Wednesday, May 26, 2010

May 26, 1964 - Jerusalem
'In my sleep, powerless to affect my own salvation'

And I wrestled with God for six months, trying to avoid the implications of his revelation. But He would not let me go.
And in Jerusalem he backed me into a corner, having spent two weeks at the Hebrew University and reading every kind of book. If only the Passover Plot had been written, how greedily I would have run for it. And with every book I read and every professor with whom I spoke, the more I realized I was impaled on the hook of God. And how I was put on a bus that last day ten years ago to visit a chassidic ultra-Orthodox community and never got there. Wrong bus. Lost. Riding around in Jerusalem in a section I didn’t know and too Jewish to ride on aimlessly.
That’s why you meet us in your congregations.
I stepped out of the bus and I walked into the first door that I could find. And the woman was so gracious to make me a map, and I was about to leave and I saw I was in a bookstore. Me, an omnivorous reader. The kid with the flashlight under the sheets at night. And I took a look at the titles and stopped dead in my tracks. New Testaments. Bibles. Christian literature.
And I turned to look at this woman’s yiddishe punim, this Jewish face. And I said, ‘Hey, what is this place?’
‘Oh,’ she said, ‘we’re a congregation of Jews who believe in the Messiah Jesus, and this is our bookstore adjoining our chapel.’
Snap in my heart, and I heard the still, small voice that called me by name and spoke as I would be made familiar in the months and years since. In a very terse way always. Always in the form of command. Always without explanation. Always with the voice of authority from Him with whom I have to do. Always to inconvenience. ‘Art, you are not to leave.’ I didn’t argue.
I stayed four days and nights with these Pentecostal Jews and saw such a demonstration of the reality of the Spirit of God from which I could not turn. I heard Jews pray with authority and power. Not out of a siddur. And not ceremonially. As if they were actually being heard of God – and as if they expected answer!
And the thing that topped it off?
I watched them worship!
You say, ‘watched them’? I saw Jews with their hands above their heads, their sleeves rolling down as they raised their hands to God, and the tattooed numbers on their wrists from the concentration camps, praising God in the name of Yeshua Ha’Maschiach!
If ever Jews had a reason NOT to praise that name, it was they. And yet, the tears rolling down their countenances, and the joy on their faces could not be put away.
And four days and nights, they prayed for me, with me, over me. They opened the scriptures. Told me of God’s ‘plan of salvation.’ How ickey can you get? How fundamental can you sound? I didn’t like it. I couldn’t understand it. I was confused. I was bewildered. I got the most intensive bible course that any Jew could be given in four days and nights. And I was... rattled!
So simple that I couldn’t see it.
And I went to sleep on that front pew that last night. So bewildered out of my head. And in my sleep, powerless to affect my own salvation, the Spirit of God just brought things together in my heart. I could just feel pieces falling into place.
And I awoke that next morning with the most precious peace and calm that I had every enjoyed in thirty-five years of restless striving, and came to the breakfast table.
And the first words out of my mouth: ‘Rena, I believe I understand.’ And poor Rena toppled out of her seat onto the floor, chair knocked over and arms above her head, weeping and praising God because her prayer that night was ‘Lord, we’ve done everything for this stubborn man. You make him to understand…’

- Denver, Colorado ( February 1974)

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