Hope at Denny’s

Cam and I were exhausted from shaking all night, and we were hungry (see my post called Hand Spun Shakes for the backstory on that). He suggested Denny’s. Cam is prophetic⏤strongly prophetic. Every time Cam “suggested” we go to a particular restaurant or place, it always ended up being a divine appointment. I should have realized this was going to be another one, but I didn’t. All I could think about is eating a Moons Over My Hammy breakfast sandwich, a classic late night meal for me from years ago during “study” sessions in seminary. 

Denny’s in Redding is in a shady part of town. We could sense it as we got out of the car. The first thing Cam said was, “Hey, we need to have our guard up.” I knew what he meant. He was saying there was demonic stuff crawling around, and we needed to have our physical and spiritual heads on a swivel. 

On our way toward the restaurant, we walked past the hotel next door. It was called The Red Lion Inn. I commented to Cam as I pointed at the hotel sign, “We’re heading into the lion’s den.” We both laughed, but we couldn’t have predicted how right we were.  

Just as we approached the entry door to Denny’s (mind you it is 11pm at this point) a dad and his young adult daughter were about to enter Denny’s at the same time. I recognized them from Bethel Church earlier that day. Out of all the people there I’m not sure why I recognized them, but I did, so I pointed to them and said, “Hey! Bethel?” They both turned and smiled and acknowledged that they had been there that day. 

They both had a European accent that we would later discover was from Sweden. People from all over the world fly to Bethel for various reasons. They flew in for a week so that the daughter, who’s 21, could check out their school of ministry. The daughter immediately invited us to have dinner with them, which seemed strange at the time. But since the whole trip had been one adventure after another, we agreed and embarked on yet another unexpected adventure. 

The four of us sat at a booth together, and as soon as we sat down I asked them about what led them to Bethel. The dad (we’ll call him Matt to protect his identity) said he had done bible school in the U.S. before moving back to his home country of Switzerland. As soon as the daughter started to share her story (we’ll call her Lulu since that was the affectionate nickname used by her father) all of the alarm bells in Cam’s spirit and my spirit started to go off. We had seen this sort of thing before, unfortunately.  

Lots of things gave it away: her personal story of hearing evil voices and seeing evil things since she was a young girl, her longtime struggle with deep depression and self-hate, her scars from cutting that went up and down both arms, the way her eyes shifted away from me and Cam when she talked, how she would “go away” into a sudden catatonic state while we affirmed her identity in Christ or spoke of the love of the Father or talked about Jesus. All of these were indicators that she was heavily demonized. She was fighting for her life and the demons didn’t want her free. 

Demonization this severe in a Christian is not unlike domestic abuse or human trafficking. The young girl was being tormented daily by many demons that resided within her. She didn’t know how to get free. Yet, she had been demonized for so long, since she was 12 years old according to her story, she also wondered that if she got totally free whether it would make her lonely. She had gotten used to the voices even if they were awful to her. They were some of her only “friends” as odd as that sounds.

There can develop a kind of trauma bonding with demons. The lies and the manipulations can create this toxic bond between the tormentors and the tormented. We saw this a lot in the world of human trafficking when I was a part of a nonprofit that fought against child sex trafficking in the Baltimore region. The dynamic was similar here. The truest part of her, the real Lulu, wanted freedom. But the deceived part of her wasn’t sure it was possible.  

The other interesting thing about Lulu is that she had a really strong seer gift, which means she could see things in the spirit realm. Cam is a seer too. Lulu had been seeing demons and other things in the spirit since she was very young. Lower level seers get glimpses of things. Higher level seers can see things in great detail. Yet, if this gift goes without guidance, instruction and wisdom, this gift can be turned and used against the person who has it. Even worse, it can be recruited into the occult world of witchcraft. This kind of powerful gifting is a threat to the enemy, and so he often goes to great lengths to torment and demonize seers if he can get a foothold. She, unfortunately, gave him all too many footholds and open doors into her life.

We talked as we ate dinner together. We tried to encourage Lulu and her dad. We explained a little about deliverance, and Cam and I tried our best to wait until dinner was over before we set about to get her free. When you can literally see demons (in Cam’s case) and/or sense them (in my case), it is hard to have dinner with them sitting in the booth across from you. We did our best.  

We then adjourned to my favorite ministry room known as the parking lot. Cam told me later that angels were encircled around us out there as demons were moving in to help their “compatriots” residing in the girl. He commanded them to leave in Jesus’s name so we could have room to work. 

We worked through the deliverance process with her and cast out a handful of demons. Most of them were so deeply entrenched that each one took a while to leave. Though the dad had a charismatic church background, he had never seen a deliverance firsthand and certainly not with his daughter. It shook him. 

We didn’t have the time or energy to try to get them all out, so we didn’t try. Instead, we took her hands in ours and imparted everything we could—the increase of the Holy Spirit’s presence, more power, more love, more joy. We could see her confidence growing. Hope was returning as her identity in Christ was being re-established.

When Cam released joy to her it was something to behold. She collapsed in laughter from the sheer overflow of joy that was being downloaded into her soul. Of course, demons don’t like their host so full of joy, so the spirits of despair and depression rose up, yelled obscenities, and gnashed their teeth at Cam. Spirits of despair and depression hate joy, and Cam was releasing a weaponized joy into Lulu that they were powerless to prevent.

During this process, both Cam and I experienced the Father’s love for Lulu. This was His daughter. She was trapped, enslaved, abused and tormented by these demons. He wanted her free, and so did we. She felt the Father’s love too. She kept hugging and holding on to me and Cam. She didn’t want us to leave. Through us she got a taste of the freedom, joy and love of the Kingdom of God. She got a taste of her real identity; she is a warrior princess. She is the one whom Jesus loves. She is a daughter of the King.  

It was nearing 2am so we had to leave. We strongly suggested that Matt take his daughter to the deliverance ministry offered by Bethel Church during the weekdays. We stressed that more ministry was absolutely essential in order for her journey into freedom to continue. We exchanged information and left. During the drive back to the place where we were staying we felt saturated in the love of God for Lulu. She was our sister, and in some ways, our daughter. The love and compassion we felt for her was unusually strong. It wasn’t love we were capable of conjuring up ourselves. It was the Father’s love. It was the compassion of Christ. 

I am happy to report that we got word yesterday that Lulu has a time slot for tomorrow (Friday, March 8th) to receive more deliverance ministry from the Bethel ministry team. Please be praying for her to be totally free and for her identity in Christ to be restored. 

A final postscript to this encounter with Lulu:

One of the more interesting parts of ministering deliverance to a girl who is a seer is that she could see things in the spirit as they were happening. Sporadically throughout the night she would tell us things that she was seeing in the spirit. At one point, she was hugging me tightly and said to Cam and me, “You both have the most beautiful armor on. I see it. It’s beautiful. It looks like Roman armor. And you have helmets on with that thingy on top.” 

I asked, “Helmets with a plume?” 

She said, “Yes, and it is so beautiful with all different colors.” 

Since Cam is also a seer, I asked him about it later. He said that as soon as she started describing the armor he could see it. He said it was beautiful, shiny gold. As he was searching for words, he finally said, “It looked royal!” This is the armor of God. And while not all of us are gifted in a way where we can see it in the spirit, we can all be sure to put it on daily (Ephesians 6:10-18).  

Who would have thought that a late-night trip to Denny’s would end up in a parking lot deliverance for a daughter from Sweden? Only God. The Father gave us all something that night. It was the beginning of hope and freedom for Lulu and her dad, and it was a download of love and encouragement for me and Cam. Thank you, Jesus!

Hand Spun Shakes

Cam and I got back from the hot dog place where we had eaten lunch, and our afternoon was spent receiving prophetic ministry from the prophetic teams at Bethel Church. Then we decided to attend their Sunday evening service. We experienced a powerful time of worship, but nothing could have prepared us for what came next. 

Cam sat at the end of the row, all the way to the right, and I sat in the seat to his left. There was an empty seat to my immediate left and a group of people sitting together filling out the rest of the row. When we sat down after singing, an Asian lady asked if she could sit in the empty seat next to me. I welcomed her, and we began to prepare to hear the sermon. 

Then, seemly unprovoked and unannounced, I began to shake. This sometimes happens to me in the Presence of God. My midsection will shimmy quickly side-to-side as the Holy Spirit’s Presence is felt in increasing measure. It sort of looks like some hybrid between a mild seizure and The Shimmy dance performed by Flappers in the Roaring Twenties. In my quiet times with the Lord, this usually happens anywhere from one to ten minutes. It just depends on what God’s Presence does. But I’ve never experienced anything like what was about to happen. 

I began to shake/shimmy in my seat as Bill Johnson began to preach. Seconds later, Cam started doing the same thing. Seconds after that, the sweet Asian lady started doing something similar. Then she started laughing because of the joy of the Holy Spirit that was being poured out on her. And I started laughing. And Cam started laughing. 

I assumed we were experiencing a surge of the Presence of God and that it would soon subside. It didn’t. It increased. It came in waves. Through the entire sermon. For an hour.

I looked around to see if this was happening to anyone else in the room. It wasn’t. The group to the left of the Asian lady left soon after worship. I’m not sure where they went. But sitting in the row was just us three. And out of an entire sanctuary full of people, we were the only ones shaking uncontrollably under the power of God. Just us three. For an hour. 

Midway through the sermon I asked the Asian lady her name and if I she needed prayer for healing. If God was moving, I wanted to take advantage of it. She said she didn’t need physical healing but that she felt a heaviness that was on her that wouldn’t leave. I told her I would pray for her at the end of the service.

About 10 minutes later the thought popped in my head, “Why wait?” So, I placed my hand on her back and commanded a spirit of heaviness to leave in Jesus’s name. At the time she was bent over in her seat, head close to her knees, shaking under the power of God. I was shaking too. When I commanded that spirit of heaviness to leave she shot back in her chair and sat straight up. I assumed something just happened, I just didn’t know what.

So there the three of us were, shaking, shimmying, random fits of laughing; at times the Asian lady slumped over; at times Cam slid off of his chair; there were momentary surges where all of us would shake violently and the Asian woman’s hands would flail in the air, all while we’re attempting to keep some semblance of composure as Bill Johnson preached on. I have been in worship services where the Spirit was moving in a physical way on most of the people in the room. I’ve never been in a service where the Spirit was rocking three people in the same row while the rest of the room was composed, silently listening to the sermon. It was wild!

The shaking eventually subsided as the service transitioned from the sermon to corporate words of knowledge and prayers for healing.

After the service was over, I officially introduced myself to the Asian lady. I asked her about the heaviness and she confirmed that it was gone. I found out that she was originally from Taiwan and now lived close by. She asked for more prayer, and so I prayed for her, her son, and her son’s friend who was there with her. She also recognized that we (she, Cam and I) were the only three in the whole place who were getting rocked by the Presence of God. I commented that I wasn’t sure what it all meant. She suggested that we were each getting marked, we just didn’t yet know for what. 

God was definitely doing something unusual. We’ll have to wait to discover what it was. 

Pam

She was a sweet, middle-aged, Indian lady with an easy smile. She didn’t know that God had highlighted her that day, and neither did we. Her name was Pam.

She took our order at Wienershnitzel fast food restaurant in Redding, California. Their main menu items are hotdogs and chili cheese fries. Cam ordered a chili cheese dog and chili cheese fries. I ordered three chili cheese dogs, a corn dog and a drink.

We had just experienced a 10:30am Sunday worship service at Bethel Church. We both were overwhelmed by the Presence of God in worship and the poignancy of the sermon. I had a hard time singing through most of the songs on account of my continual weeping⏤not crying, weeping. I was overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude bubbling up from within me and the Father’s love being poured out upon me, a geyser and a waterfall all at once.

The message was about faith. What does it look like to grow in faith and to have faith for the impossible? Cam and I both left for lunch with a boost of faith flowing through our veins.

So when I heard the Holy Spirit say one of the workers had back issues, I knew I had to do something. The Lord brought to mind Matthew 10:8 that says, “Freely you have received; freely give.” I knew what He was saying. Cam and I have received so much from the Lord this weekend, it was time to give some away.

I went up to refill my tea and the young girl who had been sweeping the floor asked, “Is there something I can help you with?” It felt like it was an opening that I had to step through. “No, thanks,” I answered, “Is there something I can help you with? Is there anything I can pray for you about? Like a back issue?” I thought this girl was the one who needed prayer for her back. I was wrong.

“No, I’m good,” she said. Then she awkwardly smiled hoping that I wouldn’t ask any more questions like that. A second or two clicked by that felt like an eternity as I thought I had misheard the Lord. Then, as if a sudden thought came to mind, the girl tells me, “But Pam has a hurt back.”

“Oh,” I said, “It’s Pam who needs prayer.” I asked where Pam was and the girl explained that Pam is in the back and wasn’t likely to come out to the front. She warned that Pam would be even less willing to receive prayer.

Returning to my seat, Cam and I chatted some more, finished our lunch, and prepared to leave. I prayed for an open door with Pam. I didn’t know at the time that Pam was the same lady who waited on us. I assumed that she was in the back and that I hadn’t met her yet.

As we got up to leave, I saw the lady who waited on us behind the flat top grill in the area just behind the counter. I stopped. The Holy Spirit whispered, just faintly enough that it would have been easy to miss. I’ve missed it so many times before. The Holy Spirit said, “That’s Pam.”

I stopped and looked right at her. The young girl saw me look at Pam and said to me, “That’s her. That’s Pam.” I pointed to her and asked, “Is your back okay? Is it hurting?”

At first she shook her head and said, “It’s okay. It’s fine.” But I knew it wasn’t. And she knew it wasn’t. And the young girl knew it wasn’t and so she said so. “I told him your back has been hurting,” she said to Pam.

I asked Pam if I could pray for her. After some kind-hearted cajoling, she agreed. I met her at the door that said Employees Only, and I opened the door just as she was coming out.

I told her that sometimes when I pray for people they get healed. I asked her if I could pray for her back and she agreed. I told her that I believe God had sent me to this restaurant just for her, that He loved her and wanted her well. Tears welled up in her eyes. The Father’s love was right there with us in that moment. He knew her. He saw her. He loved her.

I held out my hand and she allowed me to take hers. I prayed for Jesus to heal her back. I heard the Holy Spirit say the word, “sciatica” and so I asked if she ever had pain radiate down her legs. She confirmed that she did. So I prayed against that pain and for her total healing. My hand started to shake as it held hers. The Holy Spirit was moving.

After about a minute of prayer, I concluded and said, “My hand shakes when the Holy Spirit is really moving in power. Can you feel His Presence on you?” She said she did. I asked her to check her back and see if it was better. She said it did feel better and explained that it had been hurting for a long time. I also got the sense that while it was feeling better it wasn’t completely healed. So I asked if I could do one final prayer for her. She agreed.

I invited the Holy Spirit to continue to heal her back from top to bottom as the day went on. I prayed that by the time she fell asleep that night, that it would be totally healed. Then I thanked her for letting me pray. She thanked me for praying, and we left. Cam and I drove away praying, not only for Pam’s back but for her heart, that she would come to know the Father’s love for her, that she would learn from Him how valued and treasured she really is.

That lunch wasn’t about me and Cam reflecting on the Bethel service. It wasn’t about me and Cam at all. It wasn’t about chili cheese dogs or chili cheese fries. It wasn’t about sightseeing in downtown Redding, CA. It was about the Father’s love for a woman named Pam. She may have thought she was insignificant, hidden in the back, with back pain as her lot in life. But the Father saw her, loved her, and sent to her anyone who was willing to go. Even if He had to bring them from Baltimore.


A Day-dream

I want to tell you of a dream I had. Forgive me if some parts seem fantastical. That is the way of dreams.

The dream started with me and my friend Cam landing in Sacramento on our trip out to Bethel Church in Redding, California. We rented a large sedan to make the two hour drive north from the Sacramento airport to Redding. But they didn’t have any sedans when we got to the rental counter. Instead, they asked if it was okay if they gave us a small SUV. It turned out to be a red, Dodge Journey. We were on a journey, now in a Journey. We couldn’t help but laugh at our new chariot of fire.

The next day Cam and I went to the Healing Rooms at Bethel. The reason we were there in the first place was because of a dream Cam had months ago. In Cam’s dream Bill Johnson, the senior leader at Bethel Church, showed Cam around a town he had never seen before and then dropped him off in front of a building that was surrounded by piney, snow-dusted mountains. He vividly remembered the picture of the mountains from his dream. We felt that this dream was the Lord saying that Cam needed to go receive prayer at the Bethel Healing Rooms. When we pulled up to park at the church, we couldn’t believe our eyes. There they were, the mountains, just as Cam had seen them in his dream. Tears welled up in his eyes as the Lord confirmed the dream and God’s desire for us to be there.

We sat in a waiting area as Cam filled out a paper indicating his need for prayer. The flow for the day would be waiting area (5 minutes), informational classroom (10 minutes), worship sanctuary soaking in God’s Presence (until Cam’s number was called), then healing room (where they prayed in teams of 3 or 4 for each person needed prayer). God wasn’t interested in waiting for the healing room. One girl who hadn’t had any feeling in her foot for 12 years was healed in the waiting area.

As we walked from the waiting area to the classroom, I could feel the air get thick. You know how humid air seems thicker than dry air? That was how it felt to walk down the hallway, but it wasn’t a change in humidity; it was a change in the spiritual atmosphere. In the informational classroom they gave a quick overview of the process and a quick teaching on Jesus and His desire to heal. I started to shake uncontrollably. The Presence of God was already moving and my body was reacting to it. No one was even praying yet.

Then we left the classroom and walked over to the sanctuary. As I walked through the doors into the sanctuary it felt like someone jabbed a finger in my right side. It was another reaction to the Presence of God. I almost fell over. A worship band was singing in a kind of continual worship. Some people sat quietly, peacefully, yet others were dancing around. I saw some people weeping and others laying down. Everyone was encountering God in different ways.

After a while, Cam’s group number was put up on the projection screens so we walked to the healing room. I had to pee. By the time I got back from the restroom, a group of people were praying for Cam. Nothing much happened for him but others in the room were being touched. For one lady, her scoliosis was healed right there in front of us. We all celebrated.

The morning ended with a quick debrief in the informational classroom and a short visit to the Bethel prayer chapel. Cam was fighting disappointment. So we engaged in the well-known cure-all for disappointment, worship and pizza.

What seemed like a random selection from Google maps ended up being a divine appointment. We picked the pizza place with 4.5 stars on Google, Westside Pizza. As we ordered we smelled pizza in the air and heard Bethel worship music blaring in the back. We asked about it and found out that the owners went to Bethel Church. The worship that was happening in the car on the way to the restaurant continued inside the restaurant. The pizza was really good too.

Bellies and hearts full, we took in the sights of Redding. There aren’t many. We walked around the Turtle Bay Exploration Park and across the Sundial Bridge. There is an amazing view of the Sacramento River with the snow-dusted Shasta mountains in the distance. Then we drove up to Whiskeytown Lake. The lake is surrounded by the awesome beauty of the Shasta mountains and the devastating remains of the Carr fire. The juxtaposition was heart-breaking.

Whiskeytown is almost half-way between Redding and Weaverville. Weaverville is where the movement known as Bethel started before Bethel. Bill Johnson was the pastor of a church in Weaverville called Mountain Chapel (also where Kris Vallotton was a leader) for 18 years before ever coming to Bethel Church. So Cam and I decided to check it out for ourselves.

Weaverville is a very small town tucked away in the mountains. Mountain Chapel is a small church, about the size of the one I grew up in. Cam and I walked around the property praying. We were looking at a mustard seed, the very definition of insignificance, a Bethlehem of sorts. How could something so powerful, something that is now impacting Christians around the world, be born out of this? Only God.

Our prayer? Do it again, God. Do it in us. Two roadrunners sprinted across our path just as we finished our prayer. It was God’s amen. Let it be so!

The drive back to Redding winds through mountains blanketed by pine trees. Cam and I talked of beginnings, John Wimber, and what we’re called to be in this next generation of the Church. I’m driving.

As we round a bend, Cam presses his left forearm firmly against my right arm as if to say without words, “Did you see that…did you see that…” I turned to him and asked what was going on.

He tells me that as we came around that bend in the road, he saw a huge angel standing on the side of the road taller than the pine trees. The angel was bending at his side as he looked around the corner for us, like a child playing hide-and-go-seek who just can’t wait any longer. The angel looked right at us as we drove toward him. He was giant, blond and was holding a huge pocket watch in his hand. The clock part of the watch was dangling down at the end of a long, golden chain and the angel was holding the top of the chain. The hands of the clock were tick-tick-ticking. Cam could barely take it all in before the angel disappeared and the prophetic pocket watch with him.

“What could it mean?” we wondered. It seemed as if the Lord was highlighting His timing of things and this giant angel was a time-keeper. The rest of the drive to Redding we marveled at God’s goodness.

This dream continued with me giving a prophetic word to the hostess of a restaurant that night and, later, casting black, demonic butterfly wings off of a person. But it’s all too much to record here. You know how dreams can be. Fantastical.

“Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 11:15)



The gatekeeper

We sat in the Charlotte airport in those fun rocking chairs they have there. As if we were on a back country porch on a back country road. We were waiting. Our 3 hour layover gave us time to sit, talk, drink Starbucks and wrap our heads around the trip ahead. It’s a long flight to California.

Cam and I were trading stories of God’s goodness. He opened up about the fear and doubt he had experienced the night before about whether God would really show up powerfully on this adventure. He admitted that life gets harder as the disappointments mount, and he wasn’t sure he could handle another one.

That’s when I heard it.

Wafting through the air was piano music from an airport piano player. Just beneath us, a young man in his twenties played skillfully on a grand piano for all of the airport travelers to enjoy. He was positioned right outside a food court area. I assumed he was there for the big jar of cash sitting conspicuously atop the piano. I was wrong.

In the exact moment Cam was reflecting on his doubts, familiar notes filled the atrium. I knew the song the pianist was playing. It was the unmistakable sound of a worship song that I love. The song’s title? “Confident” by Steffany Gretzinger.

As the piano lofted the music our way, the lyrics emerged from my memory as if someone was singing them in the distance.

You’re always moving in the unseen
The breath You exhale sustaining me
Before I call, You know my need
You’re always going before me

Then came the first few lines of the chorus.

I’m confident Your faithfulness will see me through
My soul can rest, my righteousness is found in You

The pianist couldn’t have known was was happening in that moment. He was likely only slightly aware of the angelic whisper in his ear prompting him to choose that song as his next selection. He probably assumed his audience was simply the harried passengers carting their carry-ons from one gate to the next.

Yet, what was happening was profound. He was a prophet, his keys the prophetic instrument. His fingers were declaring the truth Cam so needed to hear, that Cam could be confident in the Lord. In that moment, the pianist was the radio station launching radio waves into the air, and I was the transistor radio offering the translation. But the song was for Cam.

And more than that, the pianist was not only welcoming the passengers to Charlotte but also welcoming the Presence of God. He wasn’t welcoming God’s tangible Presence into the familiar space of a church sanctuary. Instead, he was changing the atmosphere in a place that is a gateway into the city, he the gatekeeper.

Angels gathered. And so did we.