THE WAREHOUSE OF PRAISE

warehouse

If someone asks, “What are these wounds on your body?’ they will answer, “The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.” (Zech. 13:6).

We had to reluctantly sell the church building in Pennsylvania. I had a lot of memories there. Then my Dad died, less than a year after we lost my wife’s Mom. I met with the State District that year and after being licensed they offered me a church a full time position in a church located in the southern area of that State. They felt because of my enthusiasm and evangelistic spirit it would be a fit for me. I was glad for the opportunity. I started pastoring there in May of 1995. There was only one slight problem. Previously, the church had huge financial problems. Those problems ended up in a mortgage of hundreds of dollars a month. Unless a miracle took place it would have been a set up for failure. Every Sunday we traveled over an hour from our home and were committed to moving to the area and placed a down payment on a home within a few months.

I knew that we were in some sort of trouble when looking through the church file cabinets (the secretary who eventually resigned kept under lock and key) I found newspaper clippings that were reports before I arrived on the churches unpopular decision to build a steel instead of wood structure. The church at that time was called the Cathedral of Praise. When the church was finally built it resembled a warehouse more than a traditional church structure. The people of that area were livid and I found clippings of cartoons that called the church, “The Warehouse of Praise.” Yes, there were cartoons of the church that I was pastoring! I realized at that moment that the district leadership was trying any kind of damage control and now, I was unknowingly part of their duplicitous plan.

Many of the people who were in leadership on the church board were lukewarm at best. People who had been in that church a while almost had an inbred manner about them awkward, rude and unpredictable. When I was calling for all hands on deck they were insulted. We lost some of those elders within a few months with limping excuses. They might as well told me their dog ate their Bible. This all began when I asked if some of these supposed elders wanted to lead in prayer in church and they were insulted. They were still spiritual infants! All of the board members instrumental in voting us in, slowly left because they did not want to take their commitment to Christ up a notch. But we gained good people in their place that wanted to serve God and be involved. Some of those same people who told me that they voted against me being the Pastor said they regretted doing it once they got to know my ministry. During that time we painted and repaired the building and replaced the landscaping. It looked great.

I knew I needed help so I asked my long time friend John DiGiorgio to come and help me. He was helping me in the preaching and taught the adult Sunday school class. I would be in my office and I would hear many times the entire class worshiping the Lord. They would come out visibly affected and would bring a wonderful spirit of worship into that place. I was glad he was there. My mother Olive and my brother Alan and his family would come and were a unbelievable support to me. We did not travel back home on Sundays until late because it was too far so we stayed in a hotel every Sunday during the afternoon. Then we had Sunday night service, unlike many churches today. We saw healings and great testimonies were taking place and it was exciting.

A woman was being abused by her husband. She was a new believer. He came towards her and she said, “I rebuke you in the name of Jesus.” She said her husband’s body went limp and he lost all his strength. God restored that marriage not long after that.

The best thing that happened in the short time we were there was when we hosted Easter services. Todd and Kirstie visited on our Good Friday service. Bill and Charlotte, members of our church, had been witnessing to them. At that point Kirstie did not even believe in the deity of Christ. That night we had people write on papers something they were surrendering to the Lord and then nail them to a wooden cross. It was at that moment I believe she and Todd came to faith. Todd had been around church but this was the first time he ever made a real confession of faith. They hung out with everyone for the weekend and we all shared Easter dinner together-God brought us all together. I miss those times.

Not long after my brother Mike visited and preached and people including Todd and Kirstie who were baptized in the Holy Spirit. Todd was impressed with the drum playing. He learned to play drums and had been involved in worship ministry. Kirstie was deeply impressed by the worship time with my sister in law Kim. She felt impressed that she should become involved in worship ministry. The only problem was Kirstie suffered for many years with acid-reflux disease. She was a trained singer until this affliction came upon her and she was slowly losing her ability to speak. God miraculously healed her. Both of them are serving the Lord to this day and even served as successful youth pastors for a time.

But pastoring there would not last long. During that time I reached out to my presbyters and elders and they did not want anything to do with the situation or did not know how to advise me. I wrote letters to the District and begged for their help and counsel. They did nothing except for arranging a clandestine meeting with a Pastor five miles up the road organizing the sale of our property. Despite all we did it went ignored. We did all we could. The church was starting to grow. We even rented the church on Saturdays to a group three times the size of our church to make up for the deficit in the mortgage.

The superintendent at that time came and met with me and said they would have to sell the property. He was actually taken back when I said, “You can do what you want with this property, it is the people I care about.” I asked them to place the church in a storefront, or even let us pay for the rental of a hall but they refused. Finally, the District Secretary came and announced that they were closing down the church. The people cried a lot. I was heartbroken. It was over. By a miracle we go the down payment for our home back. But after this, I no longer saw my denominational leaders as men who cared for souls but more like a religious machine that cared for buildings. I went home and licked my wounds for a while, but God had a different plan for me.

But for love of those people, I would have done it all again.

 ©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due

ADAM O AND THE SANTA ANA SAINTS

adamSurely the Lord is in the place and I knew it not.” (Gen. 28:16).

I was invited by Rev. Adam Ortiz who was Youth Pastor at Templo Calvario to come and preach at a youth revival in Santa Ana, California in the early 90’s. Pastor Adam and his staff was doing a phenomenal job and wanted to have what he called a Youth Explo. I felt that I should fast for these meetings because I was not going to do this in my own strength. God prepared me for what I should be preaching but He was also about to surprise me with the most thrilling experiences of my life.

Adam and these kids scrimped and saved as much money as they could to get me a flight there. I was fascinated with West Coast people they were totally different than what I was used to. I liked them. The first Thursday night I was to preach, I met both young people who had grown up in the church and former gang members. Adam was a former gang member himself and God had given him a great burden to reach his area.

The next day I watched as these beautiful kids mostly Mexican in nationality boarding the buses and the Lord began burning a word in my heart for them. Adam and I traveled in his old Mercedes (which broke down on the way back) carrying all kinds of sound equipment. We went up to a Christian camp and settled in our cabins for the evening. The kids were rowdy all night but they finally went to sleep, they would be exhausted by the next evening. Thank God I could finally sleep uninterrupted.

After a day of activities, Saturday night came and we gathered in an A Frame building used as a sanctuary. It was packed with over 125 people. I just studied and prayed that day and I felt confident that I had a message for them. The worship was wonderful and there was a great liberty in the Holy Spirit. The topic on which I preached was Entering Into the Door of the Spirit from Revelation chapter 4. I encouraged them to cross the threshold of the natural to the supernatural. The presence of God came in to that meeting like a high pressure frontal system and I was aware of the atmosphere intensifying with a sense of God’s holiness.

At the end of the message I asked them to move the chairs back against the wall so that we would have room to pray for people to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. They formed a semi-circle around the front. I felt liberty to instruct them that they who desired the Holy Spirit would receive it by a simple act of asking and believing. I told them that no one would be manipulated by someone whispering “tongues” in their ear, or teaching them to say gibberish, cheer-leading and stirring up a dervish of emotions. I loathe showmanship. They would not have to wait long for God to move.

After this I began to pray and just as I said, “Amen.” immediately people started speaking in tongues. I began to lay hands on on them and simply say, “Receive the Holy Ghost!” and they would begin to speak in tongues. This was not wild emotions dear reader, the only way I could describe it was sacred. The sense of God’s presence was overwhelming. I began to actually be afraid to be in God’s presence. There was almost a glow of glory in that room. I had no fear of harm or injury it was just a deep sensitivity that God was at work. As the kids were worshiping God in their new heavenly language I looked in the back and I saw a young man whose name was Jesse. I am not given to visions but there appeared to be two radiating angelic beings with their wings touching above and around this young man.  I pointed at him and said, “Why is it that you need such angelic protection?” Adam was astounded. He brought Jesse up and he told me that he worked in ministry with the gangs. His life had been spared numerous times by the Lord. Glory to God! I asked who received the baptism in the Holy Spirit for the first time that night and it was nineteen people.

We had a devotional service on Sunday morning and and returned to Santa Ana for the Sunday evening service. Weadam 2 almost did not make it because the Mercedes broke down. We found out it was a small spring that would not let the vehicle accelerate. We made it just in time. That night the altar call was tremendous. People coming to the Lord, backsliders being reclaimed and baptisms in the Holy Spirit. It was like the old time revivals I had read about.

Adam O decided to extend the services for another week so we met for prayer everyday. I remember one brother who was struggling to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. He felt despair and I told him that he could not receive any of God’s gifts in that frame of mind. I kept praying and encouraging him to just be at peace and receive the, “peace of God which transcends all understanding.” and just believe the Lord loves him. I saw him in one service and I looked at him and said, “Wayne let go of the control stick!” I do not know why I said it like that but right there he began to speak in tongues. God answers prayer! I remember in the last service, I pointed to another young man and said, “You have the spirit of David!” And this young man received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with just a sentence. It was incredible.

I remember that during that week of services there were season where the kids would intensely seek the Lord. One night, I felt so much energy I wanted to pray for everyone but there were too many, so the kids started to grab on to my suit jacket. I felt like a conduit of Christ’s power and he honored their hunger for God and filled them to overflowing. In one service, I started running around the church worshiping God. It seemed everyone had a childlike exultation in the Lord.  Thirty kids received the baptism of the Holy Ghost. I am deeply grateful for love I received from these kids. It was worth more than gold.

adam 8Two years later I returned for another three day retreat. if I recall correctly the youth group had grown for 200 to 5oo kids on Thursday night meetings. Many of the youth were still serving the Lord from the last time I was there and they were serving in ministry. The young man who worked with the gangs was now working for the police with the gangs-unbelievable! That is what the Bible calls good and lasting fruit to the gospel!

They had the Adam O show done in an Arsenio Hall format and used it to interview a missionary. It was a blast-we thought that this time might be more subdued than the last. I was wondering would things happen like they did last time? I learned this much, God will work in different ways, never limit him- let him surprise you. 

God began to do it again. This time I was intensely praying for an entire hour over people and Adam could not believe my stamina-the Holy Spirit just took over-it was the quickening of the Spirit. A woman came up from an operation and it looked like half her foot was missing. She still could not walk on it-we prayed for her and on her own she threw her crutches away and she began to walk with ease on it. She began to shout! 

adam10A young woman fell on the ice that day and she was in great pain. Her friends told me she was going to have to go to the hospital. We prayed for her and when she went to sit down she realized she had no more pain. She came back up weeping at God’s goodness-this was amazing. There was a powerful word of knowledge and God began to expose the hearts of backsliders and restore them, I began by the Spirit to expose sin and it was confirmed-God was bringing people to repentance.

When we went back to Santa Ana on Sunday night I preached on becoming a Soul Surgeon and the scalpel of theadam 9 Lord cut away at people’s excuses and many felt God’s call to preach the gospel. It was so profound Adam extended this revival for a week. I was being ministered to as well despite the fact that Roman and Adam trashed my life at chess.  There were storm clouds at home in our church and God was refreshing me. My Dad was preaching for me while I was away and did a great job. So the church was in good hands.

We began to minister and we went to Teen Challenge. There was a man there in a wheel chair and he had been injured by an accident. I went over to him and pulled him out of the wheel chair in Jesus name! I walked with him up and down the aisle-it was awesome. It scared the stuffing out of me at the same time. I am very serious abut the things of God. It is no game to me.

That Thursday night, I preached a message called, ‘The Great Deception” I’ll Follow Jesus Tomorrow.” I could feel the dense conviction of the Holy Spirit upon the audience. I have never sensed such an evangelistic spirit in all my travels and it was a powerful drawing of the Holy Spirit to Jesus. The front was filled with kids who came to repentance and faith in Christ. It was much like that in each service.

Adam is a friend of mine to this day-we still talk of those days and look forward to God doing greater things. For Jesus is not done healing the sick, freeing the oppressed and filling people with the Holy Spirit. I am even now greatly burdened to see a mighty move of the Holy Spirit-use me Lord! Send me Lord!adam 7

SPIRIT OF CHRIST CHURCH

spirit of Christ“Furthermore David the king said unto all the congregation, Solomon my son, whom alone God hath chosen, is yet young and tender, and the work is great: for the palace is not for man, but for the LORD God.” (1 Chr, 29:1).

When I think of the days of my first pastorate more things stand out to me than others after 27 years. Before and after I married my wife Sarah, I was preaching in the Northwest of the United States. I had opportunity to be the keynote speaker and preach the “This Jesus” Conference in November 1988. I preached on, “The Beauty of Jesus” from Psalm 45 and I will never forget it. God worked wonderfully especially among the ministers there. I was invited after that to speak in many different churches in that area, I loved doing it.

People would come in fifteen inches of snow like it was nothing. It was amazing. There was one church were at least 900 people were dancing in the Spirit. I never saw anything like that before. I tried to be dignified but it was really powerful. I saw numerous healing miracles and baptisms in the Holy Spirit. The devil was being defeated left and right.

While back on Staten Island in 1988 God was speaking to my heart. I felt what I could only describe as a spiritual anticipation. I knew something was happening in the Spirit. I was telling people that God has a church for me. One uncle said to me cynically, “You don’t have a church.”  Later, God spoke to me from scripture, “And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.”  (Psa. 27:6). Not long after, a Pastor for who I had preached for in Wisconsin connected me with a group in Pennsylvania who were meeting in a home. It was a beautiful home owned by Peter and Christine who were a tremendous force in the work of that ministry and who helped us maintain the building we would eventually purchase. I was well received by them. I was officially a home missions Pastor.

We moved into a townhouse in Lansdale, PA and wanted to get the carpets cleaned.  A man named Ted knocked and he was holding his baby girl Nicole when we opened the door. While looking around the house he saw my theological books all over the floor he asked me if I was a minister. I replied in the affirmative and he cleaned all the carpets for free. What a blessing!

I found out Ted came from a Mennonite family. I asked him if he would like to visit our church. He said that he did, but I did not see them for weeks. I called on the phone and I found out that both their children were suffering with the croup. So, God gave me holy boldness and I said something to the effect that, “I am going to pray that God heals both your children and when they do you will come out to service.”  Well, God did exactly that and Ted and Joyce came out to church. Joyce did not really agree with Pentecostalism and so I debated with her about some things. My wife wondered why I was being so forthright with her. I said, “I like Joyce. I think God is working on her heart.” He really was.

Not long after, my brother Mike was preaching one Sunday Night and Ted and his wife Joyce were there. My brother pointed at him and said, “Brother, the moment I lay hands on you you are going to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and speak with other tongues.” My brother came over, laid hands on him and Ted fell to his knees and quietly spoke in tongues. It was amazing. Ted and Joyce as I remember consumed the Bible and books about the Holy Spirit and his gifts.

Joyce had not received the baptism of the Spirit yet and on Sunday night we were sitting on the floor and I was praying with her while she was crying. I will never forget when she told me, “Everyone is getting the Holy Ghost but me.” It broke my heart.  But not long after, we were in church one Sunday and during worship I heard her speaking in tongues. I was surprised and asked her, “When were you going to tell me you were baptized in the Holy Spirit.” She told me that she had been praying at home and God filled her. Her countenance was glowing and she was so excited.

I found out Ted was a talented musician. We sang acapella and we had no music until he led worship. He played a twelve string guitar and he was anointed. He played it furiously and broke strings every Sunday. I had never seen a better Psalmist. While he was leading worship I saw what I believed was a hot flask of oil that poured on the top of his head by an invisible hand. I knew God was calling him and Joyce to ministry. They both have traveled internationally and were both he and his wife are pastoring a growing church in Pennsylvania.

I can tell you some things that came out to me among the many things that God did. There was a pregnant woman named Lisa hooked on drugs who came to our church. She was on speed during the pregnancy and her family concerned about the child. She gave her life to Christ and we prayed for her after she confessed this issue. God protected that baby and Amber was born healthy and strong.

I remember another woman named Sherri and she was drawn to Christ through a message on the armor of God. She said as she came up for prayer and knelt alone she could hear an argument going on between the devil and God. The devil said, “She’s mine!” and God spoke and said, “NO she is mine!” She became a glowing Christian. Wow.

Another woman, originally from Germany, was pregnant with what I believe was her fourth child. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She was told by the doctor’s at that time she would have to abort her unborn child in order to live and that was unacceptable to her. We prayed for her and God healed her and she had a beautiful baby boy.

One time I myself was stricken with Bells Palsy and the right side of my face froze, it was devastating. I wept a lot in private and no one knew how much it crushed me, especially during a time I was teaching on healing. It was Ted and another man that prayed with me. Ted prayed for my face, but he did not touch my face. He told me that he did not want me to feel any heat from his hand, so that I could feel the Holy Spirit healing me. God healed me and now I knew personally God heals the sick.

The Lord granted me opportunities to minister in Word and to sing on television and radio and I got to evangelize in New England often. We even created an album during my time in Pennsylvania.

But not all churches are perfect in fact, wherever people are they are problems. People will tell me this happened in a church or that happened. I always ask them, “Were humans involved?” As a young pastor I did not realize that the human factor would prove to be a huge issue. Where the Spirit is, the flesh is as well. Where God is at work, the devil is at work as well. We still live on this side of heaven.

These people I began to serve were at one time the disgruntled members of another church. It was my first pastorate and I was unaware of this and I had no idea how challenging it would be. I was only 23 years old and I thought preaching was enough experience- it was not. Whether the past issues of people were valid or not is not the point. Not all Pastors have diplomatic ability, people skills or political savvy and these abilities are NOT part of the requirements to be a Pastor. A Pastor’s obedience to God is his greatest asset. But if you are a person that is called to set fires instead of putting them out you may want to think twice about dealing with people who are hurt by a previous church in a pastoral capacity. I was more of a fire setter. I was confrontational and uncompromising-which means, I got hurt badly in the end.

The family that was the largest tithe payers were affluent and I think that since they were hurt by a previous church experience they took a very business like approach to church. The man owned a successful business for sure and he arranged a balloon mortgage on the church building. I was so young I did not even know what that entailed. If I would have known I would never have agreed to it.  He and his wife and another family left the church. A few years later when the mortgage came to maturity we had to sell the building to an Anglican church for not much more than the price for which we purchased it. I miss the building to this day and even feel selling it was a mistake. The lesson I learned was stay put and watch God provide he will take care of things despite what people do.

There was a woman and man, both who were married who were committing adultery in our church. While I was ministering in California a second time (a story I will relate another chapter). My father came and preached in my place. He was an excellent Bible teacher and loved teaching about God’s purpose for marriage. My father said they confronted him after one message. My dad let me know and he did not feel they had much respect for the Word. By this I learned that God was attempting to reach this couple in his mercy so that they would repent. I was shocked when I found out that same woman was crossing out verses in her Bible that she did not like, writing notes on the sides of her Bible such as, “My god would not do that.” She was under a spirit of delusion. I reprimanded them with the scripture and they left the church refusing the restoration process. These were very sweet people but sometimes when people think that they have more love than God does, they will end up in compromising situations which will damn their souls.

My mother in law, an angelic Pentecostal woman died suddenly from colon cancer at fifty two years of age. After that my father in law was experiencing severe heart issues and my wife was back on Staten Island taking care of him best as she could. What was worse is that we experienced a church exodus as well. It was my first, it hurt. A year later my dad died from heart surgery complications. Satan was hitting us on all fronts.  The best thing that happened during those times was the birth of my son Stephen. I learned that as a Pastor you had to play hurt, sometimes bleeding and that only going through things like these is when God will build compassion in your heart. This was the beginning of a very long painful process and eventually I would have to find a job, my dream of pastoring was shattered and I wept many a morning as I went to work.

It should be noted that Ted was influenced by an outside source and a very strange man attending our church who had an agenda of his own. The man was very subtle in his demeanor. He convinced Ted that I should no longer be the pastor. They even approached me and wanted me to give up the building so they could have it. That was unacceptable to us. Eventually, he and Joyce left. I tearfully begged them not to leave but they did anyway. It was a real shame. While I am thankful they are serving the Lord I also learned that if people do not want to serve in the church that you Pastor, let them go with a blessing. Keep your spirit sweet. God will provide others who love you and will be glad to serve the Lord with their gifts.

©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due

PULPIT POUNDER!

sword_of_spirit“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12).

This part of my testimony shows how God still was using me despite all my internal struggles. I know most preachers chuckle at how God used Balaam’s donkey (I do not think they would laugh if they realized how close the application of that story was for them) but it was more than that. God works through weakness and imperfection. he was use all my issues one day to be a platform for me to help his children.

Now I was born to preach. I love it. It is what God made me to do. I always think about it. I even preach when I am alone. I dream about preaching. You see, it is God that ordains preachers. Preaching is not learned, it cannot be taught it is a vocation, a sacred calling. You are either called by God to be a preacher or you are not one. A real preacher of the gospel is a strange creature. He must preach from what is in his heart. He must feel the presence of God when he preaches or he is deeply grieved. God’s Word burns in his heart like a fire.

During my early years as a Christian I would attend as many church services as I could. The Cops for Christ were meeting in my church and of course I attended and I listened to them talk. Two policemen John Carlo and Bill Salvia were there and I got to speak with them. I am not sure what happened, (I probably rebuked them for something as i was prone to do) but they wanted me to meet their Pastor and they asked if I would like to come speak at one of their Sunday night services. I accepted. Pastor Joe Demola was very encouraging. This was an Italian Pentecostal church and the people were very warm. On May 23, 1982 on Sunday night, was the first time I stood behind a pulpit…ever. I preached on Deuteronomy six and called for repentance and obedience to God’s Word. I was only sixteen and I think people were surprised.

There were some small churches on Staten Island that loved having us come and preach. I might be visiting with Pastor Tyndale on Jersey Street and would come up to me and say in his West Indian accent, “My brother, you are preaching tonight.” Brother Demola would do the same.  I would go see Brother Elstad in Castleton Corners and he would have me preach on the spot. Brother Sanchez in Jersey City would invite me to preach. It was not like today. I had to be ready at all times. The Holy Spirit had these men training me. I miss these men. I was too young to completely appreciate them, but I weep at how gracious God was to me. They called me a young evangelist and they encouraged my gifting despite my inexperience.

One time I will never forget at an end of a service at Brother Elstad’s they brought up a homeless man. He was bound by alcohol. He did not say a word but I looked into his eyes and there was another presence there. It was a demon. I reprimanded this demon for its hold on this man and immediately and without a question the unclean spirit left. He professed faith in Christ. Brother Elstad told me later that man was serving the Lord and was a deacon in his church.

My brother and I would go out and preach a lot. He called us “Bookends for Jesus” because we were twins. My brother would sing and I would preach.  We went to preach in one place and Mike sang one too many songs, not leaving me much time to preach. I was preaching on repentance and the Pastor stopped me midway. he still laughs about it. The people seemed to want to hear more but he ended the service abruptly. He was angry and he brought us into his office and rebuked us and asked me if I was reading any Leonard Ravenhill’s books because I sounded like him. I had never heard of him. But I thought that maybe I should read them after that.

I remember street preaching in Manhattan right in battery Park. I was working there temporarily and about a quarter of a mile a way I hear this large booming voice.  I went and there were these guys that were preaching under a huge American Flag to the people eating lunch. One guy looked like he could bench press 400 pounds and his voice was the one I heard. He could say, “Jesus Christ” better and louder than anyone I ever knew without a sound system. I had seen one of these men before and he asked me if I wanted to preach. Of course I wanted to. This was a new experience for me. Once again, I could see people as souls. There they many business people sitting on the benches eating lunch and we got to preach to people who had never heard of the new birth. 

One of the great things I got to do was work at WPOW in 1983 as the chief announcer just before I went to Bible College. My father jumped up and down when he heard I got this position. It was very early hours but I enjoyed it. I had the opportunity play Christian preaching and music.

During that time there was a young woman that my brother and I met. She attended a large Baptist church. She was a lovely Christian in her twenties and she would drive us home sometimes. My brother and I were speaking to her about the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

One night we were talking in her car about the Holy Spirit and she screamed “I’m afraid! I’m afraid!” Her church so poisoned her mind about this biblical experience she was terrified.

I placed my hand on her and said, “I rebuke this spirit of fear in the name of Jesus Christ and I command you to leave her alone.” Immediately she was at peace and not but a week later the Lord baptized her in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues.

The Lord would also give me the opportunity to go to the Mid West and West Coast and preach-some amazing things would happen-things I never expected to see.

©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due.

SOUL SICKNESS

proverbs-18-14“The human spirit can endure a long illness, but who can survive a crushed spirit?” (Prov. 18:14The Voice)

I was still ridden with guilt that was already taken away by Christ. My soul was sick. I am not rationalizing anything but our hearts and souls get sick just like our bodies (Psa. 6:3; Prov. 13:12). This does not make us bad Christians, it just makes us human. We all get sick. We know this by the symptoms. When we do become ill, we seek a cure with over the counter remedies or home remedies. If we are still sick we seek out a doctor. We do all this because being sick is not normal in our minds, so we must be cured. My sickness was cured in Christ. All I had to do was look to him, see him in scripture, pray to him and know by his wounds I am already healed (Isaiah 53:5). But instead my soul was drawn to legalism, man centered methods and doctrines that promised healing but only brought disappointments. My problem was what I believed.

Now I did not necessarily know I was soul sick. Yet, I began to seek out books, teachings and people that might have a cure. These teachings all had the opposite effect and they fed my guilt instead of relieving it. They only slightly and temporarily healed my wounds (Jer. 16:13-14). For example, I began to read much on revival. I loved Chick tracts and also Keith Green a well known prolific Christian singer. They introduced me to Charles Grandison Finney. I loved reading his biography but later on as I discovered more about his teachings such as his rejection of justification by faith alone and his outright hatred of classical theology it troubled me.  He did not believe revival was the work of God but the responsibility of man so he had people take an inventory of their lives listing their sins and confessing them. He taught only then would the unproductive ground of the heart be broken up to produce the fruit of revival. This became like soul micromanagement to me-it is compared to trying to make your heart beat by listening to it.

Then there was the appeal of what people call “deliverance ministry” that taught that the Holy Spirit coexists with demons in Christians. They teach people have demonic curses that need to be “broken” even after they become Christians. I had no doubt we engaged in an invisible war but I knew Christians cannot have demons-period. I protested this teaching because the Bible said, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us…” (Gal. 3:13) and “God’s Son holds <us> securely, and the evil one cannot touch <us>.” (1 John 5:18NLT addition mine). When a Christian is confused with living in defeat or struggling with guilt, rejection, fear and depression one might be convinced they have a demonic problem. The deliverance ministry focuses on sin and Satan  instead of directing people back to Christ and his grace. I was invited to a deliverance session and they prayed over me and these “demonic” influences were told to leave. The session I had was very similar once again to taking inventory of my sin issues and thus I felt freedom for a short time but it was short lived. It was Satan’s deception to distract me from my perfect Savior and his great salvation. He must have had a good laugh at my stupidity. It was in what Jesus did once for all on the cross that my freedom was found. I was sealed by the Holy Spirit forever and delivered from all the powers of darkness when Jesus first saved me.

By the time I graduated Bible College and was a evening manager at a Christian bookstore I became fed up with the false doctrines of the word “magic” groups and the self-esteem gospel of Robert Schuller. My Christian bookstore manager asked me to leave when I expressed my concern over these books. Here I thought I was doing the right thing. During that time I met a Pentecostal minister who asked me to come and serve his church and he would remain Pastor Emeritus. He was having difficulties due to his age and wanted to know if I could preach there on Sundays. Things went well, until my brother came and preached on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The seasoned citizen woman who played the organ was a Methodist and she complained to the Pastor. He asked me to leave a few days later. I was devastated.

The devil used my disillusionment against me. While I was a Youth Pastor at a church on Staten Island I encountered a group of people called the Jesus Only, Oneness Pentecostals. They believed in the deity of Christ and many evangelical doctrines but did not believe in the classical view of the Trinity. They taught that Christianity was under the influence of NeoPlatonism like many cultic groups accuse them of. They also believed salvation was by being baptized in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38) and that Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19-20) were only the titles of God not the name of God. They confirmed the feeling of suspicion that had grown in my heart. They lovingly took me in and trained me and showed more concern for me than anyone. I baptized a few church members at that church and was asked to leave. Not long after, I pastored an Apostolic Church for a few years. I had to study a lot of church history and Christology in an attempt to defend my position. God used that in my life to show me that only in the person of Christ and the teachings of classical Christianity represented the truth. 

The cures for which I was seeking were just as dangerous as the illness. All these groups were, “worthless physicians and forgers of lies.” (Job 13:4). Religion is always telling you to do something to be accepted, forgiven or to be in right standing with God. We must be wary that of any one group or denomination that claims to have all the truth. Only the church as a whole has the truth as it is in Jesus. The foundational belief that saved and kept me is: that all my guilt and sin, anxiety and fear- all my soul sicknesses were placed upon Christ on the Cross and he carried them away for all time and eternity! This was the key to walking with God all the time.

©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due.

 

CHARGED WITH GUILT

download (11)I will be merciful when they fail, and I will erase their sins and wicked acts out of My memory as though they had never existed.” (Heb. 8:12 The Voice).

As I have said, I prayed a lot. I read the scripture a lot. God was answering my prayers. But I still struggled with terrible guilt and remorse for breaking God’s laws. I knew of God’s forgiveness but in my own mind and conscience I saw myself as doing so many things wrong and making so many mistakes and if I did not confess them God would not answer my prayers and not fellowship with me.  At that time I also believed I could lose my salvation. I knew this would happen if I continued in unconfessed sin but I lived as if it was just one sin. So I based God’s forgiveness on my incessant confession of sins.

I was told keep “short accounts” with God, to repent right away and I was good at that. This made me believe God was cataloging my sins against me and that he would refuse to listen to me unless I confessed each one. I heard much about, “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me.”  (Psa. 66:18) and especially, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives…” (James 4:3). While I was taught there was a difference between the conviction of the Holy Spirit (showing you some sin) and the condemnation of the devil (accusing you of past sin) I confused this two unknowingly.

As ridiculous as it sounds I remember going to church to pray one time and I crossed the street when it said, “Do not Cross” I felt I broke the law and wondered if I should go to the police station to confess my crime. I was haunted by guilt despite the fact God was blessing me and using me to win others to him through the gospel. I was melting under the white hot flames of I what I perceived as God’s holiness and righteousness. My mind was charged with guilt.

I wanted God to hear my prayers so badly. I needed him to answer me because I believed the souls of people to whom I was preaching were depending on my prayers. This was good and bad. It was good because I think people diminish the quintessential aspect of prayer as the agency through which God works in this world. But it was bad because somehow I thought I had to earn God’s favor through praying a certain amount of time or expending much energy in prayer.

I was sincere. A friend of mine heard me stop worshiping during a service and I thought I might be attracting too much attention to myself (I was not).  So I would say to God, “Lord I don’t want to be a Pharisee and worship you to be seen of men.” My friend Kevin standing next to me must have overheard me and after worship patted me on the back and said, “Steve you are a good man.” But guilt had caged my heart and it was frustrating. It was draining my prayers of life and joy until it was hard to pray. I would have to worship 45 minutes before I could pray.

I felt condemned by the criticism of the elders and pastor. Someone from the Port Authority called the church and told them we needed a permit to pass out literature. We were handing out tracts near the train station with a Christian man we just met from the navy.  It was exciting. It was the first time I ever passed out tracts publicly (brief literature about the Bible and Jesus). The tracts had our churches name on it and so they called the church. The pastor bawled us out!  I cried. It was confusing. I was knowledgeable, I prayed, but after all I was just fifteen. I was a fiery young convert and I had a blazing fire in me that they could have turned into a focused laser, making me more effective but they did not.

In fact, when the Pastor asked my brother where I was one time, Mike said, “He is praying in the sanctuary.”

The pastor replied, “What a nerd!”

Another time my knees would hurt from praying so I brought a sleeping bag for a cushion. While praying, I heard the back door unlock and it was dark in the sanctuary and  an elder  came in. He never came before this time for prayer, so I was happy to see him but then he accused me of sleeping in the church and told me about the sleeping Levites, a story from the Talmud not even the scripture! If they slept on duty their clothes were burned (they used their overcoats for a cushion) and they were left naked. Here I was praying and I never saw this elder come once to prayer. I was amazed at his insensitivity. I wish just once, just once, a brother, a Pastor, or an elder just would have put their arm around me and explained to me the things of God, or encouraged me and trained me in love. I know God used the negative experience in my life to harden me against the opinion of man, but no one wanted to take the time just to say, “Brother Steve, I think I can help you with this.”

The Lord’s Supper made me afraid because of the possibility of partaking unworthily. What did scripture mean, “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”  (1 Cor 11:29)? We were given a moment of silence to examine ourselves and see unconfessed sin or not being right in relationships and then partake. I loved taking the Lord’s supper-why did it seem people portrayed God as keeping me at arms length when I was his disciple.  No one ever explained it or they did not do it well.  Once again, it seemed that people were misinforming me that Christ died to make me feel guilt for how rotten as sinner I was rather than removing my guilt.

All my experiences up to this point, salvation, baptism in water and the Spirit contradicted these feelings of guilt, but my mind was being held captive in a constant maze of attempting to unburden myself of guilt.  I would attempt to show the Lord my sincerity by weeping or yelling to let him know I meant my repentance but it was more like penance. I was back in the state of mind that I was when I was a Roman Catholic! I was still afraid I might go to hell if I did things wrong. The message of God’s love was not a topic for me, it was a lifeline that I desperately needed and was being strangled by a sense of being rejected by him. My life was charged with guilt and I was living in misery even though I was saved.

To be continued…

©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due.

RIOT FOR BREAKFAST

Animal-House-Food-fight“For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21).

I went back to High School and found it was easier to preach to unsaved people about Christ. As a fiery young convert I would reprimand the youth group in my church for their worldliness and met up with resistance. So, fellowship was slim. But God opened up the hearts of people from all different Christian backgrounds to be our fellowship.

We met a group of teens who were from various evangelical backgrounds and got hooked up with a group called the High School Born Againer’s or Hi BA’s. Rod Burnett and Rick Kirschman sacrificed their time and energy to equip us to be missionaries in our High School. They were a huge encouragement and resource to this group of teenagers in Staten Island and in fact, had influence in all five borough’s.

It was agreed by the group in our High School that we would meet in the cafeteria for Bible study in the morning before classes. We started meeting during breakfast. I know that several different people were leading Bible study and we had every intention of keeping it a public witness. I arrived one morning at the end of that week and the cafeteria was full of rowdy teenagers. I had the feeling they were waiting for our group. Teenagers can be so obvious. We had a good crowd for Bible study. I was elected to teach Bible study that day for some reason.

None of the things that followed were my intention but they still took place in reaction to my preaching.

I guess how things got started was there were no chairs left at our table so I decided I would stand. At this point in time, I cannot remember what text I used, but I as I began to teach, some kid behind me starts mocking. The crowd started laughing like patients in an asylum for the deranged. I realized that I would not be able to teach Bible study without addressing them with the only defense I had, the Word of God.

I continued to speak and tell the kids about how Christ died for them and their need of salvation. Some of the kids were listening intently others were just acting nuts. I felt the Holy Spirit guiding my words. I looked and saw another kid walking around and yelling saying, ‘Hallelujah, pass the offering plate!” Then they started proving the inevitable result of the school’s policy of teaching the theory of evolution: they were making baboon like noises, banging garbage cans and then the food started flying-bagels were on the menu that day-it figures. One got real close to my face and hit one of my friends.

The Bible group was shocked. Everyone in the cafeteria went crazy.

Out of no where four of the school police surrounded me. I thought, “OK I am suspended.” I asked them why they taking me away. I had done nothing wrong. They said it was for my protection. They asked me to grab my books and follow them and I complied. My friends were deeply concerned for me and wanted to go with me but the school police would not let them. The escorted me through the teachers lounge and up the stairs to the deans office.

The guards explained the situation to the Dean and he contorted his neck as he looked out of his office.  I sat there waiting. Later he came over to me he looked at me and asked me, “You will make sure this does not happen again, right?”

I said to him, “We will talk about it later.” He looked at me surprised because he did not expect that reply.

I realized now the chutzpah it took to say that. I would not agree to stop preaching the gospel even if it meant my suspension.

Their solution at that time was send me to our very eccentric guidance counselor. She pulled out my records of course and there was no instance of misbehavior. She called my home and my mother answered and she explained to her that I was proselytizing in the cafeteria and we had caused a riot. My Mom was the wrong person to tell that, “What’s wrong with that we have freedom of speech.” The guidance counselor had to listen to my Mom for a while, and attempted to stutter her replies, so it was not a pleasant experience for her.

It was almost 3rd period and asked me to wait in study hall so I went to library. Everyone who I passed on my way there saw me knew what happened.  Everyone in the library looked up and knew what had happened. It seemed as the entire school knew. I was excited because the gospel was getting noticed! I sat down and opened up my Bible and I began to read this passage Paul wrote while under house arrest:

“But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel so that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places. And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.  According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:12-21).

I was allowed to go into my bookkeeping class and everyone looked at me there as well. They knew all about what happened. The expected some response from me so I told them,  “We have them heaven!” I said.

The teacher smiled,  but had a nervous look on their face like he really wanted me to sit down-who knows what he thought I would do in class and the kids shook their heads and I continued on with my day.

Later we ended up meeting the principal, my Pastor and parents. They agreed to let us have a classroom room before curriculum time.  When I left that high school the Bible study continued until they stopped it because of politics- only to have to reinstate them because of the Equal Access Act passed in 1984.

It is amazing how God can use anyone in his service-even a person like me. The news of God’s exploits in my life were getting around. I was now a radical Christian for sure and I liked it.

©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due.

I SAW HELL ONE FRIDAY NIGHT

angry-god“Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.” (Jude 1:23NLT).

This is something I am leery to talk about especially with the popularity of visions and myths abut heaven and hell that sell books and movies in the last few years. I believe the Bible has spoken on the subject of eternal hell and we need nothing else, yet I had to include this in my testimony.

I prayed alone most of the time in church. I even tried calling for prayer meetings and only Sister Dorothy would show up. She was a dear soul who came to Christ in her later years. I can still see her how she would walk briskly from her house down the street to the church. What I remember most was when she would repeatedly cry out in prayer, “I love you Jesus. I want to walk with you Jesus. I want to touch the hem of your garment.” People criticized her sometimes for her crying out the same phrase repeatedly in services over time. Maybe she was simple or maybe she was more in touch with God than the rest of us.  I kept thinking of one who said, “Jesus, thou Son of David have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:38). I think she was wonderful and I miss her.

One night our Pastor called for an all night prayer meeting. This was my first. They were not like the prayer meetings of today. There was no music, videos or anything just prayer. When you strip all the makeup off the the face of the modern day church service you would not have much left. I wonder if we had no music and technology in our churches if we would see how spiritually poor, even bankrupt some churches are in the area of true, unvarnished prayer.

We began to pray and we started with a nice crowd and during the hours people began to slowly leave until a few of us were left.

I remember I was up front completely absorbed in prayer and unaware of those around me. It was at this time that the whole idea of my unsaved family, friends, neighbors and schoolmates going to hell overwhelmed me. I began to see dark, long caverns going down as far as the eye could see and I began to see people I knew falling into them. My heart broke and I wept and wept at the thought of it. My heart was full of compassion and it poured out of me as I pleaded with God repeatedly saying, “Save the lost, oh God, save the lost!”

I heard later the Pastor said that I was groaning and he told my brother that he had not seen such a “spirit of intercession” upon a person. I later discovered that the classical Pentecostals called this “travailing in prayer.” (Isa. 66:8). I think it was unnerving for them. Later in life I heard of men of God who prayed and it was hard to be around them because of the agony they felt. Christ agony alone secures the salvation of people, but I believe he allows at times us to feel his broken heart for the lost. I do not know how long I that I was in that state but the reality of people going to hell for me was unbearable. That time in prayer was but a couple of hours then I stopped and I went down to the bathroom to wash my face and gain my composure. I was shaken. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. All I knew I was determined to stop people from going there. This was a wake up call.

Originally, hell was made for the devil and his angels but it also will be the eventual destination of all who die without Christ. Satan knows his end and he wants to drag people to hell with him. He can do this because people follow his ways and he influences their rebellion against God. God is offended by sin. Sin is infinite. His hatred and war with sin is never ending. Thus hell is everlasting.  But God has given us Jesus, “the way, the truth and the life. ” (John 14:6). This is why Christ had to satisfy the wrath of God by his cruel death on the cross. As the Bible says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8). 

I realized the real problem that I faced beyond the symptoms of sin. My friends were dying and going to hell and I was supposed to get in their way and make them listen to the warnings of God and the good news of Christ. It gave me love and at the same time some grit to my preaching. I need not worry about man’s opinion, “but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt. 10:28). I saw my high school, my neighborhood, my WORLD as a battleground  for the souls of men and women.

Now geared for battle, I go back to High School ready to challenge the devil for the souls that belonged to Jesus.

©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due.

WIRELESS CONNECTION

lion“The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” (Prov. 28:1).

I could not in my own strength and power reach my High School. I needed to accomplish God’s will, God’s way. At 15 years old God chose two weapons out of his arsenal for me: prophesying scripture and praying scripture.

One day while cleaning the church I went up a long passage of stairs to the attic and some of the folks were cleaning it out. I was wondering what treasures I would be able to plunder. I saw books! There were two books there. One was called They Teach us To Pray by Reginald E.O. White and the other The Gifts of the Spirit by Harold Horton. They let me have them. It was gold to me. The one prayer book was about the ABC’s of prayer. My favorite chapter was about Moses and the Benefits of prayer and how his face shined with the presence of God, along with Stephen the martyr and most of all, Christ. I wanted people to see Jesus in me. The prospect of having my face shine after I was done with prayer to let people see the reality of Jesus thrilled my soul. I knew prayer was going to be the key in my life. God saved me for his glory, so I could pray and have communion with Him through the Holy Spirit. Prayer was my wireless connection to God through the scriptures.

I was reading The Gifts of the Spirit and the gift of prophecy kept being placed on my heart. I knew the Holy Spirit gave gifts according to his will but since the Bible spoke of, “covet earnestly the best gifts” (1 Cor. 12:31)  I asked God for that gift. I loved preaching and the thought of prophesying, “to edify, exhort and comfort” excited me (1 Cor. 14:3). I did not want it to be me speaking but the Father, Son and the Spirit speaking through me. I began to pray about this gift and God’s will for me. It was then while I prayed it felt like God dropped a large coin in my Spirit. Something happened-and as all of God’s dealings with me anytime he did something big it was at first quiet, like a gentle soft breeze. Then later the results were huge. Prophecy was my wireless connection with God through scripture,“The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8).

One summer I met Rev. Loren Wooten. He came for our first revival. I did not know what a revival was but it sounded good. He was an older, seasoned man and they called him an evangelist. He preached different than my Pastor who was an excellent teacher. Brother Wooten seemed to be able to communicate the gospel in another capacity. Watching this man in his late sixties preach with the animation of a young man blew my mind. One night he said something about the account of David and Goliath that I can still recall to this day. He was illustrating how David confronted the Philistine, “He calls him an uncircumcised Philistine. You see what he is saying? I’m a little boy and I have a covenant. You’re a big giant and you don’t have a covenant. I am coming in the name of the God of the covenant and God will give me the victory-I can’t lose!” I had never heard about a covenant before-but it I found it was God’s commitment to us because we belong to Jesus.

He was big on the topic of prayer. He gave us prayer journal loose-leaf and every day of the week had a specific theme which would have a great influence in my prayer time. Brother Wooten would hear me pray and all I would do is quote scripture in prayer and pray in the Spirit. He liked that so much he made me quote 2 Corinthians 10:6 in front of those people. He told the church he had not seen young men like Mike and I so on fire for God in a long time. To God be the glory.

The only time I heard a prophetic Word, or interpretation on tongues was when Brother Chris Olsen would do it. He looked like he was seven feet tall as he reached up with one arm to the ceiling and rocked on his feet to his toes. I remember would say something like, “Yea, the Lord the God is in the midst of thee this morning!” He would weep and I was in awe.  Not long after that during Bro. Wooten’s meetings I prophesied the first time. It was a few short biblical sentences that came to my mind and I thought my heart would explode. I gave the forth telling prophecy taken I believe from John chapter 10 and my Pastor was saying, “Praise God, praise God.” It was both wonderful and frightening. I learned to how speak out the Scriptures in prayer and prophecy by the leading of the Spirit. I was learning to speak the right thing at the right time-a skillful word in season. This would prove to be  invaluable (Prov 15:23; Isa. 50:4).

After that I drove our pastor crazy because I would ask him if I could use to church to pray. I liked being alone in church because I could let out my heart to God in private. He eventually surrendered and made a key for me to get in church. Oh God was so good to me! He gave me the key to his house! We had an altar railing back in those days and I would slump over it and weep. I would pace around the church sanctuary and worship until I felt to pray for others. I began to prayer two or three hours a night. Wednesday nights was intercession night I would get to church early before Bible study. I had a list of 168 people.

Friday night was supposed to be prayer night-but no one ever came, except one night, at one all night prayer meeting.

©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due.

GOD AND GOD’S BROTHER

BoldPictures“And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31).

After the night of the tent meeting, when I was baptized with the Holy Spirit, something changed in me, it was what I called holy boldness. I was a quiet kid and the Holy Spirit gave me a lion like quality when I talked about Jesus. I was gaining more confidence in God’s Word and was studying and learning that as a believer God sent me to preach the gospel, heal the sick and evict devils.

When I went back to school the nutty kids were all making out-kissing near the lockers all the way down the hall to my homeroom it was like they were having an orgy with their clothes on. Drugs were for sale on the side of the school and the type drug was signified by the color bandanna the dealer was wearing. I remember feeling angry and sad at the condition of my friends whom I saw as living on the precipice of hell and did not know it. 

Although the occult has more influence now than ever, I did not realize the influence of witchcraft over teenagers and teachers even back in the 80’s. I remembered a substitute teacher who could hold articles of clothing or jewelry and employed a spirit of divination or clairvoyance. Somehow toward the middle of class they got on the subject. He was telling their fortunes with great accuracy. I was indignant in the Spirit.

He was holding someones ring and about to use his demons powers when under my breath I kept repeating, “I rebuke you in the name of Jesus.” 

He said, “I don’t know why but for some reason I cannot tell you anything.” I quietly praised God. I learned that day by experience that I had authority over demons.

You have to remember I was a young convert and I was still new at conveying the gospel. I remember one girl, who smoked incessantly arguing with me, saying she did not believe in God. I was shocked and not sure how to answer her.

So, I pointed at her pack of cigarettes and said, “There’s your god.”

She was surprised at my response and said, “You’re right.” 

Well at least she was going to think about quitting smoking.

I was witnessing to everyone at arm’s length. So was my brother. We attended different classes but we had one thing in common we had had rooms with satanists in them. They even brought their satanic bible with them to school written by Anton LaVey. You can’t even get the wimpy christian kids to do that today. They loved listening to anything they saw as satanic like Iron Maiden or Ozzie Osbourn.

I remember that they would see us and say things like, “Praise Satan!” and we would respond “Praise God!”

Sometimes they would see us and snicker saying, “There goes God and God’s brother.”

Or they would call us, “The Jesus Brother’s”

Man, I felt like Elijah on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal and Asherah all around us.

One time the Satanist head honcho came into my home room and he had his satanic literature with him. A kid named Scott was in my homeroom and he was being influenced by him. They were wondering if I was afraid of their devil bible and was scared of touching it-I was not. I took it and paged through it non nonchalantly. Then as I handed the it back to them I looked at them and said, “The highest reward Satan can give you is hell.”

Scott was freaked out and said to the devil worshiper, “Man, I don’t wanna go to no hell.” God had his way. Sometime after graduation, I led Scott to the Lord in front of a church I was visiting. It was exhilarating.

We would do all kinds of things to get the gospel message out. We would buy Chick Tracts and one time I “accidentally” dumped them on a table with kids sitting in the library.

They were like, “What are these?

I said, “Cartoons about the Bible and Jesus.”

Many of the kids took them and read them. Some were asking for more each day I saw them. I heard that one kid took bunch of them and read them in his basement all day. I was getting excited. I saw this as sowing the seed of the Word.

My science teacher passed by my desk one day and saw the symbols for Alpha and Omega written on my jean loose leaf cover and said playfully, “Gibney, you’re weird.”

One time another science teacher was teaching and to make her point she said, “Hey, this is gospel truth, just ask Gibney!” God had allowed my testimony to reach the teachers. Even my homeroom teacher called my family at home one night and was wondering why were were so “into Jesus.”

Health Class was interesting.  I boldly protested unbiblical teaching. The kids thought I was crazy or a fanatic. One time we had to do oral reports. I decided to do mine on depression. You should have seen the look on their faces and their disgruntled sighing when I said, “Now the only solution to depression is Jesus Christ.” They had to listen to the gospel in class and they could not do anything about it and I knew it.  Later on the teacher got saved.

One of those kids saw me on the bus and called me a Jesus freak. 

I touted back, “God doesn’t turn people into freaks he turns freaks into people.”

He was stunned and left stuttering. Hey man, don’t rumble with the gospel.

I remember one kid who they used to call “Peach Fuzz.” He was short and well he was very blonde. He would debate with me about evolution, prophecy and Jesus all the time. I felt he was hopeless and like I was beating my head against the wall. 

Then one day he stops me in the library and says, “Stephen, I believe I am born again!” I was shocked.

He said, “After you would talk all I could think about was God and the devil. Creation versus evolution. Heaven and hell.” I would go back to my classes and go home and it is all I could think about.”

He told me he got hold of a Bible and as he opened it in bed one night, God opened his heart to Christ. I was amazed and thrilled and learned not to judge by people outward rejection to the gospel. the Holy Spirit could be working on them and we not know it. I learned to tell people, “After we are done talking, my friend the Holy Spirit will be showing you the truth and you cannot hide from him.”

I had opportunity to witness and lead people to the Lord. God was on the move in my school.

Soon, God was going to get the entire schools attention. But he first he was going to teach me some things.

©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due.