In our ministry work, my wife Kimberly and I have witnessed a multitude of rewarding experiences as a result of sharing the love of God. There is a supernatural power that attends the gospel message. It is a power with the ability to set captives free from the bondage to sin and darkness. It brings deliverance, healing, and hope to hurting souls. We have seen the joy that the Spirit of Christ brings to those who otherwise were stooping low from the burdens of life.
Anyone can share the gospel; children are not excluded! Our son Joshua created a simple sheet of paper printed in such a way that when folded, in bold type, the words shown said “Free Gift.” He cleverly placed these at tables and public locations, such as in a mall, for example. We would discreetly watch as people picked them up and read them thinking it was a product or service promotion.
Joshua had written the gospel message in the innocence of a ten-year-old. His language was simple but clear—that God loves us and He gave His only-begotten Son for our lives. He invited the reader to receive Jesus in their hearts, accept forgiveness for their sins, and to give Him their burdens. It was powerful!
Some would read the contents and then set them back down unceremoniously. Others, however, would read the contents and take them with them! You never know what seeds were planted through this effort. Never take the power of the gospel for granted!
While living in North Dakota, I had the privilege of sharing the gospel with a young man who had tried to commit suicide through a drug overdose. I met with him at the hospital recovery unit where he was and I shared with him the fact that God loved him so much that He gave His only-begotten Son for his life. To my great surprise, this young man responded that he did not know that God loved him, and that he had never had anyone declare this to him.
After several Bible studies, and further testimony regarding how God had delivered me from drugs and a life of sin, I had the privilege of baptizing this young man in the name of Christ. The last time I spoke with his mother, she indicated that her son was doing well; he had a steady job and was getting married! Praise the Lord!
Since moving back to Santa Barbara, California, the Lord has opened our eyes to the many opportunities that exist to serve Him through personal ministry. One such area of opportunity lies in those who are cast by society as “unclean”—the homeless. Interestingly enough, on Valentine’s Day twenty-nine years ago, my wife and I celebrated our honeymoon here in this city. Little did we know back then what future plans God had for us in laboring for His kingdom! It is amazing what God can do with lost and bruised hearts. He is very qualified to equip us to stop serving sin and, instead, to serve Him.
We moved back to Santa Barbara in September 2014. We did not have a home destination but simply drove here from North Dakota, trusting our loving Father to provide. In faith, I had reserved a small trailer three weeks prior, waiting for the funds to pay the trailer rental and the food and gas for the two-day journey. On the day we needed it, a dear brother provided the funds. In addition, a precious small group of brothers and sisters helped us with additional funds. Praise the Lord! We drove straight through, resting only but a few hours.
Since our arrival in California, we have been camping out in our truck, a 1989 GMC suburban. Being homeless ourselves, we spend our days either in the harbor area, or parked in front of the busy beach areas that are unique to Santa Barbara. What we discovered was that there is a large homeless community. We meet all sorts of “displaced individuals”; some with obvious mental disorders but, for the most part, many are regular people just like you and me. Seen from a distance they mostly look the same: tattered, dirty, and pushing or pulling a cart with their personal belongings. But when you meet them in person, up close, they are hurting children of the Most High God. They have hopes and dreams, they laugh, cry, hunger, and experience joy just like you and me.
Our income consists of the ministry support that several brothers and sisters lovingly provide. Kimberly had the idea to give water and food to some of these people. We found a ninety-nine-cent store where we could purchase many food items relatively cheap. We bought packs of water bottles, fresh apples, bananas, pears, plums, easy-open food cans of beans and soups, bread rolls, and even toothbrush kits that included a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a toothbrush case. We included forks and spoons and even napkins. We made these several items into “food bags,” which were simply large paper bags that only cost ten cents each. We calculated the cost of one of these “food bags” and it amounted to about $8.50 each, but they were packed with a substantial amount of food and water. So, with a little over $100 we were able to make up twelve food bags.
We had brought Kimberly’s bicycle, which fortunately has a basket in front and can hold up to three carefully placed food bags. We rode up and down the beach walkways and gave a food bag to those to whom we were prayerfully led.
We approached one older woman who was sitting on a grassy knoll and asked her if she could use some food. She responded in tears, saying that she had just finished praying, asking God to provide food for her as she had nothing to eat for that day!
Another woman, when I asked her if she could use some food, responded that she did not know. She was confused as to why a stranger would be offering her this large food bag. After a few seconds she reluctantly received it and I rode away. Later, when I passed by her again, I could see the open cans which she had eaten. She did not notice me ride past her, but I could see a look of joy in her face. I silently praised the Lord for His faithfulness in providing for this lost soul, a daughter of the Most High. We joyfully placed all our food bags into hungry hands.
To my great surprise, one precious man named Richard respectfully declined the food bag saying, “No thank you, I have food for today, give it to someone that has no food.”
In these experiences, we share the testimony of God’s great love for them, words of encouragement, and pray for them when the opportunity is possible. Some receive it with tears; others simply bow their heads in reverence. What is most noticeable is that God’s Spirit touches these individuals. It is not that they are immediately delivered of all their problems and conditions, but certainly a measure of hope is received, a seed is planted. It is God who waters and brings forth fruit.
A Demon Possessed Man
Although I have personally witnessed accounts in the realm of demonic deliverance many years ago, the following experience was very eye opening for both Kimberly and me. We had met a homeless couple in our walks near the pier. The man called himself “Israel” or “John” and would act and speak as if he were a prophet. They made their income by making sand sculptures and placed small cans and plastic cups for people to toss money into, similar to what one would do at a carnival.
One day, as we were walking past their area, the woman began confessing to us some of the terrible things “Israel” was doing. She described the lewd conduct of her husband with other men, how he was using the drug “meth,” and how he had threatened to kill her by chocking her in the middle of the night as she slept. He had also recently struck another man with his fist. After listening to her plight, we prayed for both her and him, for God to cast out the demonic stronghold in which he was bound and to deliver him.
Meanwhile, “Israel” had been pacing menacingly about fifty feet away, shouting and crying out loud things like “Jesus saves!” “Repent from sin!” and “Salvation in God!” All of a sudden he approached us, at which time I cautioned Kimberly to back away and continue our walk. As I began to walk away, he approached as close as he could (being on the sand while we were standing higher up on the walk path). Raising his voice, loudly challenging me, he exclaimed, “Why is it that whenever my wife is speaking with someone and I come closer they turn and leave!”
At this, I turned around and approached him, politely saying that we were simply continuing on our walk. As I was speaking, I could sense the violent spirit and demonic presence that surrounded him. Not wanting to display fear (I must admit I did feel some fear and apprehension), I leaned down nearer to his face with careful confidence (silently praying for the Lord to give me wisdom as to what to do). I did not know if he was going to take a swing at me or worse, behave violently toward my wife.
He responded by loudly saying to me, “Fear tactics are not going to work!” Fear Tactics? are you kidding! He is the one being used to spread fear to others! Removing my sunglasses so he could see my eyes directly, I lowered my face to about twelve inches from his and said to him that we simply had a respectful conversation with his wife.
Right at that moment the most amazing thing happened! The demonic presence instantly fled and this once-belligerent-and-violent man became peaceful and gentle! His eyes changed from an aggressive to a pleading look! He spoke to me in the tone of a scared little boy, and in a pleading manner he asked if I would pray for him! I responded by declaring to him that years ago God had delivered me from alcohol and drug abuse, and that God could set him free. He immediately said, “Brother! Then you know what I am going through! Please pray for me!” I said to him that I had already prayed for him and that God was able to deliver him if he called out to Him with all his heart.
Sensing in my spirit that we should leave, Kimberly and I then walked away, amazed at what had just taken place. We realized that what we had just witnessed was a demon possessed man coming into the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, and the demons had to flee, releasing their captive. I realized that this encounter was not over yet, and I would have to come back to see this man when I was more prayerfully prepared.
I returned to him again about a week later. I was fasting and praying as I brought a gallon of water to him, and was prepared to speak with him one-on-one and pray for him. When I found him near his “work” area, he calmly greeted me. I gave him the water I had brought and shared some things about my bondage to alcohol and drugs and how God had set me free. We spoke about things pertaining to living a life pleasing in God’s eyes, and then I asked him if I could pray for him. He bowed his head and received the offering of prayer on his behalf. I said good-bye and left.
Although I do not believe all the things that he said to me, as most alcoholics and drug addicts often deny the depth of their sickness and addiction, I do believe that he was earnest in his response to receiving God’s power to set him free. In faith, I believe God will show Himself faithful on behalf of this lost sheep, just as He was faithful to set me free.
As We Minister to Others, God Ministers to Us
Dear Brothers and Sisters, you CAN make a difference! God is looking for willing hearts. He desires our hearts to trust in Him to do things we have never imagined before. He can do it through us! I would encourage you to prayerfully consider Isaiah 42:16, which declares several of God’s promises to you and me: “And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.”
Sharing the love of God is not difficult. Trust in Him to do the work. All we have to do is be willing to love those whom we desire to minister to with the love God has placed in our hearts. He will give you the words to speak. A spontaneous, random act of encouragement to others is something anyone can do! As in riding a bicycle, the more you do it, the easier it gets. “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10, 11).
I have experienced great results in the simple effort of sharing some of the many promises given to us by our heavenly Father in the Bible. It is just amazing the powerful effect it creates in the hearts of men when you share with them God’s promises.
I met a man in the harbor who is here from England on business. It did not take long for the Lord to show me that I was to encourage this man. During our conversations, he shared with me some of the details of his life, such as his desire to bring his family over from the United Kingdom, and his frustrations in the business deal he is working on. Although I have no knowledge in the field that he is in, I do know someone who does, so I pointed him to his heavenly Father and His promises. It was precious! It was as if he were a dry sponge and quickly absorbed all the promises of hope and surety that God declares in His word.
This form of evangelism is one of the most simple, but effective, means of reviving those whose faith is weak, or maybe have very little faith. As my friend Lynnford Beachy recently said to me: “Anything that brings one’s heart closer to Christ is worth the effort.” Very well said! These words were of refreshing encouragement to me.
There is a passage in the Bible that reveals a wonderful principle. It is found in Proverbs 11:25: “The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.” What this declares is a universal principle that may be found even in nature. It refers to our giving.
The Amazon River is the largest river in the world, and it never runs dry, even though its output in volume can exceed over 300,000 cubic meters per second during the rainy season. It is said that you can go out twenty miles from its mouth at the coast of Brazil in the Atlantic Ocean, dip a cup from the side of a boat, and you will still have fresh water! When you share the gospel, when you encourage someone, when you give from love to others, no matter what method you use, God will nourish you with more. God will provide you with more to give! Christ spoke of rivers of living water flowing from our bellies. He was referring to God’s Holy Spirit flowing from us to others: “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified)” (John 7:38, 39). What a great promise is given to us! He is encouraging us to not be afraid to minister to others; He will give us His Holy Spirit to help us do His work! We are not alone in this! He will give to us that we may freely give to others. “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8).
About eight years ago when we still had our woodworking business, we designed and built the furniture for the senior superior court judge in the new courthouse and jail facility in a nearby city. It required for me to interact with the judge to create the design and specifications custom made for his needs. It was during this first meeting that the Lord nudged me to pray for this man—and I did! I was able to use this time to encourage him about trusting in God to give him the necessary wisdom to make the right choices, and discernment as he presides over the many court cases brought before him. He is sentencing men and women to prison terms and other very serious matters. The affect was very powerful! He humbly thanked me for my prayer and was grateful for the encouragement he received, not only for his profession but also towards his wife and children, as I had also prayed that his career would not cause him to neglect his family. As a result, I was rewarded with great encouragement to boldly pray more earnestly for others in very serious and delicate circumstances, and not to fear what words I would speak for the Lord would speak through me. Our loving heavenly Father will do the same for you, dear brothers and sisters! Trust in Him! Isaiah 26:3.
Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).