Those stories are from the book Dreams and Visions by Tom Doyle. I read the book this past March on the recommendation of a friend here at Grace. It is full of true stories: Day after day, today, in arguably the roughest part of the world, amid scenes of chaos and devastation and hatred and agony Jesus is appearing to people. Supernatural visions are happening, in real time, with the result that people are surrendering to Jesus, lives transformed, and sometimes being martyred.
My first reaction wasn’t amazement that God is reaching Muslims, although I am amazed. Not a missionary thankfulness that the Middle East is being reached, though I am thankful. My first reaction was frustration and longing and burning desire for those same supernatural visions and dreams to happen right here. Right here in a place that is about as far removed geographically and ideologically as you can get.
Right here where we are hitting bottom as a society.
Right here where the broken places are swelling up like deep infections.
I want the supernatural to start becoming natural and in our world, right now. I want us to experience the power of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
I have had a growing sense that God wants to do something new…something powerful…something supernatural.
Ironically in this, our 25th year of existence I am longing for Isaiah’s prophecy to be true:
Forget about what's happened; don't keep going over old history. 19 Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new. It's bursting out! Don't you see it? There it is! I'm making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands. Isaiah 43:18-19 MSG
We have a longing to see and experience the new things of God in a world and at a time that is desperate for it; for the supernatural to become natural and for God to pour out His Spirit in powerful, life-altering ways.
This longing for the supernatural to become natural has been growing for some time.
God has been leading us on a journey, so to speak. Let me share part of it with you.
In the fall of 2004 we began to reform our understanding of and practices in prayer. And a small band of passionate prayers began meeting every Wednesday morning asking God to move Grace toward becoming a house of prayer and that prayer needed to become a top priority.
· Over the next 9 years God started answering those prayers
o pastors began forming their own prayer teams
o ministering prayer began to become common place
o a number of us began practicing deliverance prayers for those among us who were demonized.
§ thank God a number of people were set free!
In January 2013 I took a small team to Brooklyn Tabernacle to explore their prayer ministry and weekly prayer gathering. We were moved by what we saw. When we returned, we launched our own Prayer Gathering (that March).
· That Prayer Gathering became a lab of sorts…experimenting with corporate prayer and worship and a lab for the Holy Spirit to act.
In November 2015 At one of my prayer team meetings Linda Quigley introduced me/us to The Circle Maker.
· The book had a profound effect on my life and, as I tend to do, I started leaking it out everywhere.
God honors BOLD PRAYERS because BOLD PRAYERS honor God.
If your prayers aren’t impossible to you they’re insulting to God.
Prayer turns appointments in DIVINE APPOINTMENTS.
Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker
In January 2016 Led by the Holy Spirit we determined to do baptisms monthly – hundreds responded with so many of the stories being incredible movements of the Spirit of God.
· Also in January I discovered, through a member of my small group, Draw the Circle - The 40 Day Prayer Challenge.
And in February 2016 We Launched the 40 Day Prayer Challenge Church Wide.
· my prayers and the prayers of many started to change to be more specific and bold.
· people came up to me shaking with news of what God was doing.
· I watched lives change before my eyes – tears, pledges of life change – something profound was happening – I’ll never be the same again
Then on Friday, March 4th
· I ran into Chyrise Ney who told me she was being so moved by the 40 day prayer challenge and recommended Dreams and Visions
· The reason I remember it was that date was that two days later - Pastoral Leadership Team Strategic retreat in St. Augustine, FL
o this was a key moment as God clearly spoke to us about his desire for revival among us including:
§ loving attendance to individuals
§ experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit
o We came back determined to explore what God was doing and calling us to!
o and for the past few months we have been thinking and praying and researching …asking God to reveal how he wants to begin to make the supernatural natural in this community.
Now, while all that was going on (and by the way…while we were launching a church in London, Bloomington, N. Indy and Fishers…and every other aspect of our ministry at Grace) …I began doing a deep dive into the scriptures, in particular the first few chapters of Acts.
· I wanted to see what it was like when the supernatural was an everyday occurrence among God’s people.
Here is what I discovered: Acts 1:4…
On one occasion, (within a few weeks of his resurrection) while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:4-5; 8
And I was intrigued by the concept of being baptized in the spirit and the power that would ensue
· what is this baptism? What is this power? (dunamis = dynamite)
So I read on…
2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place….Vs. 2
2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
· people gathered from everywhere hearing the wonders of God in their own languages
· those who were under the power of the Spirit must have been in some abnormal state because Peter had to yell to the crowd… Vs. 14
"Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
· wind, fire, languages, dreams and visions…this was all supernatural and it continued…
Peter used the occasion to stand up and pre4ahc about Jesus and the crowd exploded with reactions…Vs. 37
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
· Supernatural conversions by the fistful!
And still the power and supernatural continued….Vs. 42
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
· we’ll explore all of this much more starting on our 25th anniversary but for now, note
o supernatural love and community
o supernatural worship
o signs and wonders
o and continued massive amounts of conversions.
o It was a full on revival of the holy spirit!
And over the next few chapters of the book of Acts I began to notice in a new way the power of the Holy Spirit at work:
The time Peter and John came upon a crippled beggar…
Peter said, "Look at us!" 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. 6 Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk.
Apparently this became quite normal…
The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people.
People brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.
All of them were healed. And this emboldened that young burgeoning church and changed the way they prayed…
Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. 32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.
Listen to that again: “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.”
Needless to say, I was deeply moved by what I was reading. And I continued researching, reading, studying and having numerous conversations with leaders, friends, prayer team members here at Grace.
And then I got a text message completely out of left field…(a friend whom I had not seen or chatted with in months, maybe a year)
The Lord has placed you on my heart rather intensely these past few days and even weeks. I asked the Father "what do You want me to say to Dave, my dear friend?" He said a couple of things to me - first, was simply the word POWER. The Father wants you to have a new and encouraging revelation of His POWER in the Holy Spirit. He gave me a picture of taking, escorting, embracing you outside the tomb of His Son's resurrection and giving you a front row seat to the exact moment when the stone was moved, in POWER. I asked Him "what's does his mean for Dave?" And He said "I AM willing, even longing, to take my son Dave to the most Powerful event in human history and at a point in time that no human witnessed on earth." Wow. The Father wants to show you things no human has ever seen before. He wants to take you into the POWER found in the Holy Spirit. Be blessed with this as He is love and everything He does is love, and for love.
So yeah, you see. It has been and continues to be a journey that I believe God has called us all to.
I agree with the old 19th century preacher: Power from on high is the supreme need of today. —CHARLES G. FINNEY
And the 20th Century revivalist Leonard Ravenhill : The world is not waiting for a new definition of the Gospel, but for a new demonstration of the power of the Gospel. Leonard Ravenhill
And the 21st century pastor Henry Blackaby: The evidence of God working in our lives is his presence and power is at work in us. Henry Blackaby
So…to understand and operate in that power…
1. We are going to study the Holy Spirit
2. We are going to look more carefully at prayer
3. We are going to dive back into the book Acts and see what we can learn for today.
I am anxious to see how God wants the supernatural to become natural at Grace.