Rev Dr Edgar Mayer – Living Grace Lutheran Church, Toowoomba – Date: 9 November 2014

For more sermons and other writings, please check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org

 

Jesus Tent Pittsworth Debrief

 

The Jesus Tent in Pittsworth (29 October – 2 November 2014) was simply the best. It had strong attendances from the beginning and doubled in numbers towards the end – climaxing in 230+ people on Sunday morning (more than the available chairs). We don’t know precisely how many conversions happened but it is safe to say that the whole community has been impacted and (in significant numbers) transformed (transitioned into something new) by the nature of the Jesus Tent and its method of preaching a simple Jesus message with an expectation that God will confirm the message with demonstrations of the Spirit’s power – healings, signs and wonders:

 

1 Corinthians 2:1-5: … I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified … My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

 

Romans 15:18-19: … what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit … I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.

 

On the first night, God gave us the gold sparkles again – the miracle of golden glitter on human skin (mostly the hands) – but there were also new miracles in the tent. I noticed on different nights that an occasional rain drop seemed to land on my face. However, there was no condensation on the tent roof and I wasn’t sure whether I was imagining things but, on the last night, I asked the congregation whether anyone else had had the same sensation and numerous people had experienced these drops and were wondering where they had come from. It was another miracle which I had previously encountered only in books and reports but now it was in our own ministry. Some more people also reported that they could smell supernatural perfume – a fragrance of heaven – by the Holy Spirit – especially on Saturday morning when I was teaching on the Holy Spirit.

Two people from Pittsworth had been at the Jesus Tent in Oakey and they shared some extraordinary healings. [This was encouragement also for the Jesus Tent in Oakey.] David, an auto-electrician, had had painful arthritis in his hands, received prayer in the tent and all the pain left him except some pain in the knuckles of his thumbs but he was completely pain free after three more weeks. [David was particularly thankful for the advice not to pray while receiving prayer. It helped him to receive much.] Jess asked for prayer for her thyroid. She was on the maximum number of tablets possible but, after prayer, in the space of four weeks she is no longer on any tablets and the thyroid is fine. God is good.

 

Testimony videos:

 

Bill Keeley: healing of blurry vision, he could read the words on the screen again …

 

A person from the street: healing of her thumb.

 

Charlie Uebergang: fought with pride but finally resolved to let go of his resistance, (for the first time ever) he fell down (immediately) under the power of the Holy Spirit and then saw a white light (which he had seen once previously at another breakthrough moment in his faith walk) => his daughter(s) followed him a day later, finally came forward for prayer, also let go of control and ended up on the floor under the power and ministry of the Spirit of God. [Charlie is about 2.05 metres tall with a solid weight but the two pastors catching him (Lutheran and Pentecostal) reported that he was very light to catch. Maybe an angel was lending a helping hand.]

 

Jeff Lack: he was a sceptic when it came to healing and other miracles but came forward for prayer because he suffered from a painful heel condition, after prayer (twice) the pain left but moved to the hips, after more prayer the next day he is now completely pain free and healed and no longer a sceptic.

 

[At least two teenage girls have received the gift of tongues, …]

 

Another testimony was important to me. On Thursday morning – at the men’s meeting – a father talked to me about this thirteen-year-old daughter and how she was struggling with her faith, asking the question: “Is God real?” [She used to be happy in her faith but then read a book about vampires from the school library, began to have nightmares and the struggles with her faith began!] The next day – at the night rally – the father was back with his daughter and his son. As people were coming forward for prayer, I walked over to them (six or seven rows back) and asked the girl whether she wanted to come forward for prayer. She looked very uncomfortable but then said: “Can I ask you something?” She wanted to know how you can tell that God is real. I asked her to come with me and we went to the front for prayer. She looked fearful and I thought that I better get a woman involved here. Helen came and was wonderful but the girl became even more frightened at the possible prospect of falling backwards while receiving prayer (with me standing behind her and trying to catch her). We all smiled at her but she looked very uncomfortable which meant that I became very upset with myself. I thought: “I should have left her in her seat. I put her on the spot. This was very insensitive.” And I could hear my own girls in my head: “Dad, don’t do this.” I was upset all night. When I prayed and asked God about whether I had made a mess of this encounter, the answer seemed quite clear: “No. This turned out good.” But I did not believe what I was hearing. The next day, I traced the father’s phone number and was ready to apologize but he said that the experience had really been good for his daughter. I felt relieved.

They kept coming to the meetings and were processing the preaching and what was happening. The last night, the girl (with her father) came to me again for prayer. She again wanted to know whether God was real. I prayed for her and a number of times she lost her balance under the power of the Spirit but became frightened whenever this happened, caught herself and we prayed some more. After more general prayer, she suddenly requested prayer for her depression and, after healing prayer, she requested prayer for another ailment – a painful spot on her spine which was preventing her from riding her horse. I prayed but the pain was still there. I prayed again with my fingers on the spot and then she couldn’t find the pain any more.

She checked out her spine and kept pressing the spot but it was fine and the expression on her face – pure shock and disbelief and surprise – was priceless. She asked: “What happened?” I said: “We prayed to Jesus and he healed you, showing you (waving a hand to you) that he is real and loves you.” It was already late but I got held up at the door (entrance of the tent) and then the father came again – this time with his wife and son. They had driven home and, in response to their daughter’s healing, they immediately returned and brought the son for more healing prayer.

Is this good? It is and I think that this particular testimony has something to teach us this morning. As wonderful as the Jesus Tent is and as wonderful as our own church is, do you invite new people to come here and be with us on Sunday morning? How comfortable are you to bring new people to Living Grace? It is probably easy to bring other Christians that are already familiar with the Holy Spirit – miracles and healings – but what about your non-Christian neighbours and friends, colleagues at work and acquaintances? Do you bring them to Living Grace? I know that you love our church and I know that you love me but nevertheless the answer to the question for a good number of us isno”. We are not necessarily bringing non-Christians to this place. Why? Because they may be as uncomfortable as the thirteen-year-old girl in the tent. They may become freaked out by falling down under the power of the Spirit or the strangeness of other miracles. Therefore – so the strategy goes – we rather take them to another church which seems safer because they do not give as much room for demonstrations of the Spirit’s power. There will be a safe worship time, a safe message and a safe time frame. Yet, is this clever thinking – introducing people to Jesus by safe-guarding them from experiencing too much of him through the Holy Spirit?

I can understand the fears. I was very upset when I thought that I had made the girl’s fears and discomfort worse in the tent. When we bring a visitor to church (either our own or our daughters’ church in Brisbane), my family is still hoping – with baited breath – that everything will be okay – nothing too weird to scare off the newcomer. Only our experience – just within our own family – is that many a time our fears are misplaced. Traditional Christians – Christians with our background – may have certainhang-upsand ideas of what church should be like but non-Christians are open to whatever experiences church services may offer to them and, if there is a God, of course he will do things – show himself – in worship. Dominique’s friend from Germany was weeping during the worship and – as a non-Christian – recognized it as the Spirit of God moving on her and it was okay – blessing her.

I remember that years ago I had organized someone to share how she had received the gift of tongues during the week and the particular Sunday was the Sunday where we were confirming a number of teenagers which meant that we had lots of visitors in church. Some of our most mature members were a little exasperated with me: “Did we have to have such an out-there-testimony on the day when so many visitors will be at Living Grace?” Yet – later – when they heard back from the man that they were worried about, he was only impacted by one thing in the service: the testimony of this supernatural gift of speaking in tongues. Everything else was mainly words – boring and not very real to him.

For newcomers not all demonstrations of the Spirit may be as uncomfortable as we think and, for all of her fears, the thirteen-year-old girl in the tent was asking the question: “Is God real?” And she was not getting an answer to her question from anything that I was saying to her. She needed an experience and we know that this the Bible way:

 

1 Corinthians 2:1-5: … I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified … My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

 

Romans 15:18-19: … what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit … I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.

 

The girl would not have been helped by another Jesus Tent where the preaching would have been everything with nobody falling down under the Spirit’s power or any other supernatural manifestations (gold sparkles, supernatural rain and supernatural perfume). This young woman needed our Jesus Tent with the kind of Spirit presence which made her wobbly on the feet when she was receiving prayer.

What do your non-Christians friends and colleagues need? May I say another word about the preaching at Living Grace? Are my messages too difficult for visitors? Yes and no! A few years back, we had a young woman at Living Grace who was here because of our outreach ministry and the support she was getting for housing and food. She never got anything out of my preaching (so she told me later) because she was not hungry for God. She wasn’t here to get close to God but then she joined a Christian drug rehab program and I happened to be the guest-preacher one day and she couldn’t get over the fact how awesome my preaching was. Did my preaching change? No but she did. As she became hungry for God and was seeking him – and as the Spirit opened up the word of God for her – she understood what she wanted to know. Understanding and being nourished by the Word of God is a spiritual experience which needs an open heart to let the Holy Spirit do his teaching work.

However, it is true that even hungry newcomers may not understand everything in the message that is being preached. I think that this is okay. If I chose to visit a Buddhist temple because I am interested in the Buddhist religion, I would not go with the expectation that everything will be clear to me on my first visit. Of course there is much to learn. I would probably not even understand the architecture and symbols of the temple. The same goes for any new experience. Even becoming a member of a golf club involves a time of learning and growing in the culture of golf. For instance, when you first go there, they ask you: “What’s your handicap?” Isn’t that a bit rude? They may choose to hit the ball with a3 woodbut there is (mostly) not a single piece of wood on the club. It’s graphite or something else. You don’t turn up as a newcomer expecting to understand everything – especially about something as big as God – on your first visit.

My preaching is not pitched to those that know nothing about the Bible but I think that there is always something that can by understood by everyone and inspires a quest to know more. The key is you. You explain what is happening. You take the person that you have brought along under your wing and teach them the faith. Each one teach one. According to statistics, 86% of all Christians come to saving faith in Jesus through the testimony of a friend or relative. Advertising, pastoral visits and organized evangelistic outreaches accounted only for 14%. For most new Christians, a friend or relative is the key – one on one mentoring and assistance to become a Christian and grow in faith. You are the key.

And to come back to any potential Holy Spirit happenings – you talk people through the issues – explaining why some people fall down after receiving prayer and others may look “drunk” or sing with strange sounds coming out of their mouths. You explain what is going on and you are not ashamed of anything. On the contrary, people want to know whether God is real and he is real among us.

At the same time, our church is committed – I am committed – to make everything – the whole worship service – as intelligible as possible. When the Spirit makes some laugh out loud (Janne Eiby may roll around the floor again) and newcomers begin to wonder about the sanity level of the laughing people, I am not playing up this manifestation but try to explain what is happening and I try to sound reasonable when I am doing so. My heart is to help people enter into these experiences by having their questions and objections and fears answered. At the Jesus Tent in Pittsworth, Charlie had issues with the falling down business and I could not change the circumstances for him. God is God and he does what he wants – not what we stipulate. However, I could help Charlie and others by explaining to them that most church people – including many of us – do not like falling backward into the arms of strangers in a strange place but God likes it precisely for the reason that we don’t. It is humbling and God is found in humility. He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

There’s always a risk bringing a new person to church because the message of Jesus Christ – as nice as we may be and as loving as Jesus is – the message itself is confrontational: Repent and believe. Leave your old life behind you and accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins. [Expand on the basic Gospel message.] Jesus told us that not everyone will respond favourably. Some will reject the invitation to belong to Jesus and in the process may reject you who are bringing them the invitation. Therefore, it’s a risk to bring people to church or the Jesus Tent. However, there is also the promise that others will respond with faith and receive salvation and then we can dance with the angels in heaven over one sinner that repents.

What have I been saying? Check your attitude. Are you bringing newcomers to Living Grace or do you think that this is unwise because our church would possibly make them feel uncomfortable or stretch them too much? For newcomers not all demonstrations of the Spirit may be as uncomfortable as we think and they do come here – at least the hungry ones – with the question: “Is God real?” So they better experience something and we are committed to talk them through anything that happens – with you taking the lead.

 

2 Corinthians 4:1-7: God has been kind enough to trust us with this work. That’s why we never give up. We don’t do shameful things that must be kept secret. And we don’t try to fool anyone or twist God’s message around. God is our witness that we speak only the truth, so others will be sure that we can be trusted.

If there is anything hidden about our message, it is hidden only to someone who is lost.

The god who rules this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers. They cannot see the light, which is the good news about our glorious Christ, who shows what God is like. We are not preaching about ourselves. Our message is that Jesus Christ is Lord. He also sent us to be your servants. The Scriptures say, “God commanded light to shine in the dark.” Now God is shining in our hearts to let you know that his glory is seen in Jesus Christ.

We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. The real power comes from God and not from us …

 

When people become Christians, this is a big step but it is such joy when God becomes real to them and everything changes – for the better. Preaching time is up but in passing I also want to share the good news that in Pittsworth all the churches worked together and the ministers kept coming to the tent meetings – Anglican, Catholic, Uniting, Lutheran and Pentecostal – and they all want the tent back next year.

There was also plenty of spiritual warfare over the tent site and in people’s lives. For instance, Pastor Stan Rudowski’s wife had a car accident on the way home from the Jesus Tent in Oakey the day before he was to preach in the tent and this time someone broke into their home and stole valuables (while Pastor Stan and his wife were at home) the day before he was to preach in the Jesus Tent at Pittsworth. Warfare is normal but we prevail in Jesus’ name.

I am happy – really happy – with what God allows us to do – a small church like ours is reaching out and touching so many others. We are making friends and partnering with brothers and sisters in Christ in other places. It’s fun. It’s an adventure. I love it and – I think – so do you. God is good and he says that there is enough of him to share him with others. He is real and – what joy – he becomes real to people in the Jesus Tent and here at Living Grace. Amen.

 

 

 

Unity

 

Spiritual Warfare

 

Joy of the tent