazy fellow as I could.
For the longest time I tried to avoid him. But it was nearly impossible. After all, we had to work together. Over and over, he brought up the topic of religion. But it was more than that. He wanted to talk about being “born again,” a phrase that was not in my limited vocabulary— nor in my view of Scripture.
Bob finally quit his job at the kiosk, but many of his friends were at my school. And for the next two years I did my best to avoid them. I thought, “They’re a bunch of weirdos.” They looked weird. They talked weird. They were complete opposites of the nuns who had taught me.
During my senior year at Georges Vanier, for the second time in my life, I had an encounter with the Lord. He came into my room and visited me—this time in the form of an unforgettable dream.
In Jaffa when I was eleven, the vision of Jesus standing before me had left an indelible impression. But now, in Toronto, I was not caught up in the study of Scripture. Oh, I still attended church. But what was about to happen to me came out of left field. It was totally unexpected, and I was stunned by the experience.
Let me tell you exactly what happened in my bedroom that chilly night in February 1972.
As the dream unfolded, I found myself descending a long, dark stairway. It was so steep I thought I would fall. And it was leading me into a deep, endless chasm.
I was bound by a chain to a prisoner in front of me and a prisoner behind me. I was dressed in the clothing of a convict. There were chains on my feet and around my wrists. As far as I could see ahead of me and behind me there was a never-ending line of captives.
Then, in the eerie haze of that dimly lit shaft, I saw dozens of small people moving around. They were like imps with strange-shaped ears. I couldn’t see their faces, and their forms were barely visible. But we were obviously being pulled down the stairway by them, like a herd of cattle to a slaughterhouse—or even worse.
Suddenly, appearing out of nowhere, was the angel of the Lord. Oh, it was a wondrous thing to behold. The heavenly being hovered just ahead of me, just a few steps away.
Never in my life had I seen such a sight—not even in a dream. A bright and beautiful angel in the midst of that dark, black hole.
As I looked again, the angel motioned with his hand for me to come to him. Then he looked into my eyes and called me out. My eyes were riveted to his, and I began to walk toward him. Instantly those bonds fell off my hands and feet. I was no longer tied to my fellow prisoners.
Hurriedly the angel led me through an open doorway, and the moment I walked into the light, the celestial being took me by the hand and dropped me on Don Mills Road—right at the corner of Georges Vanier School. He left me just inches from the wall of the school, right beside a window.
In a second the angel was gone, and I woke up early and rushed off to school to study in the library before classes began.
[It is highly interesting that – according to the dream – Benny Hinn was not saved at this time even though he believed in God, knew the Bible and was steeped in church traditions. As the dream suggests, now he would be saved at his school.]
As I sat there, not even thinking about the dream, a small group of students walked over to my table. I recognized them immediately. They were the ones who had been pestering me with all of this “Jesus” talk.
They asked me to join in their morning prayer meeting. The room was just off the library. I thought, “Well, I’ll get them off my back. One little prayer meeting isn’t going to hurt me.”
I said, “All right,” and they walked with me into the room. It was a small group, just twelve or fifteen kids. And my chair was right in the middle.
All of a sudden the entire group lifted their hands and began to pray in some funny foreign language. I didn’t even close my eyes. I could hardly blink. Here were students seventeen, eighteen, nineteen years old—kids I had known in class—praising God with unintelligible sounds.
I had never heard of speaking in tongues, and I was dumbfounded. To think that here was Benny, in a public school, on public property, sitting in the middle of a bunch of babbling fanatics. It was almost more than I could comprehend.
I didn’t pray. I just watched.
What happened next was more than I could ever have imagined. I was startled by a sudden urge to pray. But I really didn’t know what to say. “Hail Mary” seemed inappropriate for what I was feeling. I had never been taught the “sinner’s prayer”—not in all of my religion classes. All I could remember of my encounters with the “Jesus people” was the phrase “You’ve got to meet Jesus.” Those words seemed out of place to me because I thought I knew Him.
It was an awkward moment. No one was praying with me or even for me. Yet I was surrounded by the most intense spiritual atmosphere I had ever felt. Was I a sinner? I didn’t think so. I was just a good little Catholic boy, who prayed every night and confessed sin whether I needed to or not.
But at that moment I closed my eyes and said four words that changed my life forever. Right out loud I said, “Lord Jesus, come back.”
I don’t know why I said it, but that’s all that would come out of my mouth. I repeated those words again and again. “Lord Jesus, come back. Lord Jesus, come back.”
Did I think He had left my house or departed from my life? I really did not know. But the moment I uttered those words a feeling came over me—it took me back to the numbness I felt at age eleven. It was less intense, but I could feel the voltage of that same force. It went right through me.
What I really felt, though, was that this surge of power was cleansing me—instantly, from the inside out. I felt absolutely clean, immaculate, and pure.
Suddenly I saw Jesus with my own eyes. It happened in a moment of time. There he was. Jesus.
The students around me couldn’t possibly know what was taking place in my life. They were all praying. Then, one by one, they began slipping out of the room and on to their classes.
It was five minutes to eight o’clock in the morning. By this time I was just sitting there crying. I didn’t know what to do or what to say.
At the time I didn’t understand it, but Jesus became as real to me as the floor beneath my feet. I didn’t really pray, except for those four words. But I knew beyond any doubt that something extraordinary had happened that February morning ...
All day I was wiping the tears from my eyes. And the only thing I could say was, “Jesus, I love you .... Jesus, I love you.”
As I walked out of the door of the school and down the sidewalk to the corner, I looked at the window of the library. And the pieces began to fall into place. The angel. The dream. It all became real again. What was God trying to tell me? What was happening to Benny?
I walked into my bedroom, and, as if magnetized, I was drawn to that big black Bible. It was the only Bible in our home. Mom and Dad didn’t even have one. I had no idea where it came from, but it had been mine as long as I could remember.
The pages had hardly been turned since our arrival in Canada, but now I prayed, “Lord, You’ve got to show me what has happened to me today.” I opened the Scripture and began to devour it like a starving man who has just been given a loaf of bread.
The Holy Spirit became my teacher. I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s exactly what miraculously began to happen. You see, the kids at the prayer meeting didn’t say, “Now here’s what the Bible says.” They didn’t tell me anything. In fact, they had no idea what had transpired during the past twenty-four hours. And, of course, I didn’t say a word to my parents.
I began by reading the Gospels. I found myself saying out loud, “Jesus, come into my heart. Please, Lord Jesus, come into my heart.”
In Scripture after Scripture I saw the plan of salvation unfolding. It was as if I had never read the Bible before. Oh, my friend, it was alive. The words bubbled forth from a spring, and I drank freely from it. Finally, at three or four o’clock in the morning, with a quiet peace that I had never known before, I fell asleep ...
At the conclusion of the meeting, Merv Watson said, “I want all of you who would like to make a public confession of your sin to step forward. We’re going to pray with you as you ask Christ to come into your heart.”
I began to shiver and shake. But I thought, “I don’t think I should go down there because I’m already saved.” I knew the Lord took charge of my life at five minutes to eight on Monday morning. And this was Thursday.
You guessed it. Within seconds I found myself walking down that aisle as fast as I could. I didn’t quite know why I did it. But something inside was telling me, “Go up there.”
It was at that moment, at a charismatic service in an Anglican church, that this good little Catholic from a Greek Orthodox home made a public confession of his acceptance of Christ. “Jesus,” I said, “I’m asking you to be the Lord of my life.”
The Holy Land couldn’t compare with this. How much better to be where Jesus was, than where he used to be.
That night when I got home, I was so filled with the presence of the Lord, I decided to tell my mother what had happened. (I didn’t have the courage to tell my dad.)
[Now the parents that had nurtured Benny – his mum had had enough faith to surrender Benny to God before his birth – would be stretched by the baby which they had raised. God would mature the man beyond the confines of their own family structure and realms of possibility. This would be hard for them. At the same time, it is also telling how Benny’s newfound faith would be immediately tested and attacked by the Evil One.]
“Mama, I’ve got to share something with you,” I whispered. “I’ve been saved!”
In a flash, her jaw was set. She glared and said crisply, “Saved from what?”
“Trust me,” I said. “You’ll understand.”
On Friday morning and all during the day—at school, at the kiosk, everywhere I went, a picture kept flashing before me. I saw myself preaching. It was unthinkable, but I couldn’t shake the image. I saw crowds of people. And there I was, wearing a suit, my hair all trimmed and neat, preaching up a storm.
That day I found Bob, my “weird” friend who had once plastered the kiosk walls with Scripture. I shared just a little about what had happened that week. And I told him that I even saw myself preaching.
“Bob,” I said, “all day long it’s been like this. I can’t shake the picture of me speaking in huge open-air rallies, in stadiums, in churches, in concert halls.” Beginning to stutter, I told him, “I see people, as far as the eye can see? I must be losing my mind! What do you think it means?”
“There can only be one thing,” he told me. “God is preparing you for a great ministry. I think it’s wonderful.” I didn’t get that kind of encouragement at home. Of course, I really couldn’t tell them what the Lord was doing.
The situation was dreadful.
My entire family began to harass and ridicule me. It was horrible. I expected it from my father, but not my mother. When I was growing up, she had showed so much affection. So had my brothers and sisters. But now they treated me with disdain—like an intruder who didn’t belong.
“Tradition! Tradition!” says the song in Fiddler on the Roof. If an Easterner breaks tradition, he has committed an unpardonable sin. I doubt that the West will ever truly understand its seriousness. He brings humiliation upon his family. And that can’t be forgiven.
The family told me, “Benny, you’re ruining our family name.” They pleaded with me not to dishonor their reputation. My father had been a mayor—and he reminded me of it. The family “name” was at stake.
Please understand me when I say this, but Greek Orthodox, and people from other Eastern “high” church orders, are perhaps the most difficult people to bring to a “personal” Christianity.
When I became a born-again Christian, it was actually shameful to them. Why? Because they believe they are the real Christians. And they have the historical documentation to prove it. They have been Christians longer than anyone else.
But here is the problem, and I have been raised with it. Their faith is long on form, ritual, and dogma, but short on God’s anointing. The power is missing. And as a result, they have virtually no comprehension of what it means to hear from the Lord or to be “led by the Spirit.”
It became obvious that if I was to remain in my own home, I would have to close the door to conversations about Christ.
Nothing, however, could dampen the fire of my newfound faith. I was like a glowing ember that never stopped burning.
Early in the morning my big Bible was open. The Holy Spirit continued to reveal the Word. But that was not enough. Every night that I could “escape” the house, I was in a church service, youth fellowship, or prayer meeting. And on Thursday nights I was back at The Catacombs.
I can never erase from my memory the day I mentioned “Jesus” in our home. My father walked over to me and slapped my face. I felt the pain. No, it wasn’t the Jerusalem rock this time. It was a different kind of pain. But the hurt I felt was for my family. I loved them so much and agonized for their salvation.
Actually, it was my fault. My daddy had warned me, “You mention the name of Jesus just once again, and you’ll wish you hadn’t.” He snarled with hatred as he threatened to kick me out of the house.
I began to tell my little sister, Mary, about the Lord. Somehow my dad found out about it, and his anger boiled over again. He forbade me to ever talk to her about spiritual things.
Even my brothers persecuted me. They called me every name under heaven—and a few below the earth. It went on for such a long time. In my room I prayed, “Lord, will it ever end? Will they ever come to know You?”
It got to the place where there wasn’t a member of my family I could talk to. I didn’t have to look up the definition of ostracized.
They flew my grandmother over from Israel just to tell me I was crazy. “You are an embarrassment to the family name,” she said. “Don’t you understand the shame you’re causing?”
My father made an appointment for me to see a psychiatrist. Evidently Dad thought I had lost my mind. And what was the doctor’s conclusion? “Maybe your son is going through something. He’ll come out of it.”
His next tactic was to get me a job that would keep me so busy that I wouldn’t have time for this “Jesus.” He went to one of his friends and said, “I’d like for you to offer my son, Benny, a job.”
Daddy drove me to his place and waited in the car while I went in. The man was one of the rudest, roughest, most mean-spirited men I had ever encountered. It was obvious I couldn’t work for such a person.
I got back in the car and said, “Father, I could never have him for a boss.”
I actually felt sorry for my dad that day. He was at the end of his rope. He said, “Benny, what do you want me to do for you? Tell me what it is. I’ll do anything you ask if you’ll just please leave this Jesus of yours.”
“Dad,” I said, “you can ask me anything you want, but I would die before I’d give up what I’ve found.”
It was an ugly scene. He turned from a friendly father into a sarcastic stranger. All he had to offer was another torrent of hate, another tongue-lashing.
For the next year—nearly two—my father and I had almost no communication. At the dinner table he wouldn’t look at me. I was totally ignored. It finally became unbearable even to sit down and watch the evening news with my family.
So what did I do? I stayed in my room. But looking back on it, I can see that the Lord knew exactly what He was doing. I spent hundreds of hours—thousands—alone with God. My Bible was always open. I prayed. I studied. I worshiped. I feasted on heavenly manna that I would need in the years to come.
Getting to church was a gigantic problem. How I longed to go, but my father said, “Absolutely not!” time and time again. In fact, those were practically the only conversations we had—arguments about the house of the Lord.
Easterners consider it unthinkable to disobey parents. But now I was nearly twenty-one. And I vividly recall the night I summoned the boldness to tell my father, “I’ll obey you on anything you want, but on the matter of going to church I will not obey you. I must obey the Lord!”
He was stunned. You’d have thought someone had shot him. And he seemed to bristle even more.
Out of respect, I did my best to be obedient. I’d ask him, “Can I go to the meeting tonight?” He’d say no, and I would go to my room and pray, “Please, Lord, please change his mind.”
Then I’d go back downstairs and ask again. “Can I go?”
“No,” he’d growl. And back up I’d go.
Little by little, he began to give in. He knew it was a losing battle. The Catacombs rented another building for services on Sunday, and I was right there. Bible studies were on Tuesday and Friday, and a youth meeting on Saturday night. These meetings became my whole life.
In the two years after my conversion, my spiritual growth was like a rocket’s moving into orbit. By the end of 1973 Merv and Merla Watson were inviting me to join them on the platform to help lead in worship and singing. But I couldn’t speak in public.
Jim Poynter, the spirit-filled Free Methodist pastor, had seen me there. And one day he stopped by the kiosk at the mall just to talk about the things of the Lord. That’s when he invited me to go with him to the Kuhlman meeting in Pittsburgh.
My personal encounter with the Holy Spirit after that meeting was awesome. But it took a few days for me to realize the dimensions of God’s revelation to me.”
About this same time I changed jobs. I accepted a position as a filing clerk for the Catholic school board in Toronto. I’m sure they wondered about me at times. I had a smile on my face just thinking about what God was doing in my life.
The minute my work was finished, I went home and rushed upstairs and just started talking to Him. “Oh, Holy Spirit, I’m so glad to be back here alone with you.” Yes, He was always with me, but my bedroom became a very sacred, special place. Sometimes, when I wasn’t working I stayed home all day just having a personal communion with Him.
What was I doing? Having fellowship. Fellowship with the Spirit. And when I wasn’t at work or in my room, I tried to get to church. But I didn’t tell anyone what was happening to me.
When I left the house in the morning, He left with me. I actually felt someone beside me. On a bus I’d feel the urge to start talking with Him, but I didn’t want people to think I was crazy. Even at work, there were times when I whispered things to Him. At lunch, He was my companion. But day after day, when I got home, I hopped up those stairs, locked the door to my room, and said, “Now we are alone.” And my spiritual journey continued.
Let me explain that many times I wasn’t aware of His presence. I knew He was with me, but I became so accustomed to Him that I did not feel the electricity of those special times.
But other people felt it. Many times when my friends came to see me, they began weeping because of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Once Jim Poynter called to say, “I want to pick you up and take you to a Methodist church where I’m singing. You can sing with me if you’d like.” I wasn’t really a singer, but I helped him out once in a while.
That afternoon I was once again lost in the anointing of God’s spirit. Then I heard Jim honking the horn. As I ran down the stairs and to the car, I actually felt the Lord’s presence running with me.
The moment I jumped into the front seat and shut the door, Jim began to weep. He began to sing that chorus, Hallelujah! Hallelujah! He turned to me and said, “Benny, I can feel the Holy Spirit in this car.”
“Of course His presence is in this car,” I said. “Where else would it be?” To me it had become the norm. But Jim could hardly drive. He continued to weep before the Lord.
Once, my mother was cleaning the hallway while I was in my room talking with the Holy Spirit. When I came out, she was thrown right back. Something had knocked her against the wall. I said, “What’s wrong with you, Mama?” She answered, “I don’t know.” Well, the presence of the Lord almost knocked her down.
My brothers will tell you of the times they came near me and didn’t know what was happening—but they felt something unusual.
As time went on I lost my desire just to go out with the young people at church to have fun. I just wanted to be with the Lord. So often I said, “Lord, I’d rather have this than anything the world can offer.” They could have their games, their entertainment, their football—I just didn’t need it.
“What I want is what I have right now,” I told the Lord. “Whatever it is, don’t let it quit.” I began to understand more fully Paul’s desire for “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.”
Now, even members of my family were asking questions. The Spirit of the Lord so permeated our home, that my brothers and sisters began to develop a spiritual hunger.
One by one, they came to me and began to ask questions. They’d say, “Benny, I’ve been watching you. This Jesus is real, isn’t He?”
My sister Mary gave her heart to the Lord. And within the next few months my little brother Sammy got saved. Then came Willie.
All I could do was to shout, “Hallelujah!” It was happening—and I had not even begun to preach.
By this time my father was nearly ready for an asylum. Was he losing his whole family to this Jesus? He didn’t know how to handle it. But there was no question that my mom and dad could see the transformation that had already taken place in me, in two of my brothers, and in Mary.
When I first gave my life to the Lord, I had some wonderful encounters with Him. But these were nothing compared with my daily walk with the Holy Spirit. Now the Lord really visited my room. The glory would fill that place. Some days I’d be on my knees worshiping the Lord for eight, nine, or ten hours straight.
The year of 1974 unleashed a never-ending flow of God’s power on my life. I’d just say “Good morning, Holy Spirit,” and it would start all over again. The glory of the Lord stayed with me.
One day in April I thought, “There must be a reason for it.” I asked, “Lord, why are you doing all of this for me?” I knew that God doesn’t give people spiritual picnics forever.
Then as I began to pray, here is what God revealed to me. I saw someone standing in front of me. He was totally in flames, moving uncontrollably; his feet were not touching the ground. The mouth of this being was opening and closing—like what the Word describes as “gnashing of teeth.”
At that moment the Lord spoke to me in an audible voice. He said, “Preach the gospel.”
My response, of course, was, “But Lord, I can’t talk.”
Two nights later the Lord gave me a second dream. I saw an angel. He had a chain in his hand, attached to a door that seemed to fill the whole heaven. He pulled it open, and there were people as far as the eye could see. Souls. They were all moving toward a large, deep valley—and the valley was a roaring inferno of fire.
It was frightening. I saw thousands of people falling into that fire. Those on the front lines were trying to fight it, but the crush of humanity behind them pushed them into the flames.
Again, the Lord spoke to me. Very clearly He said, “If you do not preach, everyone who falls will be your responsibility.” I knew instantly that everything that happened in my life was for one purpose—to preach the gospel.
The fellowship continued. The glory continued. The presence of the Lord did not depart; it actually intensified. The Word became more real. My prayer life became more powerful.
Finally, in November 1974 I couldn’t avoid the subject any longer. I said to the Lord, “I will preach the gospel on one condition: that you will be with me in every service.” And then I reminded Him, “Lord, you know that I can’t talk.” I worried continually about my speech problem and the fact that I was going to embarrass myself.
It was impossible, however, to erase from my mind the picture of a burning man and the sound of the Lord saying, “If you do not preach, everyone who falls will be your responsibility.”
I thought, “I must begin to preach.” But wouldn’t passing out little tracts be good enough? Then one afternoon, the first week of December, I was sitting in the home of Stan and Shirley Phillips in Oshawa, about thirty miles east of Toronto.
“Can I tell you something?” I asked. Never before had I felt led to tell anyone the full story about my experiences, dreams, and visions. For nearly three hours, I poured out my heart about things only the Lord and I knew about.
I had finished, Stanley stopped me and said, “Benny, tonight you must come to our church and share this.” They had a fellowship called Shilo—about a hundred people at the Trinity Assembly of God in Oshawa.
I wish you could have seen me. My hair was down to my shoulders, and I hadn’t dressed for church because the invitation had been totally unexpected.
But on December 7, 1974, Stan introduced me to the group, and for the first time in my life I stood behind a pulpit to preach.
The instant I opened my mouth, I felt something touch my tongue and loosen it. It felt like a little numbness, and I began to proclaim God’s Word with absolute fluency.
Here’s what was amazing. God didn’t heal me when I was sitting in the audience. He didn’t heal me when I was walking up to the platform. He didn’t heal me when I stood behind the pulpit. God performed the miracle when I opened my mouth.
When my tongue loosened, I said, “That’s it!” The stuttering was gone. All of it. And it has never returned.
Now my parents didn’t know I was healed because we had so little communication around the house. And, of course, there had always been times when I could speak without a noticeable problem for a short time— before something set the stuttering off again.
But I knew I was healed. And my ministry began to mushroom. It seemed as if every day I was invited to a church or fellowship group to minister. I felt in the perfect center of God’s Will.
For the next five months I was a preacher, but my mother and father had no inkling. Keeping it quiet for so long was a miracle in itself. My brothers knew, but they didn’t dare tell Dad because they knew it would be the end of Benny.
In the Toronto Star in April 1975, a newspaper ad with my picture in it appeared. I was preaching at a little pentecostal church on the west side of town, and the pastor wanted to attract some visitors.
It worked. Costandi and Clemence saw the ad. I was sitting on the platform that Sunday night. During the song service I looked up and could hardly believe my eyes. There were my mother and my father being ushered to a seat just a few rows in front of the platform.
I thought, “This is it. I’m going to die.”
My good friend Jim Poynter was seated on the platform next to me. I turned to him and said, “Pray, Jim! Pray!” He was shocked when I told him Mother and Dad were there.
A thousand thoughts flashed through my mind, not the least of which was, “Lord, I’ll know I’m really healed if I don’t stutter tonight.” I can’t remember another time that I was so nervous during a service and anxiety always made me stutter.
As I began to preach, the power of God’s presence began to flow through me, but I couldn’t bring myself to look in the direction of my parents—not even for a fleeting glance. All I knew was that my concern about stuttering was needless. When God healed me, the healing was permanent.
Toward the end of the service I began praying for those who needed a healing. Oh, the power of God filled that place.
As the meeting was ending, my parents got up and walked out the back door.
After the service I said to Jim, “You’ve got to pray. Do you realize that in the next few hours my destiny will be decided? I may have to sleep at your house tonight.”
That night I drove aimlessly around Toronto. I wanted to wait until at least two in the morning to get home. By that time I knew my parents would be in bed.
I really didn’t want to face them. But more about that later ...
Instead, I got into my car and began to drive the streets of Toronto. I thought, “If I get home in the middle of the night, my folks will be sleeping.” It was just after two o’clock in the morning when I quietly parked in front of the house and turned off the ignition.
I tiptoed up the steps and slowly unlocked the front door. I opened it and was startled by what I saw. There in front of me, seated on the couch, were my mom and dad.
I had been panic-stricken when I saw them walk into that church, but this was even worse. My knees began to tremble, and I looked for a place to sit down.
My father was the first to speak and I listened in disbelief.
“Son,” he softly said, “how can we become like you?”
Was I hearing what I thought I was hearing? Was this the same man that had been so offended by my conversion? The father that had absolutely forbidden the name of “Jesus” to be spoken in our home?
“We really want to know,” he said. “Tell us how we can have what you have.”
I looked at my dear mother and saw tears begin to fall down her beautiful cheeks. I couldn’t contain my joy at that moment. I began to weep. And for the next hour of that unforgettable night I opened the Scripture and led my parents to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
My daddy said, “Benny, do you know what convinced me?” He told me that when I began preaching, he turned to my mother and said, “That’s not your son. Your son can’t talk! His God must be real.” He didn’t know that I had been totally healed of stuttering.
The marvelous conversion of my parents allowed the Lord to literally sweep through the rest of the family. Henry showed up and got saved. My little brother Mike was born again. Then it happened to Chris. If you’ve ever heard about “household salvation,” this was it!
(From Benny Hinn: Good Morning Holy Spirit, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1990.)
God’s babies turn out glorious. They get attacked, take time to mature, stretch the human parents but this is how God works and the outcome is salvation – for many. This Christmas morning – take another look at baby Jesus and see your Saviour. He loved you enough to become a helpless infant, submit to the care of a teenage mum, grow up and then die for you – on a cross – years later – so that you could be forgiven and have peace with God. On the night of Jesus’ birth – the angel was right. He said: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Put your trust in him and experience great joy. Amen.