First the Blade

First the Blade 

© 2019 by Larry Nevenhoven

Introduction

I have always been intrigued by the ministry of Smith Wigglesworth, a Pentecostal pioneer. He has touched millions of believers with his exploits and teaching.

Wigglesworth (1859 – 1947) was born into a poor family in Yorkshire, England. As a child, he worked in the fields pulling turnips and working in the mills rather than attending schools. As a teenager, a man taught Wigglesworth the plumbing trade, which he worked at until he became a full-time evangelist.

After his marriage in 1882, his wife Polly eventually taught him how to read when he was twenty-seven years old. He made up his mind from that point forward to read little else but the Bible.

Many of his Christians peers referred to Wigglesworth as the Apostle of Faith. Their reasoning was based on his successful world-wide ministry that saw tens of thousands of people saved, thousands healed and hundreds of thousands taught to walk closer to the Lord. Numerous accounts even testify that Wigglesworth raised at least fourteen people from the dead.

Wigglesworth’s quotes still inspire Christians today:

“Great faith is the product of great fights. Great testimonies are the outcome of great tests. Great triumphs can only come out of great trials.”

“It is better to live ready than to get ready!”

“There is nothing our God cannot do. He will do everything if you dare to believe.”

“Some read their Bibles in Hebrew, some in Greek; I like to read mine in the Holy Ghost.”

“A man is in a great place when he has no one to turn to but God.”

“God wants us so badly that He has made the condition as simple as He possibly could: only believe.”

“There is something about believing God that will cause Him to pass over a million people to get to you.”

“If you seek nothing but the will of God, He will always put you in the right place at the right time.”

Once, Smith Wigglesworth was talking with some Bible school students when one asked, “How can I be like you?”

“First the blade, then the ear and after that the full corn in the ear,”Wigglesworth replied.

Wigglesworth used Mark 4:28 to underline an important point to the young man. He wanted the student to understand it takes time and proper preparation for a new believer to grow in his spiritual walk with the Lord. It’s not an overnight happening!

My hope in writing this book is to encourage Christians – young and old – to take the time to build a proper foundation for their spiritual journeys with the Lord.

Chapter 1

Can We Trust the Bible?

On May 20, 1985, I gave my life to the Lord. Yes, I was a changed man, but I had no clue about what to do next. And to be honest, I didn’t even know how to label myself.

I phoned Bill Sheridan at 8 a.m. the following morning and told him about my conversion on the bathroom floor. Then, I asked, “What am I? Am I a follower of some weird cult like Hare Krishna? Or what?”

Bill laughed. “No, you’re not a follower of Hare Krishna or any weird cult. You’re a born-again believer. A Christian.”

“A Christian? I’m just a Christian! I’ve never met a Christian like me in my whole life.”

We talked a little longer and he advised me to read the Bible, beginning in the Book of Matthew. A couple of hours later, I bought a New King James Bible for $7.95 at Nelson’s Bookstore in downtown Fort Dodge, Iowa. I took it home and then was faced with a new dilemma.

You see, two days earlier I was an agnostic who believed the Bible was a man-made book of religious gobbledygook. Now, I held one in my hands and the friend who was instrumental in bringing about my salvation advised me to read it. What should I do? I thought.

“Lord, You showed me how real and alive You are yesterday when you saved me from committing suicide. So, I’m going to read this Bible and trust that it is Your truth. I may not understand everything, but if You help me, I will do my best,” I said aloud.

The Lord honored my prayer, but I wish the following information about the Bible would have been available to me back then. It would have erased every doubt in my mind:

The Bible was written over a period of 1,600 years by over forty different authors from all walks of life. There were fishermen, politicians, generals, kings, shepherds and historians. These men were born on three different continents and wrote in three different languages. They wrote on hundreds of controversial subjects, yet they wrote in perfect agreement and harmony. They wrote in dungeons, in temples, on beaches, and on hillsides, during peacetime and during war. Yet their words sound like they came from the same source. So, even though ten people today could not write on one controversial subject and agree, God picked forty very different people to write the Bible—and it has stood the test of time.

But is it accurate?

Barton Payne’s Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy lists 1,239 prophecies in the Old Testament and 578 prophecies in the New Testament, for a total of 1,817. These encompass 8,352 verses.

In the Old Testament there are prophesies against Tyre, Sidon, Ammon, Moab, Philistia, Egypt, Edom, Syria, Elam, Damascus, Gaza, Judah, Israel, and Babylon, to name a few.  Not one prophecy failed to be fulfilled with complete accuracy.

Let’s take a look at how many prophecies there are in the Old Testament that were fulfilled by Jesus. Alfred Edersheim concluded that there are at least 456 passages in the Old Testament that Jewish Rabbis historically have interpreted as being about the Messiah.

What would be the odds of just eight of these prophecies coming true, especially since they are from five different authors writing hundreds of years apart?

(1) Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2)

(2) Messiah would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. (Zechariah 11:12-13)

(3) Messiah’s clothes would be gambled away. (Psalms 22:18)

(4) Messiah’s hands and feet would be pierced. (Psalms 22:16)

(5) Messiah’s bones would not be broken. (Psalms 34:20)

(6) Messiah would be born of the tribe of Judah.  (Isaiah 37:31)

(7) Messiah would be called out from Egypt. (Hosea 11:1)

(8) Messiah would be buried in a rich man’s grave. (Isaiah 53:9)

The odds of all eight coming true are virtually incomprehensible! The number is written mathematically as 1014 or 100,000,000,000,000 to one.

But according to Edersheim, there are 456 scriptures that speak of the Messiah! I am not sure there is a number high enough to express the odds of fulfilling all 456 of those—not to mention all 1,817 prophecies found in the Bible. This is proof that the Author of these prophecies knew the future. The God who created the universe out of nothing knows the past, present, and future.

(All of these Bible facts are provided by Mario Murrillo and Dr. J. Smith at mariomurilloministries.wordpress.com, September 15, 2019, in the article, “Believers are leaving the Bible but the Bible will survive.”)

I am a believer who believes we can trust the Bible. How about you?

Chapter 2

Is it Important to Grow our Faith?

But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6 AMP)

For our salvations, God gives everyone a portion of faith which is more than enough for us to say, “Yes,” to His being Lord of our lives. Yet, this saving faith is only a miniscule amount compared to what is needed to truly “fight the good fight of faith” throughout our journeys with the Lord.

Some may be satisfied with the amount of faith they received at salvation and aren’t willing to put any effort into growing their faith. That is their choice.  At least, they are saved! Yet, they need to understand that this is not pleasing to God and will cause them problems throughout their lives. Maybe in finances, sickness, relationships or whatever.

Now, for everyone else, let’s learn how to trust God more and more by growing in our faith on a daily basis.

Twenty-five years ago, I had a vision of thousands of Christians walking along a high mountaintop. Life was good. Everyone enjoyed the blessings being given to them by God. Then I saw a tsunami of calamities strike the Christians. So overwhelming were the calamities that almost all of the Christians lost hope and were swept off the mountain and over a cliff into a chasm of deep despair and defeat. A few believers still hung onto the edge of the cliff by their fingernails after the wave of calamities passed.

But as I looked on, I knew these few survivors could not last through another wave of calamities without giving up and also falling into the chasm of despair and defeat along with the others.

As I looked at this horrible scene in the vision, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. “These Christians did not like the Word of Faith messengers I sent to the Body of Christ. They did not like their hairstyles or their clothing or the way they talked or acted. But most of all, they did not receive the revelation of faith, which I wanted the Body to have so they could withstand the trials, which are heading toward America. I want you to go and tell them they need the Word of Faith revelation.”

I am certainly not what you would call a Word of Faith teacher, but I do have a deep revelation of faith, which I received from Word of Faith teachings. My faith revelation has allowed me to walk through a divorce, snowstorms with wind chills of -50 degrees, sleeping in cars, digging in garbage dumpsters, and business reversal after reversal, all without ever falling into despair and defeat.

When I had this vision twenty-five years ago, I did not have a revelation about the End-Times because that wasn’t on my radar screen until the last four years or so. Now, I’m convinced the tsunami of calamities I saw in the vision are a part of the tribulation and persecutions awaiting believers in the soon arriving Great Tribulation.

It’s my belief that if we American Christians do not prepare ourselves for the End-Times that maybe 50 to 75% or more of us will be a part of the Great Falling Away the Apostle Paul mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Those percentages could add up to forty to seventy million believers. Unbelievable, right?

So, I don’t want to be disobedient to the heavenly vision, which was given to me over twenty-five years ago. Thus, I will be writing about faith in the next few chapters.

 

Chapter 3

Building a Foundation of Faith (a)

The four Gospels provide us with an interesting study on faith in the life of Peter:

According to Josephus, Peter was in his early to mid-twenties when he began following Jesus. He was married, had a house, owned a boat with his brother, Andrew, and partnered in a fishing business with James and John, who also owned a boat.

During his three years of following Jesus, Peter watched Jesus turn water into wine, heal his mother-in-law, raise three people from the dead (Talitha, man from Nain, and Lazarus), cast out two thousand demons from one man, feed the five thousand, feed the four thousand, and do countless miracles, which John stated “if they were written in detail…the world could not contain the books that would be written.”

Besides all the signs, wonders, and miracles, it was Peter who called out to Jesus, “…command me to come to You on the water.”  Why did Peter make his request to walk on water in such an odd manner?

When Peter saw the wind and waves, he began to sink. Jesus reached out His hand and saved him, but why did Jesus say to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

After all, there were eleven disciples still sitting safely inside the boat who had zero faith to step out of the boat and walk on water. Why would Jesus be so tough on Peter who at least had enough faith to get out of the boat?

There was also the time the temple authorities asked Peter whether Jesus would pay the two-drachma temple tax. Peter said, “Yes.” But when Peter arrived at the home of Jesus, the Lord spoke first and gave him a short teaching on sons versus strangers. Jesus said to Peter:

“…go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me. (Matthew 17:27)

Why was Peter given such an unusual supernatural assignment? Why not one of the other disciples?

It all goes back to when Peter first met Jesus along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus used Peter’s boat as a teaching platform and afterward He directed Peter to sail his boat out into the Sea of Galilee to drop the nets into deep waters. Jesus’ words were totally opposite to how a Galilean fisherman caught fish, as fishing was done at night, never during the day.

Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets. (Luke 5:5)

 When Peter obeyed Jesus’ words, the results were so successful Peter had to signal for James and John to bring their boat out to help with the fishing catch. That experience caused Peter, Andrew, James, and John to leave the fishing business and follow Jesus. (29)

This revelation of listening to the words of Jesus and then obeying His directions became a foundation for Peter’s faith. If you look closely at the four Gospels, you will notice it was usually Peter who answered Jesus’ questions or had inspired revelations which he then spoke.

Before the apostle Paul arrived on the scene, Peter had this revelation:

So then, faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)

It was Peter who denied Christ three times. And why did that happen?

 

Chapter 4

Jesus prayed and worshipped with eleven of His disciples on that Passover night in the Garden of Gethsemane. The scene then quickly changed when 300 Roman soldiers, and thirty or forty temple officers and slaves, showed up with swords, clubs, lanterns, and torches.

But even in that moment, Jesus was in charge. At His words, “I am He,” the cohort of soldiers and the temple group stepped back and fell to the ground. This demonstration of power and authority by Jesus most certainly inspired his eleven disciples, who were not only outnumbered thirty to one, but they were armed with only two swords.

Judas stepped forward and kissed Jesus. The temple officers seized Jesus when they saw the kiss.

“Lord, shall we strike with the sword,” said one of the disciples.

In that same instant, Peter drew his sword and sliced off the ear of the high priest’s slave, a man named Malchus.

Let’s pause and consider the scene in the garden that night, okay?

Peter stood there, holding his sword, ready to protect his King David from the Romans and the Temple group. Adrenalin pumped through his veins. Maybe he envisioned himself as one of the two men who stood with David in the middle of a barley field, slaying an entire Philistine army. But no matter what, Peter stood there, boldly willing to die for what he believed.

The wounded man, Malchus, writhed in pain. Blood gushed out of the wound and his ear lay on the ground. No one paid much attention to the wounded man because all eyes focused on Peter and his sword.

Three hundred battle-hardened Roman soldiers, who were armed with lances, shields, swords, and armor, readied themselves to attack the insurrectionists. They had no fear of a fisherman with a sword and were ready to kill Peter and the other disciples, thus ending the rebellion at its outset.

The new King David – Jesus – then revealed His kingdom to everyone in the garden. He reached out and healed Malchus. He turned to Peter and said, “Put the sword into the sheath.”

In that moment, I think Peter realized what he believed about his King David and His kingdom was incorrect. He had been deceived. His faith for the deception instantly dried up. He and the other disciples fled the garden without uttering another word.

So crushed was Peter’s faith that when he stood in the courtyard outside the Sanhedrin, where Jesus was on trial, he no longer had the heart to die for his King or the kingdom. A servant-girl and a few bystanders even heard him deny Christ three times.

When the women told about the angel and the empty tomb, Peter along with the other disciples believed it was nonsense. Jesus, upon His appearance, rebuked the eleven for their unbelief and hardness of heart in the matter.

We all know about Jesus telling Peter at the Passover supper he was about to be sifted by Satan and also, that Jesus had prayed for Peter’s faith not to fail. But have you ever noticed these two scriptures:

Saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon. (Luke 24:34)

And that He appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:5)

These are the only two scriptures, which mention Jesus had a special meeting with Peter alone before meeting with the rest of the apostles. We have no scriptural record of what Jesus said to Peter.

What do you think Jesus said to Peter at that special meeting?

 

Chapter 5

Building a Foundation of Faith (c)

It was Peter who had the heaven inspired revelation of Jesus.

Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16: 15 – 16)

 Even though Peter had a deep revelation and knew Jesus had words of eternal life, Peter had years of Jewish teachings on all of the unfulfilled prophecies for Israel. The unfulfilled prophecies must have seemed to be at odds with Jesus’ teachings. How could the promises for Israel’s restoration be fulfilled if you had to become like a child to enter into the kingdom of God?

What did Peter do?

He probably put two and two together to figure out the kingdom of God from what Jesus taught and what he already knew. Therefore, if Jesus was the Messiah and Israel had been promised that a Redeemer would restore Israel to its former prosperous place in history, then the Kingdom of God would be much like Israel was under King David, except the new King would do miracles. Peace would come. The lamb and the wolf would graze together, the lion would eat straw with the ox and dust would be the serpent’s food.

There are numerous scriptures backing up Peter’s logic, but it was neither God’s way nor His timing. So, when Jesus taught the disciples He was going to suffer, die, be buried and then be raised up again, Peter could not believe his ears and even rebuked Him. Jesus said to him:

Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s. (Matthew 16:23)

 This particular exchange took place a little more than six months before Jesus’ death on the cross. All through the weeks following this particular event, Jesus continued to teach His disciples.

“Let these words sink into your ears, for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement. (Luke 9: 45 – 46)

Remember: the Kingdom of God − between Jesus first coming and His second coming − is a spiritual kingdom, which is not seen with the human eye. It is one which has to be received by faith and cannot be understood by logic or knowledge.

Thus, Peter’s faith in his deception came to an end in the Garden of Gethsemane.

What did Jesus say to Peter at the special meeting He had alone with Peter?

I believe Jesus said approximately the same words to Peter, which He spoke to Cleopas and the other traveler when He met them near Emmaus:

And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24: 25 – 27)

All of these Old Testament scriptures spoken by the Living Word would have opened Peter’s eyes so that his heart would have burned in his chest once more, filled with faith.

What can we learn about faith from Peter’s experience?

And Jesus answered, saying to them, “Have faith in God.” (Mark 11: 22)

Our faith must always, always, always be in God and not in our interpretations of Scripture. It is God who is the Author and Finisher of our faith, not our traditions.

 

Chapter 6

Building a Foundation of Faith (d)

Almost everything we do for the Lord requires faith on our parts, but some things may require even more faith on our parts.

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (Matthew 17: 19-20)

In the late fall of 1995, I lived with a friend in an apartment in Ames, Iowa. To say I was going through bad times would be a classic understatement. My truck had been repossessed. My painting company had collapsed. There were a couple of dollars in my billfold with few hopes of earning more. I had to stand on a stepladder to touch bottom in my life.

My roommate and I felt we should pray for Northern Ireland on one particular morning. We began praying in tongues, waiting on the Holy Spirit to show us how to intercede for that war-torn area.

As we prayed, I had a vision in which I saw the bodies of young people piled up in the streets of Belfast. There were thousands of them. All had their lives snuffed out by the continued violence between the Catholics and Protestants.

The vision so disturbed me I could do nothing but weep. We eventually prayed as best we could to stop the vision from happening in Northern Ireland, but I had no inner peace. The main problem seemed to be that I knew I had an important prophetic word for Northern Ireland within my spirit, waiting to be given.

I went to my bedroom and prayed some more. I asked the Lord to give the prophecy to a well-known preacher. After all, who would listen to me? As soon as I prayed these words, I knew it was a bad idea so I quickly repented.

“Okay, Lord, show me how to speak the prophecy to Northern Ireland,” I prayed and with those words, I finally had peace.

A couple of days later, the Lord impressed me to visit a Catholic church near the Iowa State University campus. I walked in the door and asked if anybody knew someone in Northern Ireland. They laughed, but one person told me to talk with a secretary in the basement.

I went to the secretary. She did not know anyone in Ireland, but she knew the name of the Catholic Charismatic leader in Des Moines, Iowa. “Maybe that person knows someone in Ireland,” she said.

I phoned the Catholic Charismatic leader in Des Moines. “I don’t know anyone in Ireland,” she said, “but my husband knows the head of the Catholic Charismatic movement in England.”

Her husband got on the line and gave me the phone number.

I phoned the number in England early the next morning and talked with the leader’s wife because the leader was busy at some meetings in London. I told her why I was calling and what I needed.

“Funny,” she said, “but I’m looking at the exact person you need. His picture is on the cover of a book.” She then gave me the information for the man.

After hanging up, I sat down at the table and wrote the prophetic word, which I had for Northern Ireland. I mailed it to the Charismatic leader in Belfast.

Now, this whole experience was by faith, and as soon as I dropped the letter into the mailbox, all of my faith was used up. Every doubt in the world hit me. Who did I think I was? A nobody. A failure. I didn’t even belong to a church. No pastor would ever vouch for me. The Irish leader would take one look at my name, my handwritten letter and laugh.

But in the midst of those doubts, I knew enough to run to the throne of grace and ask for grace and mercy to help me.

A week or so later on a Sunday afternoon, the telephone rang.

“Hello,” I answered.

“Larry, I’m Cecil Kerr from Belfast, Ireland,” he said, “and I’m calling to thank you for the prophetic word you sent me. Our prayer group had been waiting for weeks for just such a word and we are already praying your prophetic word into fruition. So, from all of us, we thank you for your obedience to the Holy Spirit.”

We talked for a few minutes and then we said goodbye. As soon as I hung up, I fell on my knees and cried. I can still feel the emotions of that moment and how small I felt compared to a big, big God.

The next day, our phone was disconnected because we owed two months of phone bills.

If we want to change our community, our state and our nation, we can do it, but we must build our faith so mountains will move out of our way.

 

Chapter 7

Building a Foundation of Faith (e)

In Jesus’ third year of ministry, the twelve disciples asked the Lord to increase their faith. You would expect the disciples to sit on the ground, pull out their notebooks and write down His every word because this was such an important question.

Maybe Jesus could have rolled out a large blackboard in front of the twelve. He might have reached for a piece of chalk in His robe and wrote the top ten points on how to increase the disciples’ faith.

But instead of a ten-point lecture, He gave a simple, one sentence illustration:

“If you have faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.” (Luke 17: 6)

Scripture does not reveal the disciple’s reactions. Thus, we must assume the disciples were satisfied with His answer because Scripture does not suggest they ever asked the same question again.

How does this one sentence explain how we Christians can increase our faith?

First of all, who spoke the simple, one sentence illustration? Jesus – the Living Word – did.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)

Faith instantly arises in our hearts when Jesus speaks to us.

This can happen while we are reading the Bible and a verse jumps off the page, touching our hearts with a deep impression. The verse may be the exact answer we need at that moment or sometime in the future. Thus, our faith comes alive because we believe the Lord has spoken to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

It could happen while we are grilling hamburgers on the patio, our appetites hungering for a tasty meal and our minds solely on the task at hand. Out of nowhere, we know how to handle a situation, which had been bugging us for days. We then have the faith to apply the answer because we know it came via the Holy Spirit, who only speaks what the Lord tells Him.

Other possible ways the Lord may speak to us are through prophetic words, dreams, visions, songs, movies and whatever. The list is endless because our Lord is a creative speaker. But no matter how He does it, we end up knowing the Lord is speaking to us because of the lasting impression it leaves on our hearts.

Okay, we understand how faith comes alive when Jesus speaks to us, but why the mustard seed?

The mustard seed was the smallest seed in Israel. When germinated and under the proper growing conditions, the seed grew into a mature bush within three months’ time to an average height of seven feet tall. The mature plant was strong enough for birds to nest in its branches.

Therefore, when Jesus used the mustard seed as His example, He was talking about the seed’s one-sided genetic focus (or faith) to be the largest garden plant. The seed never doubted or waivered in its faith to be all it was called to be. The seed could even lie dormant for over sixty years, but when the conditions were right, it would fulfill its genetic calling by growing into a mature plant.

Although the mustard seed is tiny, mustard-seed faith is not a small amount of faith. It is 100%, put-your-hand-to-the-plow-and-not-look-back, all-in faith. It is the pinnacle of faith and where we need to set our sights.

How can we have mustard-seed faith for ourselves?

First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. (Mark 4:28)

 

Chapter 8

Building a Foundation of Faith (f)

I received a lump of faith when I gave my life to the Lord on May 20, 1985. It was my unique lump, not your lump or Smith Wigglesworth’s or Francis Chan’s lump. It was the lump the Lord knew had the potential to bring me through every trial, every battle, and every circumstance, which laid ahead of me in my life.

I emphasized the word potential because our individual lumps of faith can best be compared to the muscles of a newborn baby. The newborn’s undeveloped muscles can move the baby’s arms, hands and legs a little bit at first, but not much. It takes time and effort for the muscles to develop so a baby can crawl, walk, run, or ride a tricycle.

When the baby reaches his teenage years, maybe the youth is a good athlete and has a dream to play pro football in the NFL. To achieve this goal, he will have to lift weights and work out on a regular basis. He may not like lifting weights. It is boring and painful, but the competition is so great he has no choice.

Nike’s motto sums up what the athlete’s attitude must be: “Just do it!”

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore, I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

 Most of us believers understand why athletes have to develop their muscles to compete in sports, but yet, very few of us realize we need to develop our individual lumps of faith. After all, didn’t Jesus already win the victory for us? Can’t we just sit back and enjoy ourselves until Jesus returns? Why build faith now?

And to be honest, the word faith has a stigma attached to it. Who has not heard of the excesses of the Word of Faith movement? “The prosperity gospel.” “Seed faith.” “Name it and claim it.” All of this has contributed to the muddied waters for teaching faith.

But I consider myself fortunate to having been saved during the 1980′s when the Word of Faith teaching programs were aired on many Christian radio stations. I listened to Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Marilyn Hickey, R. W. Schambach, Joyce Meyer and others every day. I read over a hundred and fifty books by these teachers.

The Word of Faith teachings have built a strong foundation in me. So, beginning next time, we will be looking at the important revelations of the Word of Faith teachings and how we can use them to build up our individual lumps of faith.

 

Chapter 9

Building a Foundation of Faith (g)

Like I wrote earlier, I am not a Word of Faith teacher, but I am a beneficiary of its teachings. Most of the teachings have worked well in my life, but a few have not. Over the next few chapters I will outline which teachings have built me up and which have not worked well for me.

Let’s begin by taking a look at the father of the Word of Faith movement: Kenneth Hagin.

If you have read any of Hagin’s more than one hundred books, you are bound to read his testimony about being a sickly child and how he was bedfast with a deformed heart and an incurable blood disease. How he then had a powerful conversion experience, after dying three times and visiting Hell, all within a period of ten minutes.

Hagin remained in bed after his conversion, suffering from his ailments, for many more months until he received his revelation of the following scripture:

Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. (Mark 11: 24 King James)

Before August 1934, countless Christians had read Mark 11:24, but few had the exact revelation which Kenneth Hagin had on that summer day. Hagin stated he was talking to the Lord about the verse and how he especially agreed with the words: “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray.”

Hagin desired to be healed. Thus he kept praying and asking and believing the Lord heard his prayers.

As he continued talking aloud, he heard the Holy Spirit speak to him: “You do believe all right – as far as you know.”

The Holy Spirit then quoted the rest of the verse: “Believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”

At that moment, the lights went on inside of Kenneth Hagin:

“I prayed for healing because that’s what I desired, but I was trying to have my healing first, and then I was going to believe I received it. But when do we believe we receive what we desire from God? When we pray! That means before we see a change in the circumstances we must believe that God has heard and answered us. We are to believe we receive whatever we desire from God the minute we pray and ask Him for our petition.”

I said to the Lord, “Now I know what I’ve got to do. I’ve got to begin to believe I receive healing for my paralyzed body right now, while I’m still lying here helpless. While I’m lying here bedfast, I’ve got to believe I receive healing for my deformed heart and incurable blood disease.” (Word of Faith, Kenneth Hagin, 1990)

Kenneth Hagin eventually jumped out of bed, totally healed. He became a young preacher, a pastor, and an evangelist in the Healing Revival of the 1940′s and 50′s. He then began his teaching career, which led to radio programs, founding the Rhema Bible Training Center, and the Rhema church system.

If you check out Kenneth Hagin on Google, you will find various sites, which accuse Hagin of being a plagiarist, a heretic, a false prophet, a serpent, and a false teacher. What’s with this, huh? How can a godly man have so many accusers?

Most of his critics’ biggest complaints are that he taught and preached like a Pentecostal, which he was. That’s like complaining Charles Stanley taught like a Baptist pastor because he is a Baptist pastor.

There are no perfect teachers, except Jesus. As Mike Bickel says, “God loves to use people who offend us so that He can show us our hearts.”

Kenneth Hagin never once took the time to answer his critics. He never once defended himself. When his critics called for a comment about a critical book or article they were writing about him, he always said, “No comment. God bless you.”

My only disagreement with Kenneth Hagin’s teachings is he looks at salvation and grace from an Arminian/Pentecostal point of view while I agree with the Baptist/Calvin one. You can be the judge on that one for yourself.

I recommend his books.

Since, he has sold over 60 million copies, you can buy them on Amazon (new and used), from numerous other sites (new and used), from Salvation Army stores, from Hagin’s ministry site, and wherever.

 

Chapter 10

Building a Foundation of Faith (h)

Kenneth Hagin authored over 120 books, which were not really written as books. They were actually teachings, which he gave on his radio programs, at conferences, or wherever. Another person then transcribed the teachings into book format. The average book size is thirty pages.

I myself have read over a hundred of Hagin’s books. Each one was a day in the classroom as I sat at a table with my Bible, a scratch pad and Hagin’s book. As I read the book, I studied the scripture references and took notes. When I finished the book, I tried to immediately put into practice what I had learned that particular day.

Looking back, I would have to say the #1 principle I learned from Kenneth Hagin’s teachings was: God answers prayers.

Many believers might look at the simplicity of this revelation and say, “Big deal. So what?”

But when I say God answers prayers, I mean He answers every prayer, every time and never ignores one of them. Period.

Does this mean you can pray for a new Rolls Royce Phantom ($437,000 sticker price), go to the dealer and drive it home? Probably not, but you will get an answer for your prayer about the Rolls Royce.

 

In 1987, I lived in a small one-room apartment in central Iowa, was separated from my wife and family, had no telephone and no car. I worked as a minimum wage laborer in a motel, which was a three-mile walk from the apartment.

I woke up one morning and discovered the temperature had dropped to 30 degrees below zero and because of the high winds, the wind chill factor was a minus 50 degrees. Plus, six inches of snow had fallen and swirled on the winds.

It was a Tuesday, which meant I was scheduled to begin work at 8 a.m. What did I do?

I bundled up as best I could and before stepping out the door, I prayed, “Lord, I’m walking to work. I ask that You either give me the grace to survive this weather or have someone stop and offer me a ride. The choice is Yours, but I know You love me and always hear my prayers.”

Did a car pull up to my apartment as I walked out my door so I would not suffer from the cold? No, absolutely not, nor did I expect one.

You see, one of the foundational precepts of receiving answers to prayers is we walk by faith and not by sight. Thus, you can almost always expect to start out walking through the storms of life – after praying – without seeing any improvement whatsoever in the circumstances.

That particular morning was no different.

After walking a mile and a half, my face was frost covered and my feet felt numb. Numerous cars passed me, hurrying off to work, but no one had even slowed down. A car finally pulled over. A young woman opened the door and said, “Would you like a ride?”

“Yes,” I answered. She dropped me off at my workplace.

The following morning, the weather conditions remained the same. I followed the same routine as the day before. This time, a man picked me up at about the same place as the young woman had the day before and took me to work.

On the third morning of the storm, a person volunteered to pick me up. A week later, the motel decided to have me picked up each morning by an employee. Soon after, the motel decided I could just drive one of their trucks back and forth to work. All of this happened without me ever asking anyone for help.

Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. (Mark 11: 23)

Okay, why do we not receive answers to our prayers?

 

Chapter 11

Building a Foundation of Faith (i)

In the late 1990′s, Carol and I attended a church outside of Louisville, Kentucky. The regular pastor was on vacation and a substitute pastor preached the sermon. I don’t remember his main message, but a small quip of his was written on my heart that particular Sunday.

“People used to be content with just saying, ‘I prayed,’ but that’s no longer true,” said the substitute pastor. “Now, they say, ‘I interceded,’ and not only that, they then give themselves titles, calling themselves intercessors. Now, why do you think this has happened?”

The pastor went on with his main message, but his off-message remark was like a lightning bolt, zeroing in on my heart. I knew the answer to his question because I was guilty of the sin.

Pride!

There’s just something within most of us, or at least in me, which is not satisfied with associating with the meek and lowly. We want to be exalted. We want an elevated position of notice. We want others to recognize our spirituality and understand they are below us on the spiritual ladder.

All believers know pride is a grievous sin, but we all still struggle with it every day. And even the godliest believers among us, whether he is a Billy Graham, a John Piper, a Mother Teresa, or whoever, are not spared this daily battle. Look what the Apostle Paul wrote about himself:

For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me. Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me to keep me from exalting myself. (2 Corinthians 12: 7 – 8) 

Paul’s thorn in the flesh – a messenger of Satan – was allowed by the Lord to cause Paul problems so it would help control his pride. The apostle still went on to ask the Lord three times to remove it, but then Paul wrote:

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12: 9 – 10)

Pride is the #1 reason we believers do not receive answers to our prayers. It derails our faith and causes us to look at our own strengths and away from the One who is all-powerful.

Remember: Jesus said, “Have faith in God.” He did not say we should have faith in our praying ability, our knowledge of the Bible, our spirituality, our fasts or our gifts. Anytime our faith depends on what we can do, rather than what He can do, or who He is, we have fallen into the snare of pride.

God sets himself against the proud, but he shows favor to the humble.” (James 4:6 NLT)

 The God who we are praying to and asking for help will be the same God who will oppose us if we have the sin of pride. Let that swirl around in your mind for a minute or two, and you will discover what I have learned through hard lessons, it’s a losing situation.

If our prayers are not being answered in a timely fashion, I suggest we bow before the throne of grace and ask, “Lord, show me my heart. Do I have pride?”

Then, wait.

How long should we wait? Until He answers our question. There is no use trying to move on if we have a pride problem, right?

The next hindrance to receiving answers to our prayers is a close relative of pride.

 

Chapter 12

Building a Foundation of Faith (j)

If you read the LA Times, New York Times, and other major U. S. newspapers, you are forced to scratch your head in befuddlement. These news outlets constantly paint Islam as a religion of peace while Christianity is shown to be a religion filled with intolerant bigots who hate gays, illegal aliens, the poor, and are gun-toting, war mongers.

Okay, what are the facts?

(1) Which religion promotes jihads and is involved in most of the wars occurring in the world right now? Islam. Period.

(2) Which religion reaches out to the gay community? Christianity. Islam never does this.

(3) Which religion helps the world’s poor? Christianity. There are no Islamic missionaries, unless you consider Islamic terrorists as such.

(4) Which religion loves freedom and hates cruel bondage? Christianity. Islam wants everyone to live under repressive Sharia Law.

Then, how can the two religions be so misunderstood?

The 1970 Pogo cartoon line, “We’ve met the enemy and he is us,” is certainly apropos for us American Christians because the blame is ours, not the media’s.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35).

The word love, used four times in the above two verses, is translated from the Greek word agape which is the same word that Paul so elegantly defined in 1 Corinthians 13. The two words – one another – that are used three times, refer to us believers (His church) and does not refer to the world system or unbelievers.

Yet sadly, we Christians – Pentecostals, Charismatics, traditional Evangelicals, liturgical Christians, liberal/progressive Christians, emergent Christians, Word of Faith, Prophetic Movement, and whatever – don’t really love each other. In fact, we often look down our noses at each other.

If you doubt this assumption, check out how we Christians piled on Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Ted Haggard, Todd Bentley, Jim and Tammy Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and other leaders who have made mistakes. Can you remember who wanted to cover these leaders’ errors with love? I cannot.

Let me suggest a major reason why revival has not hit America and why we are seeing secularism and Satan win battle after battle against Christianity in our nation.

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which works by love. (Galatians 5: 6 KJ)

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13: 2 NKJ)

All prayers must be prayed in faith in order to please God, but if we don’t have love, our faith fails. It may be that all of our fasting, all of our prayers, all of our efforts to change America’s destiny may be nothing more than shadow boxing, which has never even touched heaven’s doors.

How sad, huh?

Lack of love is a close relative to pride and is the second biggest hindrance for not receiving answers to our corporate or individual prayers.

I suggest that when our prayers are not being answered in a timely fashion – if it’s not pride – then we need to read 1 Corinthians 13 and ask the Lord if we have fallen short of His agape-love standards. If so, we need to repent and change.

What is another reason for not receiving answers to prayers?

 

Chapter 13

Building a Foundation of Faith (k)

Have you ever thought: “Lord do You really know what You’re doing with my life?” Well, I have, more than once, especially when I learned He wanted me to prophesy.

Prophesying is not a problem for most people. They just open their mouths and speak what they feel the Holy Spirit wants them to say. But to a person who has suffered through the cruel effects of stuttering, prophesying is a big, big deal.

I still have vivid memories of sitting in classrooms and feeling my throat swell, my breathing stop, and my tongue waggling around in my mouth when the teacher called on me to answer a question. There was then the inevitable aftermath of listening to classmates laughing and giggling at me as I stammered forth an answer.

It was this deep fear of what others would think about me when they heard my stuttering, which caused me to attempt to avoid all public speaking. I used to think, “If only I could speak normally, I could be a successful somebody in the business world.”

These deep-rooted memories sent tremors of fear through me as a young Christian whenever I thought about prophesying in front of groups.

A man prophesied to me once: “The Lord says you are sitting on prophecies and not speaking them forth. The Lord is unhappy with you.”

This prophetic word caused me to seek the Lord.

“Jesus, this is unfair. You want me to prophesy, but I have speech problems. Deliver me from my fears and help me.”

I noticed no difference in my confidence after speaking this prayer.

A few weeks later, an African-American prophetess from Kansas City pointed to me at the beginning of a large meeting. “You’re going to prophesy an important message to this city at the end of this meeting. I’ll call you up to the front when it’s time.”

How much of her teaching do you think I really paid attention to as I awaited her summons? Like zero, right? My mind focused totally on wondering if I could speak the first word without stuttering, but I also knew it was time to trust the Lord and walk in my calling.

“Okay, come up here young man and prophesy to this city,” she said when she had finished her teaching.

I stood up and headed toward the front. As I walked, the anointing of the Holy Spirit fell on me and I was a different man. No longer was I the little boy who stuttered and stammered his way through grade school. No longer was I held in chains by the fear of what people might think of me if I stuttered. I felt like the Lion of Judah, filled with boldness. When I grabbed the microphone, I prophesied for over five minutes about future events heading toward the city.

The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted. (Proverbs 29:25)

Most of us struggle with the fear of man to some degree or another. We would like to be accepted and never suffer shame in front of our friends and others. We want to please people and receive plaudits for our works.

But just like in my life, the fear of man can imprison us and cause us to look at our own puny abilities and what others might think if we attempt something, rather than looking at the Greater One who lives within us

Jesus opened every prison door for us at the cross. We simply have to stand up and walk through the doorway. When we do, we will discover His grace and His anointing will be our mantles.

The fear of man can ensnare our faith and cause prayers not to be answered.

If you struggle with this, pray the following: “Lord, I want to please You. Deliver me from the fear of man and help me to trust You in all situations, regardless of what others may think or say about me.”

God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers. (Matthew 5:11 NLT)

What other reasons are our prayers not answered?

 

Chapter 14

Building a Foundation of Faith (l)

 “I wouldn’t take a million dollars for my experiences, but you couldn’t pay me two million dollars to go through some of them again,” said Kenneth Hagin.

His words are my exact sentiments about my experiences selling cars at ten different dealerships. One such experience dealt with a reason why many prayers are not answered.

After working for a year at a large GM dealership, the management fired me in early 1993. A used car dealership hired me a few days later. The dealership paid no base salary or benefits. My income depended solely on commissions from car sales. So, no car sales meant no income for me.

The first few months were fantastic and management even considered promoting me. A sales drought then hit and I didn’t sell a car for weeks. Every deal I worked on fell through. The other salesmen stayed far away from me, worried that whatever I had was contagious and would infect their sales.

I had no money. My vehicle sat in front of my apartment, hungry for gas. Bills piled up. My groceries came from a food bank. I walked everywhere, even the two miles back and forth to work.

“Why not quit?” you ask.

I couldn’t quit because I felt the Lord wanted me to stay. I believed He was doing something in my heart. All I could do was trudge through the valley until He delivered me.

After five weeks of no sales and zero income, something happened.

A young couple liked a car I showed them. Everything seemed perfect and we talked about meeting again in two days and writing up the order. Hope replaced the dark clouds hanging over me.

The following day was a day off for me.

A salesman met me at the door two days later when I arrived at work and took me aside. “Your couple came in yesterday and Kevin wrote up the order. He stole them from you. What are you going to do about that?” he said.

I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know,” I replied.

Kevin and the sales manager were off that particular day. There was not much I could do until the next day, but I was devastated for the rest of the day.

Early the next morning, I went for a walk and the Holy Spirit began speaking with me. “You have to forgive Kevin,” the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart.

“I can’t,” I replied.

“You have to,” He said.

“No, I absolutely can’t forgive Kevin. I hurt too much,” I said as I continued walking.

“If you don’t forgive him then this will happen…” He said, relating what would occur if I refused to forgive Kevin.

“I don’t care. He’s a thief and a liar and I’m hungry,” I said.

“You have to forgive him,” He whispered to my heart.

I sighed and stopped walking. “Okay. I can’t forgive him on my own, but if You help me forgive him, I will.”

And just like that, I felt the power of the Holy Spirit surge through me. I forgave him. No longer did I hold a debt against Kevin. He could have the commissions from the sale and I blessed him.

Later that same day, while Kevin was busy with a customer, I helped another one of his clients and wrote the order up for Kevin. I even delivered the car and sent the people off. Kevin made $400 commission without ever doing anything.

I was totally set free.

Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions. (Mark 11:24-25)

Unforgiveness is one of the major reasons why our prayers are not answered. It is such a malignant sin that if it is not remedied in an individual’s life, it will eventually result in bitterness, which defiles other people.

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many are defiled. (Hebrews 12:15)

If your prayers are not being answered in a prompt fashion, ask the Holy Spirit if you have unforgiveness. If you do, then forgive, but if you can’t forgive because the pain is too much, ask the Holy Spirit to help you. His name is the Helper and He will help you.

What is a surprise reason that our prayers are not answered?

 

Chapter 15

Building a Foundation of Faith (m)

Pride, not walking in love, fear of man, and unforgiveness are the four biggest hindrances for not receiving answers to prayers. Each undermines faith.

Let’s now talk about what I call God’s x factor… x being an unknown, like in an algebraic equation.

In 1995, I dated a wonderful woman and really thought I would marry her. I even had many prophetic words, which seemed to fit her, or at least, I thought so.

While driving my truck back from her apartment in January 1995, I had a conversation with the Lord. “Jesus, You need to get us married as quick as possible,” I said.

My truck cab filled with laughter. It was as if heaven opened up and the Lord along with hundreds of angels laughed at what I said. The laughter was the “hold your belly and roll on the floor” type. It continued and continued.

I pulled my truck over to the side of the road because the laughter was so contagious tears rolled down my cheeks. I couldn’t continue driving.

The laughter eventually ceased and I headed home. As I drove, I wondered, what was so funny, but I convinced myself heaven was overjoyed with me being in love.

One obstacle after another frustrated my relationship with the lady over the next fourteen months. I figured it was spiritual warfare and I needed to fast, pray, and hold strong in faith to win the victory.

My roommate decided to get married in March 1996, and asked me to preside over the wedding ceremony. A dinner was planned at our apartment so I could meet the maid of honor, the best man, and a mysterious lady, who was the bride’s spiritual mother.

I answered the doorbell the night of the dinner and greeted people while my roommate prepared the meal. The mysterious lady turned out to be a pretty blond lady, about my age, who happened to be single. She sat next to me at the meal.

We worshiped the Lord and prayed for each other after the meal. All felt the mysterious lady should pray for each of us and she agreed. As she prayed for someone, I looked at her and what I saw instantly changed my life.

No longer did I see a mysterious lady, but instead, I saw my wife. And with that prophetic glimpse, I fell head over heels in love with her. I was smitten beyond any earthly reason. It was all I could do to pay attention for the rest of the evening.

I turned to my roommate and his fiancée after everyone left. “I have fallen in love with Carol,” I said.

Both laughed. They had been praying for Carol and me for months because each received a separate vision from the Lord about the two of us marrying each other. “But the Lord told us not to say anything to you,” said my roommate, “because the Lord said Larry is so stubborn he’ll do just the opposite.”

Thirty minutes later, I phoned Carol. “What have you done to my life, it’s turned upside down?” I said.

She laughed and admitted she missed her exit on the way home, thinking about me.

Our first date was on the next night, a Saturday night. We became engaged on Sunday morning and were married four weeks later, on Good Friday, 1996.

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

 God is a sovereign King. He is the Boss. Period.

He knows what is best for each of us. He has His reasons for allowing things to happen in our lives. He is the Potter and we are the clay in His hands. All of our prayers, even though prayed at the highest levels of faith, will not change His mind about His plans for us.

“He allows in His wisdom what He could easily prevent by His power.” (Permission Granted, Graham Cooke and Gary Goodell, Destiny Image Publishers, 2006, pp. 24)

Now that a solid foundation is prepared, how do we build mustard-seed faith on it?

 

Chapter 16

Building Mustard-Seed Faith (a)

We can expect to have adverse circumstances happen in our journeys. But what will be our first thoughts? To phone a prayer team member? Or a pastor? Call a specialist who knows how to get God on the hot line for us, but what if no one is available, then what happens?

We will have to toss our own prayers toward heaven, hoping God will hear them. But who are we? We aren’t John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Billy Graham, or the reincarnation of Smith Wigglesworth, we’re just everyday Christians, struggling to survive. How can we know whether God will answer our prayers or not?

This is where the rubber meets the road.

Now, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11: 1)

Faith is the assurance, the confidence, the deep trust God will answer our prayers and help us in our times of need. Now, why is that so?

Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. (Mark 11:24)

Why? Because Jesus, the Living Word, said so.

According to Mark 11:24, when must we believe our prayers for miracles, healings, deliverances, financial help, or whatever are answered by God? When we see it and can actually touch it? No. That’s walking by sight and not faith.

We must believe we have received our answer from God when we first prayed to Him. Then, we have to walk by faith until we see the manifestation of the answer in our lives.

“What?” you say. “How can that be?”

For example, let’s say we order a book online from Amazon.com. We give Amazon our shipping information and our credit card number. Amazon then flashes a big “Thank you for the order” and sends us an email confirmation.

Do we have the book yet? No. We just have assurances from a reputable company the book will be sent. We trust the integrity of Amazon to follow through on what we have asked them to do.

If we can trust the words of companies like Amazon, how much more should we trust God and His word?

God never lies. God is love and He never fails. Period. No man or company can match the integrity of God because He is perfect. His word is truth.

 

As a young Christian, I struggled with this concept about faith until the Lord provided a useful answer in one of my early trials.

My family and I moved from Kentucky to Iowa during the 1981 tax season. I decided to save a few bucks and ignore paying Kentucky income taxes. This omission eventually became a big problem six years later after receiving an overdue tax notice from the State of Kentucky for $42,000.

I phoned the Kentucky Treasurer’s office. They told me the debt would remain at $42,000 until I sent them proof of what I owed and a check for the full amount.

Upon checking our tax statements, I discovered the 1980 tax statements had been thrown out. Therefore, I had to order copies from the IRS.

Have you ever tried to get info from the IRS? Their wheels turn slowly. After a year of phone calls, the IRS notified me all 1980 tax forms and earlier had been destroyed for space reasons.

The only proof I had of my 1980 income was a tax averaging form, which I used on my 1981 income taxes. I phoned the Kentucky Treasurer’s office.

“Tax averaging forms are not accepted. You must have the original forms,” they said.

They then lowered the debt to $5,000 and gave me fifteen days before the state filed a lien on our home. I finally decided to seek the Lord on the matter.

The Lord told me to figure out my taxes according to the tax averaging form and send a letter to the state of Kentucky with a copy of the form. I was to tell them I was willing to settle for $500, which was the original amount I owed.

The Lord also told me to write a letter to Him, stating the time and date I asked Him to take care of the problem, along with scriptures to back up my words. God is a covenant God. Our faith becomes a covenant between Him and us at the exact moment we believe Him for an answer to our prayers.

I sent the tax letter to Kentucky and kept my covenant letter in my Bible.

Whenever doubts hit me, I took the letter out of my Bible and waved it before God. “God, I believed by faith this was handled by You on this date and at this time. You are not a liar. I trust You and Your word that it’s done. Thanks for taking care of it,” I proclaimed aloud to Him.

The state of Kentucky accepted my offer three weeks later.

I have used this method of writing down the dates and times of my requests to God often over the last twenty-five years and then reminding Him of our covenant. Maybe it is a tool that will work for you, too.

 

Chapter 17

Building Mustard-Seed Faith (b)

The next morning, when I arrived at 8:30, Dad was pacing back and forth in the parking lot. His neon yellow tie hung at half-mast on his white shirt, his top shirt button remained unbuttoned. His gray suit coat draped the blue and white sign in front of the handicap parking space. A scowl etched his lobster-colored face. He was boiling.

“Jeremiah, we need to talk. Now!” he said through clenched teeth.

Dad knows! I thought. How I wish the gift of faith was still working in me. Guess I’ll have to trust in the Lord’s grace to see me through this.

I avoided his blistering eyes and nodded.

“Okay.”

He reached over and slung the suit coat over his right shoulder.

“Follow me,” he spit out over his shoulder as he marched toward his silver Mercedes. “Jump in.”

I opened the door and sat down in the black leather passenger seat. Dad climbed in the driver’s side.

“Better buckle up,” he said without looking over.

The Mercedes’ tires squealed as we pulled out onto Pine Street in front of an oncoming city bus. My right hand reached for the seatbelt and pulled it tight across my dark blue slacks. I snapped it. Then, I tugged on it just to make sure it fastened properly. I straightened my red tie and ironed out the wrinkles in my blue oxford shirt.

We headed west on the one-way street. He turned a razor-sharp right into the Starbucks on the corner of Octavia Street. He read the confusion on my face.

“This is a timeout, sort of like you use to pull on me when you were young,” he said without smiling. “I was so upset I didn’t brew any coffee this morning. Like Napoleon, I am senseless without the stuff. Would you like one?”

With our two coffees, we drove north to Lafayette Park. Dad pulled over to the curb and parked. He sipped some coffee. He rotated in his seat toward me, his eyes blazing with fury.

“Now, what were you thinking about when you pulled that stupid stunt yesterday at City Hall?”

The only other time in my life Dad had been that angry with me was when I dropped out of college and broke-up with Kari. This was out of character for him. He normally joked around and carried on a light-hearted banter with people.

“Where did you hear about it?” I asked.

“Arlene phoned and said she saw you on Channel 26.”

“Good old Arlene and cable TV, huh?”

“And if Arlene knows, everybody knows,” he mumbled. “Right?”

I nodded.

“So, answer my question, will you?”

“The Lord told me to do it.”

“Oh, boy!” he said with a deep groan. “Does this have to do with your thinking you’re called to be a prophet?”

“Yes.”

“Jeremiah, Jeremiah, Jeremiah. I thought we were past that by now.”

I blew out a deep breath.

“Dad, it’s my calling – I can’t just lay it down because it causes discomfort to loved ones or me.”

He rose up and pointed a finger in my face.

“Listen son,” he bellowed, “shooting off your mouth in San Francisco will cause bad things to happen to you. This is not the Bible Belt, you know. Open your eyes. This is the liberal capital of America. San Franciscans hate having their noses shoved into their crappy smelling sins by a Christian who thinks he’s a prophet. Do you hear?”

I looked out the window at two junior high kids who walked by just then. The smaller boy slapped the pudgy one on the back and took off running. The victim stood still for a moment, his mouth hanging open. Then, he ran after the other one yelling, “I’m going to kill you when I get a hold of you.”

The smaller boy stopped a half block away and put his hands to his mouth. “You ain’t never catching me, fat boy.”

He turned and scooted down the street.

“Son, do you hear what I’m saying?”

I nodded but swallowed the hasty words, waiting just behind my teeth.

BUZZ! BUZZ!

Dad answered his cell phone.

“Yes.”

He listened for a long time.

“Okay, we’ll be right there. Tell everyone the sales meeting is canceled for this week,” he said as he started the car.

“It seems the switchboard is lit up with calls for the prophet. Six people want to list their homes with you. Can you believe that?” he said as he shook his head. “I would have guessed your career was buried yesterday, but what do I know, huh?”

(This is an excerpt from the novel, Jonah, by Larry Nevenhoven, 2012, eBook, Amazon.com)

…Let us prophesy in proportion to our faith. (Romans 12: 6 NKJ)

Yes, we need strong faith to prophesy or use any of the spiritual gifts at a high level in our neighborhoods, communities, cities, states, and nation. We also need strong faith to walk through the aftermath of using our spiritual gifts.

 

 

Chapter 18

Building Mustard-Seed Faith (c)

I finished studying at 9 p.m, stood up, and walked into the kitchen for a drink of water.

As I turned on the recessed ceiling lights, I stopped dead in my tracks. A grotesque creature sat on a stool at the island counter. If the angel was the epitome of the Kingdom of Light, then this being was the dark side’s counterpart. Its gloomy eyes glared at me while its lips formed a sneer. Festering sores plastered the being’s face and neck. A filthy robe cloaked its torso and a stench of decay clogged my nostrils.

“Listen up Chuck,” the creature said in a raspy voice.

Fear struck my chest like a baseball bat. I had trouble breathing. Confusion settled over me like a morning fog. I could not put two and two together.

“If you go to businessmen and tell them to pray over their financial gifts, seeking the Lord where they should give their money, some bad things will happen to your family. Your two sons will die in an auto accident and your wife will go insane. Do you hear me?”

I could not speak as my mouth went dry and a throbbing sensation sent stabs of pain through my mind. The creature drummed its dirty two-inch long fingernails on the granite counter. The beat reminded me of a funeral march.

“I said – do you hear me?” the creature hissed out the words.

I nodded.

“And I can do it. It will be easy. Just as easy as it was for me to come into your home. No one can protect you from me! Not even God!”

The creature bared its brownish-yellowish teeth with a hideous grin as it stood up.

“Don’t you ever forget what I told you, okay?”

The being walked over to the door leading out to the deck, then without opening the door, he stepped through it and left.

I collapsed on the floor and wept. My body convulsed in fear.

“Oh God! What have I done to my family?” I screamed.

Afterward, I pulled myself together and wandered into the family room, collapsing on the sofa. What is going on? I thought. Everything is hitting me at once. What can I do?

My mind raced in circles searching for answers, but I found none. I eventually fell asleep.

 

A voice visited me while I slept. Was it in a dream or a vision? It was like both, but different at the same time. I was awake, but I was asleep.

“Chuck,” the voice said.

I looked up and realized I was standing in front of a stage in a large auditorium. It was black. None of the spotlights were turned on. The red velvet curtains were drawn apart. The voice seemed to be flowing out of the darkness blanketing the stage. I felt no fear and was comforted by the voice.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Do you have some questions?”

“Yes.”

“Go ahead.”

“What was that being in my kitchen?”

“What do you think it was?”

“A demon.”

“Yes. That was a demon power sent to frighten you by the religious ruling spirit over America.”

“But how did that happen?” I asked. “I always pray for angelic protection over me.”

“Yes, you do,” the voice said. “For just a few moments, the angels who protect you backed off their posts. When they did that, the demon power slipped into your realm.”

It hit me like a hammer between the eyes. I was set up by the Lord and used as ambush bait.

“But –” I said, trying to put my thoughts into words.

The voice interrupted me. “You have been chosen to have insight into spiritual warfare so that you can teach others. Spiritual warfare is not played on a Game Boy. It is played out in real life scenarios where lives and destinies are at stake.” The voice paused for a moment and then added, “Satan and his army want to kill Christians and their families, and destroy their destinies on earth.”

I cringed.

“But what can I do to protect my family?”

“What does scripture say?”

The voice bounced my question back to me.

I thought for a moment before answering.

“Cast my cares on the Lord for He cares for me.”

“Yes and don’t forget that Jesus rebuked demons. He refused to allow them to speak because they are all liars. You can do the same in Jesus’ name.”

I was silent, not wanting to ask my next question.

“Can Satan and his forces really hurt my children or Dusty?” I asked.

“Yes. Your rebellion and sin could open the gates for Satan’s army to come into your family’s lives. But by the same token, a causeless curse will not alight on you or your family. Walk with God and avoid sin.”

The voice was silent for a moment.

“Any more questions?

“What about my problems with Dusty?”

“She is not the problem – you are. Dusty is like most women in that she desires to see her husband as a sold-out man of God, not a half-hearted pew-sitter. You obey God, follow His instructions, and she will be happy to walk by your side.”

With that answer, the voice left and I returned to my sleep.

(This excerpt is from DECEIVED DEAD AND DELIVERED by Larry Nevenhoven, 2012, eBook, Amazon.com.)

In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6: 16-17)

Whether you like the idea or not, we Christians have to fight demons, which takes strong faith.

 

Chapter 19

Building Mustard-Seed Faith (d)

In the early 1990′s, I was a part of home group, which held some special meetings in the city building of a small Iowa town. Local business people and others were invited. I gave some teachings. Afterward, I prayed for those people who wanted prayer.

A friend brought an eighty-five year old female resident from a nearby nursing home to the last night. She was small, slightly stooped over, and wore thick glasses. She had been a Christian from her youth.

I felt the anointing of the Holy Spirit was stronger than normal as I approached her. The little lady asked for her eyes to be healed. I prayed and she fell over backward onto the floor. I continued praying for the other people. They all fell on the floor.

When I finished, I was the only person standing in the room. Everyone else lay on the floor, and to be honest, I rather enjoyed the moment.

Everyone soon revived and the little lady came over to me. She testified how her eyes had been healed. She could now see clearly without the blurriness, which had bothered her for years.

“Really?” I said.

She nodded and explained how the Holy Spirit had never touched her like that in her whole life. She was so excited.

“I want to pray for you and have God use me to touch you,” she said.

“Really?” I said, knowing she was a life-long Lutheran and probably would pray a stiff, formal prayer.

She laid her hand on my shoulder and uttered a prayer with lots of stiff phrases scattered here and there throughout her meanderings. Then she added, “Lord, I just want to be used to touch him like he touched me tonight.”

I hit the floor with a thud and laid there for a half hour or so.

What do you think the little lady did while I lay on the floor?

She jumped up and down and screamed, “I did it! I did it! God used me! God used me!”

I can teach faith, explain about the power of fasting, and the importance of praying in the Spirit, but still it often comes down to how much Daddy loves His children and loves to see His children excited about Him.

 

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly, I say to you unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-4)

We often read the Bible and fail to visualize the scene in which the words were spoken. It is easy to miss the meat of the message by doing this.

In the above verses of Matthew, we learn by looking at Mark’s account of the same event that Jesus was in His hometown of Capernaum. The disciples had been arguing over which of the twelve was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. They were probably filled with pride from their successful ministry exploits on their recent journeys into the surrounding villages. They asked Jesus to settle the argument for them.

The home was filled with people. A curious child squeezed through the crowd to get to the front, near where Jesus sat.

Jesus did not immediately answer the disciples’ question, but instead, He looked at the child standing there. All Bible translations state He called the child to Him. The Greek word proskaleō, which is translated into the English word call,really has two meanings:  to call or to bid.

Because of the to bid meaning of proskaleō, I like to think Jesus looked at the child, winked His eye at him, and motioned with his forefinger in a “come hither” fashion. The child without even looking to his parents instantly walked to Jesus, allowing Him to use him as a model for His message.

Jesus then said, “Whoever humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Think about it for a moment, okay?

Jesus did not say a person with the greatest amount of faith or the greatest amount of knowledge would be the greatest in the kingdom of God. He said the one who would be like “this child” would be the greatest. Why? Because the child totally trusted Jesus and obeyed His promptings without thinking about the possible consequences of his obedience.

That is true faith.

 

Chapter 20

Building Mustard-Seed Faith (e)

Marion, a friend of mine, drove her car on snow-covered roads in Iowa during the late evening hours of a 1970′s winter day. Her rear tires had chains on them. As she headed north on the interstate, the roads cleared up and she heard the chains banging against the wheel wells of the car’s fender.

She pulled off onto the shoulder of the road, which was filled with snow. She walked around to the rear of the car, knelt down in the snow by the tires, and tried to unloosen the chains, but the fastener was stuck.

After trying for a long time, she looked up to heaven. “Father, I’m your daughter and I’m cold and tired. I need You to unloosen these chains right now.”

The chains fell off the tire into her hands without her doing anything. She went around to the other tire and the same thing happened. God removed the chains for her.

Amazing, but why did it happen?

 

I bid a large painting job on a home in a historic preservation district of Louisville, Kentucky in the late 1990’s. The total bid was $22,000, but it required a substantial amount of equipment and tools, which I could not afford to buy ahead of time. My only hope was that each draw payment would be on time so I could purchase the supplies whenever they were needed.

Everything went well at first, but then, the general contractor notified me a $5,000 draw payment would be two weeks late. I was in trouble because my two workers needed pay checks.

I sought God.

“Lord, You’ve always told me that You were my provider. Where’s the money I need to finish this job?” I prayed.

While I’m crying out to the Lord about money, Carol decided it would be a good time to buy a house. I know. I know. I know. This does not make sense, right? How can a penniless couple ever think about buying a house? The quick answer: by faith.

We went to an open house that morning where a husband and wife attempted to sell their own home without a real estate agent. We liked the home and explained our credit problems and lack of money. The man somehow came up with an interesting idea.

He loaned us $7,500 at a low interest rate with no maturity date, which we could use as a down payment for his home after the money had been in our account for sixty days. His lawyer wrote out the papers. We signed them and received the check.

With the money, we bought the equipment, supplies, and paid the two workers. Two weeks later, I received two checks from the general contractor for $11,000.

Guess what happened next?

The man who loaned us the $7,500 figured out we could not qualify for a loan and asked for the money back. We obliged him and wrote a check to him for the full amount. A zero interest loan.

Another amazing testimony, but why did it happen?

(As it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. (Romans 4: 17)

By faith, we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. (Hebrews 11: 3)

 These amazing answers happened because we trusted God.

Our backs were against the wall and our faith was in Him. He is the Creator who can make things happen out of nothing.

 

Chapter 21

Building Mustard-Seed Faith (f)

T. L. Osborn sat in the auditorium, next to his wife, Daisy. The two were young missionaries who had just returned from India. Their missionary experiences had discouraged them, which left them needing answers if they wanted to continue in their callings.

They went to hear William Branham speak that night, hoping for a spark of hope, which would reveal what they needed for their missionary work.

Branham preached a message and afterward he called a young girl to come out onto the stage. The girl suffered from severely crossed eyes. Branham turned her around so she faced the crowd.

“I want everyone to see the miracle God is going to perform in this young girl,” he said.

He prayed for her.

T. L. Osborn sat in nearby balcony seats and saw the miracle as it unfolded. He watched the eyes move around in their sockets until they were properly aligned. The youngster jumped up and down with joy as the crowd roared its approval.

Osborn sat there, amazed by the miracle, and then he heard a thousand angels say to him: “You can do that.”

Because of one man’s bold ministry on that one special night, T. L. and Daisy Osborn went back to the missionary field. Their ministry continued for fifty years to over 70 nations. They preached to crowds of 20,000 to 300,000 at a time. Few Christians have ever known the ministry success and miracles, which the Osborns ended up having on the mission field.

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7) 

Like T. L. Osborn, I had a “one man on one special night” experience in the early 1990′s. It did not occur in a large auditorium with thousands of people looking on, but instead, it happened in a small church with twenty people sitting in pews.

I sadly no longer remember the man’s name, but he was from a small town in Iowa. His ministry was an apostolic one to parts of Africa and Europe, but unlike the preachers I liked at the time, he was a soft-spoken, humble man.

He gave a testimony, which still reverberates within my heart today on how big our God is and how able He is to help us… if only we believe in Him.

The man told how he and another man were in the southern part of France, heading toward Paris. They needed to get to the Charles DeGaulle Airport so they could fly to Africa, but they had a big problem. All trains were delayed. It looked like they would miss their airplane connection.

As they sat in the train depot, the Iowa man prayed. “Lord, You asked me to go to France and then to Africa, because You sent me on these assignments. It is Your responsibility to make it all happen. Where’s Your miracle? I’m waiting for it.”

An English man walked up to the two. “If you’re going to Paris, a train will pull up over there in a few minutes,” the man said.

He pointed to the opposite side of the depot. “It’s a special train. I’ve already taken care of your tickets, just get on it.”

A train pulled up almost immediately. The man and his friend took their suitcases and boarded the train. They sat down and watched the countryside fly by. After an hour or so, they arrived in Paris and disembarked inside the Charles de Gaulle Airport, near the ticket counter for their flight to Africa.

They paid for their tickets at the airline counter. The friendly agent asked, “With all the problems with trains, how did you get to the airport today?”

The Iowa man pointed over his shoulder without looking. “We rode on that train over there,” he said.

The ticket agent blinked his eyes. “What train?” he said.

The Iowa man turned around and looked. There were no tracks or train behind him, but instead there were walls and walkways through the airport.

What reverberates within me is this: if God will build a train track and put a train on it because a small-town Iowa man asked for a miracle, He’ll do it for you and me.

And being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. (Romans 4: 21)

 

Chapter 22

Building Mustard-Seed Faith (g)

I’ve looked at numerous videos on my computer concerning the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The scenes were horrible and disturbing. There was no possible way I could relate to the agony and loss the Japanese people suffered, even my prayers seemed inadequate.

One scene from a particular video invaded my thoughts and brought with it a nagging question. The particular scene showed the tsunami wave breaking through a housing development and heading out into a farming area. You could see the tsunami carrying homes, autos, buses, and debris in its wave undulations.

The nagging question was this: if I were caught by surprise and stood in the middle of that farm field, facing that oncoming tsunami, could I survive?

“Are you silly? There’s no conceivable way you can survive that scene. Where’s your logic, Larry?” one may say.

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5: 7)

The number one hindrance to faith is we can only see our circumstances and nothing else. They loom as huge obstacles in our paths, impossible to get around. Then, because our focus is on the circumstances, our intellect, logic, and reason race ahead and calculate the odds of whether we’ll survive our sicknesses, poverty, dismal marital relationships, family problems, or disastrous situations (like the tsunami), and guess what? There’s never any hope for us. We are doomed.

Faith sees the circumstance – and never ignores it – but it instantly fixes its eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. (82) He is the One who calms the seas with a word or calls us to walk on water. He is the One who raises the dead and multiplies the bread and fish.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Our faith has to be focused on the mighty One who lives within us, not on our puny strengths or abilities. He must be our everything!

I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency]. (Philippians 4: 13 Amplified Bible)

Could I possibly stand in a field, facing an oncoming tsunami with all of its force, and survive? Yes, I could, but it’s not my decision to make, it’s His decision because He owns me. He knows when I’ve finished my course. I’m absolutely convinced He’s able to bring me to that particular end time period for my life. (83)

I sincerely believe that the more we know the One who lives within us, the less power our circumstances will have over us.

So, how can faith overcome our circumstances?

 

Chapter 23

Building Mustard-Seed Faith (h)

Let’s say a young preacher starts a new church in your city. People who visit the new church report the preacher is four feet six inches tall. Not only is he short, they say, but he also has a weak presence and is a lousy speaker.

With what you know about the American church system, what’s your guess on his odds of ever being successful? Somewhere between slim and none, right?

The historian Josephus and scriptures state the above facts are true for the Apostle Paul. Unlike humans, God chooses men as His kingdom ambassadors, not on their height or outward appearances, but on their hearts.

Let’s look at how this short, weak, poor communicator handled a hopeless circumstance:

When it was decided that we should sail for Italy…(Acts 27:1)

Jewish leaders brought charges against Paul, causing him to appeal his case to Caesar. That meant he had to sail from Caesarea, and cross the Mediterranean Sea to Rome, while being guarded by a Roman centurion.

Contrary winds bogged the voyage down and the ship put into port. Because of the lateness of the year (October), the Mediterranean Sea was usually considered unsafe for navigation until springtime (March). Paul admonished them:

“Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” (Acts 27:10)

The pilot, captain, and centurion disregarded the short preacher’s advice and sailed for Rome. The ship soon sailed into a typhoon, forcing the crew to dump the cargo, tackle, and cut sails. Nothing helped.

… from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned. (Acts 27:20)

After days of not seeing the sun or stars, the one person who had not given up hope, stood up in their midst, and got everyone’s attention. “You should have followed my advice, but you didn’t and now there will be damage and loss.”

Can you imagine what the pilot, captain, centurion, and crew thought when Paul spoke his words? Probably, something like, “Yeah, I wish we would have listened, but it’s too late now. We’re doomed!”

Paul continued on with his remarkable statement:

Yet, now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. (Acts 27: 22)

I guarantee Paul’s words captured everyone’s attention. It did not matter if the men were Baptists, Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, or pagans because Paul spoke words of hope. Drowning men will always reach out for anything, which will keep them afloat. Paul’s words did exactly that.

What did Paul have, that the other two hundred and seventy-five men not have?

But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, “Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.” (Acts 23: 11)

Paul had a promise from two and a half years earlier that the Lord was sending him to Rome. Yes, the circumstances were impossible and the waves were high, but Paul believed the Lord was not a liar and that He also foresaw the typhoon when He made the promise. Paul chose to ignore reason, logic, and circumstances, and believe the Lord’s promise.

What did the angel say to Paul during the typhoon?

“Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar, and behold God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.”(Acts 27:24)

While everyone looked at the storm, Paul reminded the Lord of His promise from two and a half years earlier. He prayed for the lives of the other men on the ship. The Greek word charizomai, which is translated into the English word granted denotes God had done a favor for Paul by allowing the men to live. This is called intercession.

Next, let’s talk about a modern promise which saved my day.

 

Chapter 24

Building Mustard-Seed Faith (i)

In May 2004, we sold our Upland home and bought one in Irvine, California.

Just seven miles from the Pacific Ocean, Irvine (population: 217,000) is rated the fourth best city in America to live in. It has the lowest crime rate of any American city and the median income is the seventh highest in America. The weather is Mediterranean-like and wonderful. Irvine sounds like the perfect place to live, right? And it is.

Carol worked at a furniture store in Yorba Linda and I sold real estate for a new home developer. We felt blessed.

Then, Carol’s furniture store was sold to another corporation in July. Her income instantly dropped 60% with the uncertainties and changeovers of new management. At the same time, new home sales nosedived. This double setback to our incomes was disastrous. We quickly began sliding into a financial black hole.

We had no fallback position and decided to put our home up for sale in early September. The housing market had cooled off, which was unfortunate because we needed to sell the home for $50,000 more than we paid for it, just to break even.

Carol came down with Bell’s Palsy in late October. She was forced to go on Workman’s Compensation Insurance and stayed at home, recuperating from the illness. More bad financial news!

Our savings and checking accounts flat-lined in December. The phones rang from 8 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. with creditors wanting their money right away.

That’s the background for our financial nightmare. It sounds like hundreds of thousands of homeowners today. We were up to our eyeballs in debt and stress, with no hope in sight. Each day was divided into two sections: when the phone rang and when it did not.

Our days normally began with Carol coming downstairs to sit with me in the family room to drink coffee.

“Did God speak to you this morning?” she would ask first of all.

“No, but I have peace about our circumstances,” I said over and over again.

“Oh boy!” she said more than once while rolling her eyes.

The Lord spoke to my heart in early January: “You will leave Irvine with money in your pockets.”

From that moment forward, we had a promise from God to hang onto with our faith. No longer did we feel like the waves could just toss us whichever way the wind blew. We had hope.

Did the circumstances turn around and get better from that morning onward? Absolutely not.

In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises, because of the word, immediately they fall away. (Mark 4: 16-17)

When you receive a prophetic promise from the Lord about your circumstances, it is time to batten down the hatches because you will soon be hit by monstrous storms. Your will have two choices: believe your circumstances or believe the promise from God.

Trust me on this: the testing of your faith about your promise will always come. (85) Always. Always. Always.

Soon after we received the promise from the Lord, our mortgage company began foreclosure proceedings against us. This is usually a greased downhill slope for couples with financial problems, but we weren’t just another couple. We had a promise from God.

If there is one thing Carol and I have learned how to do: it’s how to hold onto a promise from God and disregard whatever circumstances may be screaming in our faces.

This did not mean the circumstances weren’t real because they were. This did not mean we did not have to fight our thoughts because we had to. This did not mean our friends and family agreed with us because they probably did not.

What happened?

We sold the home one week before final foreclosure took place, at a price, which was $50,000 above the last comparative home’s price. The comparative home had been totally remodeled with new hardwood floors, new floor tile, and a new kitchen with granite counter tops. Because of financial lack, we could only afford to paint our home. It still had its old carpets and old counter tops.

“Impossible,” you say.

“Yes, I agree,” I say.

But then again, all things are possible with God, especially when we are holding onto His promises.

 

Chapter 25

Building Mustard-Seed Faith (j)

Rick was not really a bad kid, but he always seemed to be in trouble. If teachers weren’t keeping him after school for his misbehavior in class, then the small town police chief was knocking on his mom’s door asking for him.

At age eighteen, he signed a counter check (a blank check provided by banks) in a local store for ten dollars.  The only problem was he did not even have a checking account. The police chief found him easy enough because instead of using a forged name, he wrote his full name on the signature line.

The court assigned him an attorney.

“Listen, Rick,” the attorney said, “I suggest you plead guilty and ask for mercy. I think the judge will put you under court supervised parole and consider your time already spent in jail as your sentence.”

Rick stood in front of the judge and followed the attorney’s advice.

The judge stared at him with cold eyes.

“Young man, I’m going to make an example out of you. I’m sentencing you to ten years in prison.”

Rick screamed at his lawyer. The lawyer shrugged his shoulders.

“Sorry, kid, I don’t win them all,” he said, walking away.

 

I met Rick when he was forty years old at a church meeting where I was preaching in the spring of 1993. He had served seventeen years in prison, mainly for drug related problems. Rick was a Christian, but trusted few people and even spent time in prayer before the meeting on that particular day.

“Lord, show me if this preacher is the real deal or not. I don’t want to be misled anymore by prophetic charlatans,” Rick asked the Lord.

When I finished my message, I prayed for a few people. Then I walked over to Rick and prophesied to him. I gave him special words of knowledge about his past that only the Holy Spirit could possibly know about him. I prayed for his prophetic calling to come forth in his life. (86) Rick broke down and cried.

Rick and I soon became good friends. He even worked for my painting company.

Another time, Rick was going through a big problem and asked for prayer from me. I waited on the Lord and had a vision about Rick. I saw him sitting on a cot in a prison cell. He was facing a solid brick wall, but directly behind him, the cell door was wide open. All he had to do was stand up, turn around, and walk out the door. He was a free man.

I told Rick about the vision and he rejoiced about it, but sadly, I never saw Rick walk out the cell door of his personal prison. His past always kept in chains.

Why?

And He said to them, “Be careful what you are hearing. The measure [of thought and study] you give [to the truth you hear] will be the measure [of virtue and knowledge] that comes back to you — and more besides will be given to you who hear. (Mark 4: 24 Amplified Bible)

Rick had an older brother whom his mom adored, but for whatever reasons, she did not like Rick. She scolded and belittled him. “You are never going to amount to anything. You are no good,” she would tell him over and over again.

If he made a mistake, she brutally spanked him. When he cried, she continued spanking him until he quit crying. And always, always after the spanking, she would let him know he deserved the spanking because he was no good and would never amount to anything.

His mother never once visited him, phoned him, or sent a letter in his seventeen years of prison. He had become what she said he would be: “no good and of no value.”

Rick’s life was an extreme example of a person hearing words, which have destroyed his faith foundation. He could do nothing about his childhood or his mother and it will take a supernatural deliverance by the Lord to set him free. But what about you and me?

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10: 17)

Everyday, we believers make decisions on what we will hear. Conversations. TV. Radio. Movies. Cell phones. iPods. MP3 Players. All of these voices enter our minds through our ears. Once there, these voices may sow seeds, which may spread their roots deep into the walls of our mind. These roots become tough to remove.

If you doubt the power of voices growing roots in our minds, do you know the names these slogans are referring to: “Just do it.” “Where’s the beef?” “We try harder.” “Tastes great, less filling.” “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.” “Finger licking good.” “What happens here, stays here.” “Betcha can’t just eat one.“

Most of us know the names without thinking because these advertising slogans have grown deep roots into the walls of our minds.

So, the second biggest hindrance to faith is what we believers listen to.

 

Chapter 25

Building Mustard-Seed Faith (j)

Rick was not really a bad kid, but he always seemed to be in trouble. If teachers weren’t keeping him after school for his misbehavior in class, then the small town police chief was knocking on his mom’s door asking for him.

At age eighteen, he signed a counter check (a blank check provided by banks) in a local store for ten dollars.  The only problem was he did not even have a checking account. The police chief found him easy enough because instead of using a forged name, he wrote his full name on the signature line.

The court assigned him an attorney.

“Listen, Rick,” the attorney said, “I suggest you plead guilty and ask for mercy. I think the judge will put you under court supervised parole and consider your time already spent in jail as your sentence.”

Rick stood in front of the judge and followed the attorney’s advice.

The judge stared at him with cold eyes.

“Young man, I’m going to make an example out of you. I’m sentencing you to ten years in prison.”

Rick screamed at his lawyer. The lawyer shrugged his shoulders.

“Sorry, kid, I don’t win them all,” he said, walking away.

 

I met Rick when he was forty years old at a church meeting where I was preaching in the spring of 1993. He had served seventeen years in prison, mainly for drug related problems. Rick was a Christian, but trusted few people and even spent time in prayer before the meeting on that particular day.

“Lord, show me if this preacher is the real deal or not. I don’t want to be misled anymore by prophetic charlatans,” Rick asked the Lord.

When I finished my message, I prayed for a few people. Then I walked over to Rick and prophesied to him. I gave him special words of knowledge about his past that only the Holy Spirit could possibly know about him. I prayed for his prophetic calling to come forth in his life. (86) Rick broke down and cried.

Rick and I soon became good friends. He even worked for my painting company.

Another time, Rick was going through a big problem and asked for prayer from me. I waited on the Lord and had a vision about Rick. I saw him sitting on a cot in a prison cell. He was facing a solid brick wall, but directly behind him, the cell door was wide open. All he had to do was stand up, turn around, and walk out the door. He was a free man.

I told Rick about the vision and he rejoiced about it, but sadly, I never saw Rick walk out the cell door of his personal prison. His past always kept in chains.

Why?

And He said to them, “Be careful what you are hearing. The measure [of thought and study] you give [to the truth you hear] will be the measure [of virtue and knowledge] that comes back to you — and more besides will be given to you who hear. (Mark 4: 24 Amplified Bible)

Rick had an older brother whom his mom adored, but for whatever reasons, she did not like Rick. She scolded and belittled him. “You are never going to amount to anything. You are no good,” she would tell him over and over again.

If he made a mistake, she brutally spanked him. When he cried, she continued spanking him until he quit crying. And always, always after the spanking, she would let him know he deserved the spanking because he was no good and would never amount to anything.

His mother never once visited him, phoned him, or sent a letter in his seventeen years of prison. He had become what she said he would be: “no good and of no value.”

Rick’s life was an extreme example of a person hearing words, which have destroyed his faith foundation. He could do nothing about his childhood or his mother and it will take a supernatural deliverance by the Lord to set him free. But what about you and me?

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10: 17)

Everyday, we believers make decisions on what we will hear. Conversations. TV. Radio. Movies. Cell phones. iPods. MP3 Players. All of these voices enter our minds through our ears. Once there, these voices may sow seeds, which may spread their roots deep into the walls of our mind. These roots become tough to remove.

If you doubt the power of voices growing roots in our minds, do you know the names these slogans are referring to: “Just do it.” “Where’s the beef?” “We try harder.” “Tastes great, less filling.” “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.” “Finger licking good.” “What happens here, stays here.” “Betcha can’t just eat one.“

Most of us know the names without thinking because these advertising slogans have grown deep roots into the walls of our minds.

So, the second biggest hindrance to faith is what we believers listen to.

 

Chapter 26

Building Mustard-Seed Faith (k)

Like most believers, I was a sponge when I was first saved in 1985. This openness to spiritual teachings had its good points, but also had a few bad ones. One of the bad experiences happened at a Full Gospel Businessmen meeting.

I attended that particular Saturday night meeting to hear a man give his testimony. The man and his message are long since forgotten, but I still remember what happened afterward when I hung around, visiting with believers.

As I talked with friends, a man approached and joined our conversation. The group of friends then broke up and left, but the man continued talking with me. We talked about various things and then he asked a question.

“Larry, where do you go to church?” he said.

“Corpus Christi Catholic Church,” I replied.

He shook his head. “Too bad!” he said. “I used to attend an Assembly of God church, but now, I go to a Word church. This is where God is now moving in America.”

The man really thought he was helping me, but instead, his words were judgmental seeds, which planted themselves in my heart. The seeds were later watered and eventually grew into a deep-rooted belief that believers must attend specific churches or they were out of the will of God.

I eventually departed the Catholic Church and attended a small non-denominational church. It was at this church where I began speaking more and more prophetic words.

The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. (Luke 6: 45)

Although we believers would all like to be perfect vessels so the Lord can speak whatever He wants to say through us, I haven’t met a perfect vessel in my thirty-four years of seeking Him. The stream of Christianity we associate with, the teachings we listen to, and any judgmental attitudes, which may be rooted in our hearts, often help to shape our prophetic words.

The importance of prophesying is not lessened because of our imperfections. We must give grace to people when they speak prophetic words and then graciously judge the prophetic words in love. Don’t kill the messengers, okay?

At the same time, each of us needs to continually ask the Lord to set us free from whatever hindrances we may have in our hearts. And guess what? We all have them.

 

Over a period of weeks in the early 1990’s, I had a dream and a deep impression about moving to a small town of 6000 people, forty miles north of where I lived in Iowa. The dream even included a certain house on a specific street, which I needed to visit.

I finally loaded up my rust-bucket of a pickup truck with my belongings and headed out.

My only problem was I only had just a few coins in my pocket and no bills in my wallet. There was barely enough fuel in the gas tank to drive forty miles.

When I arrived in the city, I quickly found a small park and spent time in prayer. I drove to the house, which I saw in my dream. The people living there welcomed me and I prayed for them. They even invited me to attend their home fellowship that evening.

But something failed to materialize after the fellowship meeting?

 

Chapter 27

Building Mustard-Seed Faith (l)

Like Joseph’s two dreams, I had just enough revelation from my impressions and dreams to get me in trouble, which was probably how the Lord planned my adventure.

The people in the house and the home fellowship were amazed God would send a man, whom they had never met, via a dream to pray and encourage them. It was an exciting evening for all of us.

But I assumed someone would offer me a place to stay overnight in his home or apartment, but no one did. Nobody even asked why my truck was loaded with household goods and clothing. What were they thinking? I don’t know.

I could have asked them, but I didn’t. You see, I believe that if God is leading me then it is His responsibility to provide for me.

What did I do?

I drove off and prayed as I went down the street. The only idea, which came into my mind, was a nearby truck stop. I drove there, parked the truck, pulled two blankets out of the back, and slept in the cab. It was a late-October cold night.

In the morning, it dawned on me: God sent me here to trap me. Why? I had no clue.

I spent one of my precious quarters on coffee at a grocery store. I then went to the small city park and prayed all day. That night I went back to the truck stop and slept there again.

The next morning, I spent another quarter for coffee and prayed all day at the park.

At 6:30 in the evening, while I was praying, I had a quick glimpse of my answer: a scrap metal yard. I drove there, but it was closed for the day. It was another cold night at the truck stop.

The next morning after spending my last quarter on coffee, I went to the scrap yard and asked for the owner. He was gone until late in the afternoon.

“What did you need to see him for? Maybe, I can help you,” said the receptionist.

“I’m a Christian and just needed to see him,” I said.

“His wife can probably help you. I’ll give you directions to their house,” she said. She wrote directions down a piece of paper and handed it to me.

The home was only a mile away so I had enough gas to get there. I parked in the driveway and walked toward the house. Somehow, as I walked, I realized they were Catholics. I rang the doorbell.

While waiting on the porch, the Holy Spirit descended on me with all of His holiness. I wept and wept. And in that moment, I was delivered of my judgmental attitude of believing people had to attend specific churches or risk being out of the will of God.

The aftermath of this story was the people invited me to stay overnight in their warm home. They took me to breakfast the next morning and gave me $10 for gasoline. I drove back to my hometown. There I stopped at a business establishment who hired me for a painting project. I then visited my pastor and she had something for me.

It seemed the Lord laid my situation on a person’s heart. He sent a $200 check to my pastor for me.

Hopefully, this testimony underlines the importance of being careful of what we listen to? What else can we do?

 

Chapter 28

Building Mustard-Seed Faith (m)

It dawned on me one day: I’m tired of Christian music. Every Christian song sounded like a spin-off of Shout to the Lord. I was bored with the same-o, same-o music.

Thus, when I drove my truck, I listened to country music.

The CD’s I listened to were mainly golden oldies sung by Johnny Cash, Glenn Campbell, Don Williams and others. Most were even Christians. Their music seemed quite tame compared to many of the newer artists.

Yet at the same time I began listening to country music, I started having nostalgic thoughts and dreams about my high school and college years. An overwhelming collage of thoughts invaded my mind about girls I dated, baseball games, football, 4-H, school subjects and more.

I found myself wondering about the “what-if’s” and the “if-only’s” of my earlier years. I even compared those choices with the realities in my life at the present. Focusing on prayer or reading the Bible became a battle for me.

I sought the Lord about my problem.

The Lord eventually showed me the music I listened to had hooks into my past. When I listened to the music, it drew me back into that time period and what I was doing at the time. I also felt the Lord showed me all popular music has some sort of hook in it, which grabs our thoughts. That’s why the music is so popular.

What I then had to do was give up listening to a steady diet of country music. I changed my MP3 player so that it had 85% Classical music, 10% Christian, and 5% country and other music.

Just to put my music listening into its proper perspective: I never listen to music outside of driving a vehicle. I like quiet. This is my personal preference, okay?

 

Then, there was the issue of talk radio.

During the 2004 and 2008 elections, I listened to conservative talk radio hosts when I drove a vehicle. Talk radio is a great alternative for understanding today’s political issues for most people as compared to the major media outlets. But this was not true for me.

I am more of a black and white, right or wrong type of person who also struggles with judgmental and critical attitudes. Listening to talk radio caused me to be upset with Christians who did not agree with me on political issues. I was angry with them.

The Lord was not lenient with me on this listening problem. I now seldom ever listen to talk radio or any TV news programs, which might have editorial comments as a part of their regular show.

As far as TV goes, I hardly ever watch regular TV shows. The rare exceptions are a few sporting events. I do like movies, but I prefer the old ones, such as African Queen, Quiet Man, Hoosiers, and North by Northwest.

There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages [voices] in the world, and no kind is without meaning. (1 Corinthians 14: 10)

Now this is what I’ve have to do in my life to cut back on voices so I can more readily hear the voice of Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of faith.

What about the work place and other environments I happen upon in my travels?

I can only control my personal choices, and not what others prefer, so I rely on the Lord’s grace and His mercy in those situations.

Do I believe everyone should follow my example?

If you want to walk at your highest level of faith, you will have to make some hearing choices. But, you need to ask the Lord what voices you need to get rid of. Don’t just do what I did, okay? It may take time to sort through the voices in your life but it will be worth it.

Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear… (Mark 4:24)

 

Chapter 29

Building Mustard-Seed Faith (n)

“Well, Larry, you have to be a little realistic, you know? God helps those who help themselves,” a Christian said after learning I had no health insurance and had not visited a doctor in years.

I shrugged my shoulders, not wanting to continue the conversation. What good would it have done? Her feet were stuck in concrete and so were mine. It most likely would have turned into a scripture-slinging contest.

Had she bothered to ask why I had no health insurance or had not visited a doctor for regular checkups, I would have answered her. “I’m not against doctors or health insurances. Both are important. But in our case, Carol and I had to make certain financial decisions. One of them was saving money by not having health insurance for me.”

I now have Medicare, but what about those many years when I had no health coverage? Did I ever worry back then about what would happen if I became sick?

No, absolutely not. I never lost a moment of peace over the decision and to be honest, I had some bad injuries from working on construction and selling cars. There were even times when Carol almost begged me to go to the doctor, but I would not.

Am I that stubborn? Probably, or at least many people, including Carol, tell me that. But my stubbornness is built upon solid ground: the promises of God.

The Lord gave me numerous promises for my life, most of which have not happened as yet. For those promises to ever occur, I can’t die. Plus, I have to walk, talk and write in order for them to be fulfilled.

Each time an affliction hit me, I reminded the Lord of His promises.

“Lord, you said I’d do such and such in my life which has not happened yet. I know You’re not a liar and that You foresee events like this before they happen. How are You going to get me through this affliction so I can fulfill the calling on my life and walk in Your promises?”

As they say, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” I’m still here and still seeking the Lord.

Is this great faith on my part? Not really, it’s just normal biblical faith based on the words of Jesus.

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14: 27)

And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for you body, as to what you will put on. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” (Luke 12: 22, 31)

Fear is the opposite of faith with no neutral positions between the two.

Let’s look at how the world handles situations and how a Christian should handle them.

 

Chapter 30

Building Mustard-Seed Faith (o)

Tiger Woods finished third in the 2011 Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, and won $330,667 for his four-day effort. Not bad, right?

Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters’ Champion, would have been satisfied with Tiger’s four days of golf scores because he missed the cut that year. Zach is not Tiger Woods nor is there another athlete like Tiger in the whole world. He is a minority of one.

Yet, Tiger by his own words was a failure: “Second place is first loser.” Third place would mean an even bigger loser by his definition, not a flattering description of his efforts at the 2011 Masters.

I myself cannot imagine the intense pressure Tiger must feel as he plays in a major golf tournament with thousands of media people checking him out from every angel. His swing. His putting. His attitude. His girl friends. His mistakes. It’s a wonder he can even hold a cup of coffee in his hands without spilling it all over himself.

What do you think drives Tiger Woods to keep putting himself through such a meat grinder like major golf tournaments?

Golf enthusiasts will say, “Its his deep pride which keeps him going. That’s the sum total of what Woods is all about: pride.”

To that, I will answer, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!”

I think Tiger Woods is driven by fear.

“Fear!” Woods’ fans may scream. “Not Tiger. He’s never been afraid of anything!”

What did Tiger first do when his infidelities and his marital problems became public? He hid out for months. Why? Because his life was a lie and his brand image a sham. He reacted in the exact same way Adam and Eve did because of fear.

I think Woods now heads to each major golf tournament, struggling to keep his fears in check. Fears that he will never ever again live up to the image of who he was in the past. And when you think about it: his image was a lie, not even a reality of who Tiger Woods really was.

Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)

I’m not against Tiger Woods, nor am I putting him down, but I hate the dark system, which drives him with fear: the kingdom of the world. And nothing would make me happier than learning Tiger has surrendered his life to Jesus and become a member of the Kingdom of our Lord.

In the Kingdom of our Lord, it’s not my successes or failures which matter, but instead it’s who Jesus is and what He’s done for me. I am already a success in His eyes because I am a member of His royal family. Any earthly successes I might possibly attain will only pale in value when compared to my citizenship in the Kingdom.

I can walk in the faith of knowing I am a royal prince, son of a great King, who loves me, owns me, and is always for me.

With this great revelation, have I ever known fear? Yes and it came from an unusual place: a church.

 

Chapter 31

Building Mustard-Seed Faith (p)

As far as churches go, the church building was not much to look at. The paint had peeled off its white clapboard siding and covered the ground with white flecks. The roof sagged. The sidewalks and steps had huge cracks. The small sanctuary seated a hundred and thirty people − at best.

During a four-year period in the late 1980’s and early 90’s, I attended that small Charismatic church. Its membership never surpassed thirty members, and for many Sunday services, just ten or twelve people sat in the pews.

Regular services were held on Sunday mornings and evenings, and of course, a Bible study on Wednesday nights. Every morning at 7a.m., there was a prayer meeting for revival in the city.

The city’s food pantry for needy people was located in the church’s basement. Most of the food items came from Second Harvest (now called Feeding America). The church also received a monthly stipend from the 700 Club to cover costs of the program.

Finances were always a problem for the church. The members were poor and there were not enough of them. Maintenance and repairs for the church building were always put off until something happened. We then all chipped in enough money to fix the problem.

The church’s pastors were an older couple. The wife was the head pastor and the husband was an associate pastor.

Okay, do you have the picture? Small church. Few members. Little money. Two pastors.

Yet, if Christians in the area needed a prophetic word, they came to the church. The pastors prophesied, I prophesied, and so did most of the other members. Any person who asked for prayer would leave with numerous prophetic words for his life. This happened all the time.

 

How could there ever be a problem with a group which had such strong prophetic gifts and who supposedly heard the voice of God?

The two pastors had apostolic callings with a vision for forming a network of churches. They hoped to plant new churches and add existing ones to the network. All would be under their apostolic guidance.

This sounded exciting enough at the time, but the two pastors had a chink in their vision: me.

The two pastors heard numerous prophecies spoken by various people about my life and had spoken many themselves. They interpreted all of my personal prophecies to mean I would be a part of their team. They wanted me to be their Silas, a prophet who would encourage and strengthen the brethren in their network of churches.

Their vision for my life did not match the one I had for me.

I shared with them what I believed the Lord wanted me to do, but they told me I was deceived. These conversations never ended well and usually one would say, “Larry, you need to really seek the Lord about your life. You don’t want to be deceived, do you?”

Why didn’t I just leave the church?

Part of the problem was the mixed-up pastoral authority teachings, which I believed at the time. These teachings taught that all believers needed to be submitted to a pastor and under his/her authority or be out of the will of God.

There was another side to the pastoral authority teachings. This one taught that because the pastor was the shepherd and head of the local church, the Lord would first speak to the leader about what a member should do with his life. This particular teaching was an offshoot of the Shepherding Movement.

I eventually knew I had to confront the pastors about their control issues in my life. A meeting was set up to air our differences.

I fasted and prayed ahead of time and had scriptures and prophetic words for them. But as I began speaking to them, one of the pastors spoke in tongues and the other one interpreted the tongues. As this happened, I felt a suffocating power overwhelm me so I felt drained and afraid. Along with the fear, I became confused.

The meeting ended with me submitting under their authority and wondering what had happened to me. So, I sought the Lord.

The answers did not come quickly for me. I struggled in the church for the next few months. A woman from another city eventually knocked on my apartment door one evening. She said the Lord had sent her to pray for me.

After she prayed, the fear of the two pastors left me and my spiritual eyes were opened.

You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed. (2 Corinthians 11:4 NLT)

The spiritual gifts are awesome tools given to us by God for the common good of all people. They contain the power of God and are distributed by the Holy Spirit.

But sadly, sometimes the prophetic gifts are not from the Holy Spirit, and may be from a familiar spirit or a lying spirit or another spirit. This is not a game. It’s an all-out war.

The last thing the enemy wants is for us to boldly walk in faith. To stop us, he will take advantage of every opportunity to derail us.

We need to have our faith built up so we understand there is only one mediator between man and God. His name is Jesus.

 

Chapter 32

Faith Summary

You’re probably thinking this book should be entitled Faith One-O-One because of my emphasis on faith. But my deep belief is that we need to have a solid foundation of faith to persevere in our journeys with the Lord.

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Walking with God always takes faith. Always. Always. Always.

I wrote this a few years ago, but it shows why we may need strong faith in the near future:

So, let’s say that you’re staying with your family at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (where the movie, Pretty Woman, was filmed), just off Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California. But all of a sudden, terrorists arrive and begin shooting their AK-47’s and exploding grenades, killing, and maiming everyone they see. Confusion and havoc reigns.

Somehow you’re able to barricade your family and yourself in a first floor cafe. You hear the terrorists walking your direction.  Who can you expect to help you?

Will the president help you? He’ll make a statement on TV, deploring terrorism, and will probably add, “Most Muslims are good people. These are just a few bad eggs!” After all, he needs the Muslim vote in the next election and doesn’t want to offend CAIR.

Will the governor help you? This is California, not Texas, so the Governor will first take a quick telephone poll to discover what the people think. You know, he’s running for office again and the election will be a close one. He also will appear on TV, deplore terrorism, announce that he is considering all options, even calling out the National Guard and will take a helicopter to the scene.

Will the mayor and city council members help you? These guys will be relegated to low-level radio interviews. And of course, they will deplore terrorism: yada, yada, yada.

What about the police? They and their SWAT teams will surround the hotel. Phone calls will be made to the governor, mayor, police chief and whoever else needs to be contacted before taking action. Valuable time will pass before a decision is made.

What about a DMORT team? This is the one positive that will happen almost immediately. A Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team from Region IX will be dispatched as soon as they hear about the attack. They will bring victim identification equipment, body bags, and storage units for the expected dead people.

Our only hope will be our strong faith in God.

 

If you do not have a great faith revelation, I recommend reading and studying the Word of Faith teachings by Kenneth E. Hagin. I disagree with him about his teachings on the doctrine of grace, but he’s by far the best faith teacher. His teachings will build strong faith in you.

If you are wondering about the prosperity teachings taught by many Word of Faith preachers, Kenneth E. Hagin never agreed with those teachings. Before he died, he warned those teachers of their greed and asked them to repent. Few listened to him.

You can read many of his books on line by Googling his name or purchase them, used or new, at Amazon.com. If you have time, check Salvation Army stores and other used bookstores, often you can buy them for pennies on the dollar.

Studying Kenneth E. Hagin’s teachings may be a good investment of your time, which may pay off in huge dividends for you in the future.

 

Chapter 33

Grace (Part 1)

The quart of Jim Beam did little to numb his senses. His emotions still quivered in spasms of anguish. How could a woman love him one night and then treat him so badly the next day? What was she thinking about when he embraced her? How long had she been planning on leaving? What did Dick offer her that he didn’t? The questions ricocheted off the walls of his mind. He had no answers, only battered and abused emotions.

He pushed the chair back from the dinette table and staggered into the bedroom. There he knelt down and opened the bottom drawer of the oak dresser. Under some jeans, he found what he was looking for – a brown handled Smith & Wesson revolver. It was his dad’s. The cylinder was loaded with six bullets.

“Life’s not fair,” he mumbled as he stood up.

He undid the gun’s safety and walked into the bathroom.

Wanting to muffle the gun’s report, he grabbed a white bath towel from the rack, winding it around the gun, and his hand. He sat down in the tub, cocked the trigger, and stuck the barrel in his mouth. He tried to imagine where he would wake up after he squeezed the trigger.

DING DONG!

The doorbell. What are the odds? He reasoned to himself. This can’t be happening. He sat there, barely breathing, his heart pounding in his chest.

DING DONG!

Could it be a pizza deliveryman with the wrong apartment number? Or a drunk? Or a policeman? Or what? He thought as he continued to sit without moving, waiting for the person to give up and go away.

DING DONG! DING DONG! DING DONG!

“Okay, okay, I’m coming. Hold your horses!” he muttered.

He stepped out of the tub, laid the gun on the toilet seat, walked to the door, and opened it up with one fluid motion of his left hand. A pink blur shot past him. What was that? He wondered. He looked over his right shoulder just in time to see whomever it was disappear into the bathroom.

“Hey you, come back here,” he said in a heavy alcohol-soaked tongue. His left hand rested on the brass doorknob. Not even the shock of the cold air blowing in his face or the blur’s appearance sobered him up.

Ten seconds later, an old woman wearing a tattered pink chenille robe marched back into the living room, holding the revolver in her arthritic fingers. Attached to her fingers was a blue veined hand that quivered out of control from some type of nervous disorder. The gun swayed back and forth while he put his hands up in surrender.

“Young man, what is this?” she said in a raspy, slow motion manner.

Her gray eyebrows arched upward while her left eyelid drooped over a prying eye. The woman looked more like a Mad Hatter reject than a miracle worker.

He lowered his hands and shrugged.

“Rats are a problem in this apartment complex.”

“You sit on the toilet with a cocked pistol ready to shoot rats, right?”

Jonah looked like a little boy with his hand caught in a cookie jar. He looked away from her piercing brown eyes. It was almost as if she could read his mind and knew everything about him.

“God told me you were going to commit suicide. So, I ran over and rang your doorbell.”

His eyes opened wide.

“God told you,” he whispered.

She nodded.

“Yes, that’s right. God told me.”

“But, but …”

The woman pushed past him to the door.

“You smell like a drunk on Skid Row. I’ll stop by tomorrow morning. Get some sleep and we’ll talk then, okay?”

The pink blur was gone and the door was closed.

Jonah stood there staring at the six-panel door like a puppy that had watched his master disappear. Finally, he shook his head and walked over to the sofa. He slumped down on it and within seconds was asleep.

(The above excerpt is from the eBook novel, Jonah, by Larry Nevenhoven, 2012, Amazon.com)

 

Like the fictional character Jonah in the above eBook, I know what it’s like to have God’s grace rescue me from committing suicide. But also, like Jonah, I struggled for years trying to understand the value of grace in a believer’s life.

How important is God’s grace? And what are the limits of His grace?

 

Chapter 34

Grace (Part 2)

If you have read my testimony, you would think if anyone understood grace, it should be me.  Yet, for the first eight years of my walk with the Lord, the word grace meant little to me. I knew grace was God’s unmerited favor, but so what? The definition was just another entry in my memory bank. Nothing more, nothing less.

After my salvation in May 1985, I was hungry to learn about God and listened to tapes and read books. Kenneth Hagin, R. W. Schambach, Leonard Ravenhill, Roberts Liardon, John Lake, Kathryn Kuhlman, David Wilkerson, Smith Wigglesworth and others blessed my life with their invaluable teachings.

These teachers leaned heavily toward Arminianism and away from Calvinism, especially in their teachings about grace. Each taught that a believer could eventually lose his salvation if he did not continue walking in faith or committed an unpardonable sin.

Who was I to disagree with these teachers? They had powerful anointing on their lives. Wigglesworth raised at least fourteen people from the dead. Kuhlman healed the sick by the thousands. Lake had over a hundred thousand recorded healings during a five-year period in Portland, Oregon. All were powerful and gifted preachers.

Therefore, like many Christians, I assumed the miracles, signs, and wonders on these anointed teachers’ lives meant God approved of every one of their teachings. Unlike the Baptists who seemed to only teach grace, these teachers taught a message, which was called the Full Gospel.

But during my eight years of not understanding grace and also believing I could lose my salvation, a scripture really bugged me:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5: 17 NKJ)

What bugged me about the scripture was my wondering how could a believer get rid of the new creation, which lived within him? Do you ask it to leave? Do you somehow kill it? Do you have to reverse the work of the cross to end the new creation’s life? What do you do to be unborn again?

I taught, preached, and prophesied against the eternal security of a believer and against the doctrine of grace for years, but this scripture chipped away at the legalistic teachings in my heart.

I reached a crossroads in my life when I met Morris and Marion.

 

Chapter 35

Grace (Part 3)

A few years ago, I heard a Mike Bickle cassette tape where Bob Jones told about one of his visions. In it, Jones was watching a baseball game between the Lord’s team and Satan’s team. It was the bottom of the ninth with two outs.

Love was at bat and Satan threw his best pitch. Love hit the ball into the outfield for a base hit. “Love never fails.” Faith came to bat and promptly hit a base hit. “Faith works with love.” The next batter was named Godly Wisdom. Satan threw him four straight balls and Godly Wisdom was issued a walk. “Godly wisdom does not fall for Satan’s pitches.” The bases were loaded.

A player named Grace walked into the batter’s box. Jones noted the batter was not much to look at and wondered about his ability to handle the tense situation. Jones also noted Satan’s team relaxed when they saw the weak-looking Grace stepping up to the plate.

Grace swung at the first pitch and Jones said he had never seen a ball hit so hard. Satan’s center fielder, the prince of the air, leaped to catch the ball, but the ball went through his glove, hitting him in the head, and knocking him to the ground. The ball continued its flight over the fence for a grand slam home run. The Lord’s team won.

The Lord turned to Jones and said, “Do you know why Love, Faith, and Godly Wisdom could get on base, but they could not win the game for My team?”

Jones shook his head.

“If your love, your faith, or your wisdom could win the game for you alone, you would think you had done it. Your love, your faith, and your wisdom can only take you so far, but then you need My grace to bring you home.”

 

This experience became a reality on my first visit to Morris and Marion’s home in late 1992. Marion had a Thursday night youth ministry for the neighborhood.

What Marion forgot to mention was half of the thirty kids who attended her Thursday night youth meetings were special education children with IQ scores of 60 or less. These youths ranged in ages from 15 to 23 years old, but yet, were like little children, with attention spans of approximately thirty seconds.

The party consisted of games, apples, candy, and drinks, just a normal Halloween party, but a twelve-year old girl mentioned she had problems. Five or six of the special children gathered around her and prayed for her.

And without a doubt, the prayers by these special children were the worst ones I had ever heard. None of their words made sense. They did not seem to have a clue about what they were saying. Yet, the young girl broke down, wept, and gave her life to Jesus. The girl’s problems disappeared with Jesus’ appearance in her life.

I stood there with my mouth open, trying to understand what I had just witnessed. As I watched on, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart. “The young kids’ hearts are right with Me. They just don’t know how to express in words what they feel in their hearts. So, I poured out My grace on them, something you don’t fully understand.”

The Lord had my attention.

I thought I had come to the group to teach them, but instead, Morris, Marion, and the kids became my teachers about a marvelous treasure called grace.

 

Chapter 36

Grace (Part 4)

When I began helping Morris and Marion’s home ministry in 1992, I was divorced, lived alone, and sold cars at a small used auto dealership. An average day began with me praying from 3 a.m. until 6 a.m. I then showered, ate breakfast, and hustled off to a prayer meeting at a local church for an hour or so. I studied the Bible and read Christian books for a few hours before heading to bed in the evenings. No TV. No radio. No writing. Not much of a social life.

This was my routine for a seven-year stretch and varied little on weekends or holidays during the time period.

I occasionally did some teaching at a small home meeting, but not often. Most people thought of me as a prayer warrior and little else. I understood my calling and had messages stirring within me, but there were no open doors. Thus, I was forced to wait on the Lord to move in my life.

I assumed the Lord would eventually set me in a place where I would teach on spiritual warfare and prophecy, but silly me, huh? He put me in a home group where I prayed for boo-boo sores and dolls. Yes, dolls. One of the children, a seventeen-year old, carried her doll to the home meetings and asked me to pray for it.

And you know what? I fell in love with the children.

I remember several times when it would be just Morris, Marion, a few children, and me. We would end up praying and the Holy Spirit would show up.

The kids and I would end up lying on the floor. Morris and Marion would be sprawled out in their Lazyboy recliners. We’d be gone for thirty minutes or so. Where did we go? I haven’t a clue, but it was wonderful wherever it was. Some might say we were slain in the Spirit…and maybe we were. But who cares?  It was glorious.

When the Holy Spirit lifted off us, who do you think had the visions and dreams to talk about? Not Morris, Marion, or myself. It was the children who would have the awesome stories to tell us.

“I was running and playing with Jesus. He’s fun,” one might say.

Or another might add, “Do you know that Jesus loves my doll? He told me so.”

My rigid theology was pulverized week after week by experiences such as this. Morris and Marion kept referring to what happened in their home ministry as the grace of God.

But I just could not get a handle on grace.

I understood prayer. And faith. And discipline. And prophecy. And studying the word. And waiting on the Lord. But all of this was dependent on my efforts. Grace was unmerited favor and depended solely on God. How could He love people so much He just flooded us with something we did not deserve or earn?

So, I sought the Lord about grace and did it in a backward sort of way.

 

Chapter 37

Grace (Part 5)

When I began seeking the Lord about His grace, I knew that if I could somehow lose my salvation for whatever reasons, then grace was vastly overrated. What good was unmerited favor from God if it could be withdrawn because I no longer deserved it? I supposedly never deserved grace in the first place, right?

I had no answers to these questions.  At the time, I still believed the Arminian teachings of Kenneth Hagin, Leonard Ravenhill, Smith Wigglesworth, John Lake, John Wesley, and others who taught we could lose our salvations if we turned our backs on Jesus. Those teachings made sense to me. How could a holy God allow a man to be eternally secure in his salvation, if the man turned his back on God?

Yet, the special children intrigued me. They did not read Bibles, pray much, or ever pay attention to their salvations at all. Did God have different rules for children with IQ’s under a certain level?

I meditated on the Bible verses Hagin, Ravenhill, Lake, Wigglesworth, Wesley, and other Arminian teachers used to justify their beliefs.

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6)

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. (1 Peter 2:20-21)

Doesn’t the word meditation conjure up thoughts of me sitting on the floor with my legs crossed and humming aloud?

The word meditation in the Bible actually means saying the scripture over and over again. One version calls it muttering aloud to oneself. I did a variation, which has worked well for me over the years.

I memorized the scriptures in Hebrews and 2 Peter and then said them over and over in my mind while I prayed in tongues. I did this for at least one hour a day over a period of several weeks. There were times when my brain wanted to do anything but meditate on the same scriptures, but I muddled onward, day after day.

Then, one day it happened.

You see, if you believe God is real and He is a rewarder of those who seek Him, the Holy Spirit will eventually show up and enlighten you. That’s what happened to me. In a blink of an eye, I knew there were no limits on grace. My salvation was eternally secure and depended on Him and His grace. It no longer depended on my actions or me.

Did I totally understand the scriptures I meditated on? No, not really, but my revelation was so profound I knew there had to be other explanations for the scriptures.

Marion loaned me her copy of J. F. Strombeck’s classic 1936 book, Shall Never Perish. Strombeck’s explanation about the two scripture references is the best I have ever read and is still quoted today.

This happened over twenty years ago, but I can still remember where I sat and how I felt at the precise moment the Holy Spirit enlightened me. I jumped up and down with joy, knowing that John 3:16 was an absolute, eternal, never-ending truth.

Why is grace so important for our walks with the Lord? And do we all have to agree one hundred percent with my revelation on grace in order?

 

Chapter 37

Grace (Part 5)

When I began seeking the Lord about His grace, I knew that if I could somehow lose my salvation for whatever reasons, then grace was vastly overrated. What good was unmerited favor from God if it could be withdrawn because I no longer deserved it? I supposedly never deserved grace in the first place, right?

I had no answers to these questions.  At the time, I still believed the Arminian teachings of Kenneth Hagin, Leonard Ravenhill, Smith Wigglesworth, John Lake, John Wesley, and others who taught we could lose our salvations if we turned our backs on Jesus. Those teachings made sense to me. How could a holy God allow a man to be eternally secure in his salvation, if the man turned his back on God?

Yet, the special children intrigued me. They did not read Bibles, pray much, or ever pay attention to their salvations at all. Did God have different rules for children with IQ’s under a certain level?

I meditated on the Bible verses Hagin, Ravenhill, Lake, Wigglesworth, Wesley, and other Arminian teachers used to justify their beliefs.

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6)

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. (1 Peter 2:20-21)

Doesn’t the word meditation conjure up thoughts of me sitting on the floor with my legs crossed and humming aloud?

The word meditation in the Bible actually means saying the scripture over and over again. One version calls it muttering aloud to oneself. I did a variation, which has worked well for me over the years.

I memorized the scriptures in Hebrews and 2 Peter and then said them over and over in my mind while I prayed in tongues. I did this for at least one hour a day over a period of several weeks. There were times when my brain wanted to do anything but meditate on the same scriptures, but I muddled onward, day after day.

Then, one day it happened.

You see, if you believe God is real and He is a rewarder of those who seek Him, the Holy Spirit will eventually show up and enlighten you. That’s what happened to me. In a blink of an eye, I knew there were no limits on grace. My salvation was eternally secure and depended on Him and His grace. It no longer depended on my actions or me.

Did I totally understand the scriptures I meditated on? No, not really, but my revelation was so profound I knew there had to be other explanations for the scriptures.

Marion loaned me her copy of J. F. Strombeck’s classic 1936 book, Shall Never Perish. Strombeck’s explanation about the two scripture references is the best I have ever read and is still quoted today.

This happened over twenty years ago, but I can still remember where I sat and how I felt at the precise moment the Holy Spirit enlightened me. I jumped up and down with joy, knowing that John 3:16 was an absolute, eternal, never-ending truth.

Why is grace so important for our walks with the Lord? And do we all have to agree one hundred percent with my revelation on grace in order?

(Continued)

 

One thought on “First the Blade

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s