Friday, August 3, 2012

Ministry Update - July 2012


WHAT DO YOU SEE?

 One day, Jesus made a bold declaration regarding His cousin, John the Baptist. "I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John" (Luke 7:28). Jesus greatly admired and respected John. He wasn't alone. The Jewish populace couldn't seem to get enough of him. Even King Herod was in awe of this voice "crying in the wilderness." John the Baptist had captured the admiration of the masses like no one had in recent memory. So how did he gain such popularity? Was it his lineage? Was it his spiritual calling? Was it his message?

A few days ago, Molly was driving when the presence of God filled her car. He seemed so close and tangible that she could feel Him breathing. He then asked her a simple question. "What is the strongest part of your ministry?" Molly thought of many different answers that would suffice but none were what He was looking for. She then said the word "lifestyle" and He responded, "That's it!" The Lord further added, "When people went out to see John the Baptist, they were not drawn because of His message but his lifestyle."

John's lifestyle drew people like a magnet. They came from Judea, the region of the Jordan, and even the capital of Jerusalem. Matthew understood the significance of John's lifestyle. In the third chapter, He explains his ministry address, wardrobe, and even diet. All these details had to do with the way John lived.

In the seventh chapter of Luke, Jesus revealed an interesting point about John. "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. But what did you go out to see?" What is fascinating about Christ's description is that He used the verb "see" rather than "hear" three times. There is no doubt that Jesus was aware of John's powerful sermons but John possessed something of even greater power in God's eyes. You can hear a message but you must see a lifestyle.

John the Baptist declared to all those who desired to follow the Lord, "Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God" (Matt. 3:8 NLT). His mission was to lead others into a different way of living. Many people were baptized by John including Jesus. This religious observance was meant to be a public declaration of a commitment to a lifestyle greater than our world's system.

Like in biblical times, a Kingdom lifestyle can have a powerful impact on the prevailing culture. I believe the reason the Church has lost its influence today is because the lifestyle of its followers reflects rather than resists the current culture. This is in total contrast to New Testament Christianity. We cannot fulfill our spiritual destiny unless this changes.

Does this mean we need to all switch to camel's hair clothes, and a diet of locust and honey? No, but it does mean we need to have very different interests, goals, and priorities. It does mean we need to let go of things in our life that have nothing to do with His Kingdom. Like John Mark McMillan's song, it does mean we need to "shine like diamonds against the jet-black sheet of night." This is the key to making an impact in our world. This is how to prepare the way for the Lord's return. This is what the people will go out to see!


A PRODIGAL COMES HOME

I am so excited to see the spiritual passion in some of our law enforcement officers. This week, I met with an officer who asked for prayer for an old friend. This friend had immersed himself into the biker lifestyle and was addicted to methamphetamines. Suddenly, the officer's phone rang and it was his old friend calling! The officer immediately invited the man to join us for prayer. Soon the old tattooed biker friend showed up disheveled with his head hung down in shame.

As we worshipped the Lord together, he began to weep. The law enforcement officer then placed his hand on his friend's shoulder and started to pray. Soon the old friend could not stop crying as the Holy Spirit began to lovingly expose his heart. Then the man began to call upon the Lord to forgive him and help his estranged wife. Discouragement and shame were replaced by faith and hope. Since then, the Lord had continued to feed his spiritual hunger and the man has already begun to be a witness to several of his old friends!


Upcoming Events

•Forty years ago, I gave my life to Christ while attending a Bible camp. Winkie Pratney was the speaker and he made a huge impact in my life. Winkie has returned to northern Minnesota and will be speaking July 20-29 at "The Gathering" hosted by Firestarters in Ottertail, MN. The theme of the conference will be the Jesus People Movement. I will be there and it will be a blessing to all who attend.

•On July 23 and 30, Lakes Area Chaplaincy and Bethany Urban Development will be hosting fund-raising events at the Baxter Pizza Ranch. We will be sharing about our ministries and waiting on tables. All tips and a portion of the evening pizza sales will be donated to our ministries. Please join us for dinner between 5:00 and 8:00 PM. It would be great to see you!

•We continue to make progress on our new website. It will have a new name and many new features. It should be ready before the next newsletter is released. We are so excited and believe it will help develop a Kingdom lifestyle in all of us!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Ministry Update - June 2012


In our last newsletter, I shared about my granddaughter, Jamie's miraculous escape from a serious car accident. Since then, Jamie has gone on a missions trip to Guatemala and El Salvador. Below are some of Molly's insights regarding this important season in Jamie's life.

A CALL TO DESTINY

Six months ago, when Jamie asked if she could go all the way to Central America without me, my immediate response was, "No way!" She begged and pleaded but I just couldn't part with my first-born even though it was for a good purpose. Then one morning the Lord spoke something to me I was not expecting. "Molly, she has the desire now. Don't wait until she no longer does." I knew then that the stirring that Jamie had in her heart was from God and I needed to respond to it.....NOW.

Six months later, the day finally came; the day I was going to learn how to trust in my Jesus more than I ever have had to in my life. I waved goodbye as my fourteen-year-old daughter left the church parking lot in her team van. I was crying so hard that I couldn't even see her trying to wave goodbye back. All of a sudden, flashes of when she was born came flooding through my mind. All those years, all the joys and tears were all for this moment; the moment when I no longer carried her along in my destiny but now she walked in her own.

A few days later Jamie wrote in her journal from Guatemala:

"Today we got to visit an orphanage. No words can explain the love I have towards them. My heart broke when I had to say my last goodbye. Those kids were filled with more love than I've ever seen in any other person. They assured my heart and my mind of my purpose in life - I AM going to reach those in need; those who are begging for help yet no one stops to care. I will show them there is a Jesus who cares. I will go where God calls me...anywhere.

I will never stop serving God. I want to build up what God desires and be the difference that the world is searching for. I use to want to be normal but now all I want is to be different. Lord, use me for your works. Guide me with your wisdom. Transform lives with your love because if they just experience a hint of your love, they will never walk away from you. Amen."

Twelve long days and many sleepless nights later, she came home. I was expecting my same bubbly little Jamie to come running over to me, to hold me and tell me how much she missed her mommy. Instead, I approached not a little girl but a radiant young woman of God. Though nothing can take away the moments we shared when I helped her learn to walk, or to ride a bike, or even her first day of kindergarten, I knew things would be different. She had found someone new to help her do things; not just ride a bike but to scale mountains and set captives free. She had finally found her Jesus, not my Jesus, but hers and suddenly it was okay that she let go of my hand because now we could each hold the hands of Jesus together.


THE DANIEL GENERATION

Daniel is one of the most interesting young men in the Bible. He appears during a time of great discouragement in the nation of Israel. Babylon has just overtaken Jerusalem and the temple has been destroyed. The people have been led into captivity and the glory of Israel has been devastated.

As the book begins, we witness Daniel along with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, facing enormous pressure to conform to the culture of a pagan kingdom. Interestingly, Daniel had already been mentioned three times in the book of Ezekiel. In each case, Daniel's righteousness and wisdom were particularly noted by the Lord. Daniel's friends were probably part of his prayer group because they mirrored his moral strength and courage.

Although of no priestly pedigree, these four young men were spiritual giants in the midst of a religious establishment that was strangely silent during the years of Israel's captivity. Apparently, the older religious leaders were more interested in assimilating into the new culture than becoming a challenge to it. Perhaps they thought it was the key to their survival. Actually, it was the key to their loss of power and influence.

I find it fascinating that every time God displayed His miraculous power through Daniel and his young friends; He also dismantled the glory of the existing earthly kingdom. God was sending a clear message - His Kingdom is superior to all other kingdoms and will never be defeated.

In many ways, the book of Daniel reflects our national condition. Today, our political and economic resources have been overwhelmed in the face of unrelenting difficulties. Our religious establishment is in turmoil and struggles for relevance and influence. The sins of our nation have produced a state of spiritual captivity.

In the midst of our desperate condition, God is once again stirring the hearts and minds of this next generation to be a voice for His Kingdom. This may challenge our preconceived mindsets and spiritual paradigms. Nevertheless, can we still do our part to train and support them? Can we pray for the fulfillment of God's purpose in their lives? Can we use our influence, experience, and resources to provide them the greatest chance for success? Our response may not only determine the accomplishment of their spiritual destiny but the fulfillment of ours as well.


FIERY UPDATES

I was also able to participate in a Crisis Management Briefing conducted in the city of Sartell, sixty miles away. An explosion had occurred at Verso, a paper mill that was the largest employer in the city. One person died and several were wounded in a fire that took several days to extinguish. As leaders in law enforcement, company HR, and city administration shared their experiences, people rallied in support for one another. I saw evidence of God at work in the midst of a community tragedy.

Back at our office, we continue to work hard at preparing a new website for those who hunger for revival fire. The website will have a new look and a new name. There will be blogs, compilations, sermons, and revival resources. We can't wait to share it with you.

Finally, thanks so much for your prayers and support. Because of your participation, you share in the rewards of everything God has done through the ministry.

Ministry Update - May 2012


A WAKEUP CALL

My name is Jamie. I am fourteen years old and live in Brainerd, Minnesota. Steve and Martha Harrison are my grandparents and Molly and Adam VanHeel are my parents. I come from a strong Christian family so you would expect me to be the same. Wrong. Well, at least until a week ago. Before then, I struggled to know who I was because I kept looking to find myself through my friends, guys, school, and secular music. I always had temptations and I would often give in to them. I knew that I wasn't what God wanted me to be but I always thought that I would ask for forgiveness in the end.

Well, I know who I am now. I am God's servant, a missionary, and a committed Christian. I don't need a guy, I don't need bad music, I don't need unsaved friends; all I need is my Jesus. I found my purpose and from this point on, I am giving up EVERYTHING; everything that I thought was me. I want to live out what God has planned for me so that I can be who I am supposed to be. I want to be different. I want people to know me as the girl who is the radical Christian - I would be honored to have that title.

You might wonder how I made this change of heart. Well, let's just say God gave me a wakeup call. On May 6, my friend gave me a ride in his new car after church. Unfortunately, we were going too fast around a corner. Before we even knew it, the car flew into a ditch and rolled over several times. I knew I was going to die. I knew this was the end. I remember wondering if I was going to make it to heaven. No, no I wasn't ready. Heaven is a perfect place and I was a sinner who knew that I was doing bad things and was just going to wait to ask for forgiveness at the end. Well, all of a sudden, the car stopped rolling... and I was still alive.

At first, I couldn't move; I was so confused because I was still here. Then I realized that God saved our lives and didn't want us to die. I climbed out of the car window and called home. They brought me to the hospital to see if I had any injuries but miraculously, I only had a sprained arm. I couldn't stop thanking my Jesus for saving me. God really opened my eyes and showed me that my purpose wasn't to mess around and not take Him seriously but to follow Him, trust Him, and do what I was created to do.

Before I didn't feel like I was anything but now I know that I am something. God has given me a greater sense of purpose. I want to make a difference and I want to be different. I have been waiting my whole life to have this kind of courage. Because of God, I now have purpose, strength, and life!


ROAD TO REDEMPTION

Recently, Martha and I had the privilege of attending the annual Teen Challenge banquet here in Brainerd. Around 600 came to the famous Cragun's Resort where we heard the testimony and music of Sheila Ray Charles, the daughter of Ray Charles. It was a very successful evening highlighted by the testimonies of several students in the program. The local director of Teen Challenge also shared a story that touched us all. He spoke about a young man who had recently joined the program.

This young man had come from a typical bad past - addictive lifestyle, crime, and incarceration. Fortunately, he had given his life to Christ and became anxious to know the Lord's will for his life. He sought and was granted an opportunity to enter Teen Challenge as an alternative to his jail sentence. However, a requirement was imposed that he had to report to the Brainerd Teen Challenge facility by a specific date and time or a warrant would be issued for his arrest. Arrangements were made to transport him from St. Cloud to Brainerd a couple days before the deadline - a distance of sixty miles.            

When he didn't show up at the Teen Challenge facility at the expected time, concerns grew. It was not uncommon to see individuals have a change of heart just prior to entering the program but this was not the case. This young man's ride had failed to pick him up. Knowing he had to get to the Teen Challenge facility regardless of his misfortune, he took a radical approach. He began to walk the entire distance!

He walked for miles, day and night, and developed a severe case of sunburn. At one point, a patrol officer stopped and questioned him. The young man showed him the official papers of his Teen Challenge assignment. The officer kindly gave him a ride to the next town. Unfortunately, he still had many more miles to go. But this young man wouldn't give up. He couldn't imagine doing anything else except fulfilling God's call on his life. Miraculously, he finally made it to the Teen Challenge center - just before the imposed deadline.

The Teen Challenge director summed up the story by telling the dinner guests that this young man illustrates the power and motivation of a changed life. It is what makes the ministry worth all the time and effort.

This past Tuesday, several of the Teen Challenge students came to our B.U.D. praise and worship service. One of them was this young man. As I met him for the first time, I discovered a key detail of his story that wasn't shared at the banquet. He had actually met Christ at the Crow Wing County Jail when a ministry volunteer shared with him on a Sunday evening last fall. It turns out that this ministry volunteer was Adam, my son-in-law, who was in the service! Now, by God's grace, they were reunited, worshipping the Lord together as transformed brothers in Christ.


A COMING SOON:

We are so excited about a project we have been working on for you. A new ministry website is in the development stages and will soon be accessible. It will provide many fresh and powerful tools to strengthen your walk with the Lord. We promise to let you know when it is ready. We still have some dates available to share at your church or Bible study. Please call 612-598-3270 if you are interested.