All things beautiful…

All of this began in the spring of 1991 in New Mexico. At the time I had been doing street ministry full time for just a few months and honestly didn’t know a thing about how things worked.

I had been praying for direction because what I was doing wasn’t really working. I was walking the streets in the town where I was living for up to eight hours a day, praying for encounters and witnessing to everyone that I met. But something was not right. I couldn’t tell you what it was, I just felt like I was meant to be somewhere other than where I was. I had walked around all day in the projects and barrio and had not won anyone to the Lord that day and I came home to the trailer that I lived in tired, thirsty and dejected.

Late that night I was watching Mario Murillo on the local TBN station and he said that you should ask God for a vision of what you should do and then tarry until you got it. And so I did, I started fasting that night and prayed and waited in that place for 3 days for God to give me a vision of what I should do. I was desperate for some answer, any answer from God.

The third night I fell asleep late in the night, exhausted from fasting and reading and praying. I woke a little while later knowing that someone was in the room with me. I couldn’t see anyone there in the faint light that came in the windows from the street lights out on the road and yet I knew that someone was in there, so close that I expected to be touched at any second. I literally froze in fear lying on that couch, I could not move. No, that’s not quite right; I did not want to move or even to speak. A sudden knowing came into me that if I moved or spoke a single word, I would die.

There was a presence in that room that I had never experienced or had ever heard explained before. It was a presence of holiness, like something that had literally come from the very throne of God. And anything that I said would be unclean in that presence, in fact, I knew that I myself was barely being tolerated and that if I angered whatever it was, it would strike me down rather than have to deal with me. Yet while my flesh quivered in fear, my spirit turned to fire inside of me and a breathless awe came over me as I laid there alone in that presence.

All of a sudden in my spirit, as loud as if it was using an amplifier, I heard someone say “Fear not” and I found that I could think again intelligently about what was happening around me although I still did not dare move or utter a sound. I did not see anything there in the room with me and I was growing more and more concerned that I had just gone completely nuts when my vision dimmed and my mind started seeing a dream all on its own. That is the best way to describe what was happening; not a television screen or a movie before my eyes- it was that I was dreaming in amazing clarity while still being conscious of the room around me.

I saw a mountain shaped like a cone, wide at the base and very narrow at the top. All along it there was a path winding its way around the mountain all of the way to the top, like a corkscrew. I was wondering what this was when I started to see people walking along that path. They were all walking four abreast, men and women alike, all dressed in similar fashion and all walking in perfect cadence with one another. Row after row of them started off down this path together and then disappeared around the corner as they went around to the backside of the mountain.

I waited for what seemed an eternity for them to come back out on the opposite side but none ever did. Row after row disappeared and yet none came out on the other side. I sat wondering about this when I heard a voice say “look up here”. I looked and saw men and women standing at the top of the mountain, heroes of the faith that I had read about since getting saved. I saw Wigglesworth, Branham, Allen, Finney and others. They were standing and looking down the mountain calling out and gesturing to something or someone.

I thought that someone had come out the other side finally and looked to the path but none had come out onto it yet. Then my eye caught several small shapes off the path and as I focused on them, I saw that they were actually scrambling up the side of the mountain. They were breathing heavily and were bleeding in their hands and knees from the rocks and the occasional fall. Sometimes their progress would slow until you could barely tell they were moving and some even laid down temporarily and after a little while, they would begin climbing up again, inch by inch working their way to the top.

No one but those on the top of the mountain called out to them or helped them and even though they could not hear them directly, I had the impression that they were strengthened in a small way by those on the top when they called out encouragement. I also knew in my heart that they had left many things behind in order to climb up. No weight could be tolerated on them and their path up was marked with the things that they had left behind to be able to climb. They were utterly alone although others climbed beside them and I could see the tears on their cheeks because of the pain and the price of what they had to leave behind. But all were driven in spite of the cost and though they had no refreshing and no real rest, the desire to reach the top pushed them past the pain.

The voice that I heard spoke one more time; it said “If you want to get to the top, do not follow those on the path; come up the side like these here.”

And suddenly the presence was gone and I was free to move again. I rolled off of the couch and began to pray about everything that I had seen and felt until I fell asleep in that position. When I awoke the next morning, everything had somehow changed in my life and a pattern was established that continues to this very day.

Over the years I have watched in obscurity as ministry after ministry takes its place on the stage and gets their 15 minutes of fame. And year after year I watch as the names and the fads all change and those that were visible only months before all seem to drop off the face of the earth as soon as the flavor of the month changes. One month a certain ministry style becomes fashionable and as soon as just one gets public attention, a few more come out and join them. They are visible for a little while and then disappear together, their place taken by a new group saying something else. And on and on it seems to go; no one knowing that when they get to the end of their time of visibility, they will disappear entirely. Because they took the easy way up that mountain and did not pay the price of admission that is required to stand at the very top. The cost is everything that you have, everything that you are and everything that you will ever be and very few seem to want to pay that price if they can at all help it.

And all the while, I bleed and lose and fail. I gain an inch by scratching and clawing my way up the side of that mountain and no one sees or cares. The price that is required is my pride, and my future. I must relinquish my will to the father and choose the cup that he has prepared for me rather than the easy one that I would choose for myself. I am spoken evil of though all I want is to please God. I am an outcast in ministry circles because they say I bring division and cause people to leave churches in anger rather than bringing them in.

Recently I told someone that I would choose any calling other than the one that I have. It would be easier to do things the way everyone else does it. It is impossible to market my ministry even though astonishing miracles take place and thousands are saved. How do you market a prophet? Not the one that will give you a word of knowledge or foretells the future but the one that “cries loud and spares not.” The kind of one whose ministry is locked up behind glass, marked in bold letters with the instructions of “break in time of apostasy and a sleeping church”.

Do you make up flyers that say “I will split your church!” Or how about “I will chase off all of the lukewarm in your church and leave only a remnant who are serious about God!” Or maybe the one that pastors really love, “I will hurt your bottom line until you worry that you can’t pay for your BMW or send your kids to college!” No, I can not market my ministry; I can only wait for those times of appointment when God is pleased to send me somewhere.

And this is my path up the side of that mountain. I am not truly alone, I see others out there climbing up as well, paying their own price. And yet all that I am is alone. I cry over the price and wish that things could be different. I see my family not having many things and sometimes despair of life itself because of it. I try my best to obey God, regardless of what men have to say about it and die daily because of that.

In the end, I must admit that I could not really have it any other way, regardless of how I hate it at times. Because though men turn on me and reject me, though I suffer need and envy those with a stable life, I have something that none of those things can buy; the surety that God is with me and will sustain me. God and God alone will provide and comfort and offer refuge from the storm. And I have proved him a million times over in my life. Not relied on the arm of flesh and called it God, mind you, but threw myself into the deep end and let him be the savior that he loves to be. And he is my peace and my defender, my great love and my Lord.

Benedict Spinoza once said that “All things beautiful are as difficult as they are rare.”

And I couldn’t agree more.

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8 thoughts on “All things beautiful…

  1. I was thinking about all the great missionaries I have read about as I reflect on your article. One inparticular was a missionary to India. He spent years battling illness and adjusting to the culture. He spent something like 10 years interpreting the Bible into several of the indian dialects.

    And when he finished….. the building that contained all those papers of translation burned to the ground and he had to start all over.

    Your deep in our hearts James. You must have an awesome family too.

  2. BTW,
    That’s how it’s obvious your a real prophet. All the fake ones run up to the plate drueling at the chance, live in luxury, and acclamation.

  3. I don’t know that being a prophet is all that it seems. I think that people get the impression that a prophet is a guy in a robe with a long beard that can tell you the future.

    In reality, a prophet is someone who stands between the living and the dead with the fire of God. His heart breaks at the state of the church and the fate of the lost. He owes his allegiance to God and God alone. And he is just stupid enough to stand against the tide and proclaim a message that is unpopular. I think there are many prophets out there, truth be told. Most just don’t like the title or the applause of men.

    Nothing mystical about it. But I think that seeing them raised up is one of our biggest needs in the church today.

  4. I appreciate that Michael, I really do. I was telling the truth when I said that I would rather have any other calling. In our hearts, who wants to be rejected or hated?
    I watch television preachers sometimes who make people shout and praise God and wish more than anything that I could be allowed to do that, you know?
    But no matter how I try, if I get around dead church people, I thunder. Around the lost or the hurting I am all mercy but around an apathetic church…
    The word prophet sounds exciting, it really does. It has romantic connotations to it that conjures images of Elijah on Mount Carmel. The reality is quite different. Like Jeremiah said in Jer 20:7-9:
    7 O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me.
    8 For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily.
    9 Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.

  5. I hope I didn’t sound like I was patting you on the back. That’s not what I meant. Adequate words just escape me.

    I do think as the real body of Christ we should be supporting you in any way we can. Any yet what ever we do is really a feeble attempt. So in the end really all we can do is intercede I guess.

    It does grieve me that you feel so alone. I guess the best thing any of us can do is to pray for you.

  6. Thanks Mary.
    Don’t feel bad for me, that was not my intent. I was just trying to communicate what it is like many times for those who preach repentance. Many people don’t know what it is really like. Especially over the internet, we forget sometimes that there are real people out there doing the work.

    And anything helps, truly. We covet the prayers and support from everyone. Knowing that people care and support you, even when they are far away helps give you the motivation to press on.

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