After being frustrated by technological problems, yesterday, while writing
(what’s new?!), I hopped the subway to honor a commitment. The person whom I was honoring with “my word”, casually cancelled on me. I tracked her down at a nearby restaurant and saw her languidly sipping on a soda, not even dressed for action, which was rather odd, since that wasn’t like her. Well, that worked out! I thought, more happy, than disappointed, because I wanted to check out a concert of a well-known group in another borough.
Instead I heard God say in my spirit, “No, go back on Broadway.” So I trudged back to the subway and caught the train again to mid-town Manhattan, somewhat perplexed because I thought the concert in Brooklyn was the “it” thing of the moment to do.
Since the timing of my complete, geographical loop was in between services at my home church–also in midtown, I instead walked by the American Bible Society further up Broadway in New York City.
Outside, a group of three young guys were sitting around and next to a seated statue of a iron likeness of a man, sitting on a sculptured metal park bench in front of the ABS. The young men were joking, giving the man rabbit ears, and had a bicycle on the bench spilling into the statue’s lap and one had his arm irreverently wrapped around the sculpted man’s head, as they took pictures with their camera phones.
It was pretty funny, real people interacting with a long-dead man, but I called out:
“Hey, have some respect! That man started a prayer movement!”
This really sent them into spasms of laughter as they snapped their photos. I was actually trying to call their attention to the prayer part of the movement, when something caught my eye inside of ABS, just beyond the sitting statue. There was some sort of event about to commence and I stepped inside.
They were going to have church in about an hour, I was told by security. Why don’t you go inside? However, it was at the same time as evening service at my own house of worship. But for some reason I lingered at this new church to look, listen and hang out until the sermon. Visiting other churches is not unusual for me, especially as an itinerant evangelist and testimonial speaker. So I stayed. And I’m so overjoyed that I did.
The congregation was signifcantly young, most of them college-aged and I anxiously looked around at the small crowd to see if I could spot any “grown-ups” in the audience of about 75 souls. “Someone needs to be guiding these young people!” I thought with alarm, suddenly feeling older than Abraham.
“Nineteen year olds cannot preach to nineteen years olds!” One, two, three. I counted three people seated who looked like they had “lived a little” besides myself, so I relaxed and drank my coffee, ate my chips and my mini-cupcake, while I listened to the band and the singer rehearse. They were good. Not liked they had lived-very-long good. But very good.
At every similar new church I’ve been to like this one featured at The American Bible Society, I noticed they have candy, cakes, juice, soda, coffee, something–to draw the young people in and have them sit down long enough to finish their snacks. There is so much in this city to compete for their attention! Most of them stay. But then I wondered why I was there. To my relief the pastor who opened the service said he had been a minister for 20 years. I exhaled.
Then a visiting pastor from South Africa, stepped up to the microphone and said he was called in—that was one of his specialties—emergency pastoring– to also give opening remarks and help pray for the congregation, because they had had an astounding number of terrible problems the past year. “Many terrible problems?!” I almost gasped as I once again surveyed the group of bright, shiny faces, cool clothes and barely-contained energy.
Then I noticed some of the smiles were strained, hands fidgeted, knees nervously bounced, and more than a few eyes misted over as the preacher prayed. There had been a litany of serious problems. Evictions, marshal’s notices, lost jobs, physical illnesses, psychological problems, drug and alcohol issues, legal issues, spats with parents, emotional problems, mental illnesses, heartbreak. Whew! Those were just some of the issues that plagued the congregation that the South African pastor mentioned. And he emphasized, just in the last year.
Oh, so horrible, I thought feeling empathy for all the suffering. This is a budding congregation, not huge yet, so the many problems are even more significant. The devil is so busy! I shook my head. So unfair. And then I remembered some research and reports on the stunning increase in mental illness. So I certainly do believe the Adversary of our souls is more frantic than ever, to try to distract and grab souls and derail and detour life paths. And then it hit me. Hard.
I was only 19 myself, and in college in Ohio when I had my first manic episode, though I thought it was just way too many diet pills. And I was 22, when a deep, devastating, couldn’t-get-out-of bed-depression hit me. Like a brick. House. Then at just 24, I was first hospitalized and diagnosed as bipolar in the midst of my new career as a news reporter.
Drug and alcohol problems, financial issues, full-blown mental illness and heartbreak followed in rapid succession. Until Jesus healed me, without the need for medication. I started out at the median age of most of the congregation! Getting a young person off-track early is an extreme and often-used ploy of the Destroyer, though as I mentioned, statistics bear out. All of this infernal activity has amped up in the last 20 years or so, instead of tapering off, despite our “modern” age.
I looked at the congregational gathering with new eyes, catching the concern of God’s own heart. The evil one was already in full hijack mode. Trying to kidnap them as they started out on the road of life, just as I was reminded, I was terribly detoured and almost destroyed.
The emphasis of these attacks is almost always to capture the emotions, the heart and the mind. And then ultimately. The soul. And so instinctively, they ran here. Many of them I’m sure practically ran in, instead of walking coolly, because they knew and know that this is a Hospital for the Soul. And they walked in spiritually wounded.
Yes, I’m supposed to be here, I thought assuredly, and thanked God as I settled back in my seat. I must daily be reminded. So urgent is help needed. And just rewind and review the video of your own life, child–God said in my spirit. To not for one minute, ever in this life, forget.
And many of you also have similar life “videos”, before running to Jesus for salvation, healing and deliverance. Your past, your testimony, is for a purpose.
Back in church yesterday, as if the many problems troubling the people, weren’t enough of a bolt-from-the-blue targeted sign from God–the senior pastor of the church, who was probably in his late thirties–stepped up front and said he was kind of mystified by the message that God wanted him to preach.
“Wasn’t my first choice,” the pastor admitted. “But today I’m going to preach on what Jesus did in the life of Mary Magdalene. How He delivered her of 7 demons, and chose her as the first person to see Him on Resurrection Day.”
(Well my mouth flung open in wonder, this is the number one healing passage of my testimony because of what Christ has done in my life.)
“And Mary Magdalene was directed,” the minister continued, ” to tell the disciples, she had seen the risen Lord. Imagine!” The preacher continued in amazement to preach with passion what he had never intended to preach.
“Imagine, because it’s the gospel truth, that Mary of Magdala was one of the disenfranchised, the mentally ill, like many of the homeless you see in this city, and many of the sick, barely hanging on elsewhere. Yet Jesus healed her, delivered her and chose her as the first evangelist!”
I was riveted. And was looking for the proverbial feather to knock me over. He got it! I thought, excitedly. He got the essence of the importance of this woman of the Bible that Jesus had me study–while in a mental hospital–for my own deliverance.
He “got” how Jesus used her as a symbol of His Church and to prove that He was and is Conqueror and King of Kings. God in the flesh! The Lord God helped this preacher to “get” that Jesus conquered demons and death. To live again! And to prove that as believers, we can also cast out evil spirits and get healed through Him. And live beyond this life with Our Creator and Lord Jesus Christ, in Heaven. Forever.
Over and over again on the internet, in my counseling and in writing, I’ve mentioned how the scriptures about Mary Magdalene and what Jesus did in her life, were a tremendous blessing and turning point in mine. A key to my own healing and deliverance from bi-polar illness / manic depression with a “touch” of schizophrenia, (as one medical doctor diagnosed me.)
Finally, it was at Edgemont Hospital in Hollywood, California, and though I didn’t know it then, it was after 12 years and 22 hospitalizations, that the far-from-fabulous institution would be my last confinement in a mental hospital.
It was September, 1991, on Labor Day which fell the day before my birthday, that God impressed upon me to fast, and pray and not eat the tempting barbequed and grilled picnic-like spread that was laid out for the holiday. We didn’t eat like that at the hospital everyday, this was a special occassion, so to skip the food was painful, I must admit.
Since everyone was bustling, eating, serving, talking or playing cards in the dayroom, I was actually able to search for and find an empty, quiet hospital room with a large almost walk-in closet. I shut the door of the room and sat halfway in the large closet and retreated there in silence with my open Bible. God seemed to turn the pages and led me on that day to dwell on the book of Mark and the scripture: Mark 16:9:
“Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.”
“Jesus!” I cried out in the deserted mental hospital room filled with the Spirit of God “If you did that for Mary Magdalene, could you please, do that for me?!”
The Bible seem to fall open to the passage in the 17th chapter of the Book of Matthew: “This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21.) And so to begin to break the chains. I continued to fast and pray. That very day.
Oh God thank you! I was so amazed throughout the pastor’s sermon yesterday at The American Bible Society. That the minister seemed to reiterate verbatim what God had said to me, so many years ago. And that many of the young people of that assembly sat on the edge of their chairs. All fervent hearts and ears. To listen.
Afterwards, God told me to talk to the pastor another time and just leave to absorb everything for now. And to make plans to write this. I sort of floated down the street with the Holy Spirit. The Author and the Finisher of our faith.
Thank you Abba Jesus! I whispered out loud and in my spirit to Our Father. That you are getting your Word out about the awesome power of your healing and deliverance through You, O Lord. Thank you Jesus! For such a time. As this.
at 9:12 am on March 9th, 2015