To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.
It was with some mixed emotions that I handed the keys of my van over to its new owner a few days ago. The Father has spoken so profoundly through this vehicle that it seemed like I was parting with a piece of my life. The time seemed right to do so, and the Father brought a buyer to me in the first week that I had it for sale. This is rather unusual in itself, for I did not advertise it, but simply put a sign in the window. The van was parked right beside my bus at the RV park I am staying at, and I am in the very back corner of the campground. The traffic past my site might average 2-3 vehicles an hour.
I want to share with you the story of this van, for it reveals some of the magnificent ways in which our Father guides our steps, provides for our needs, and communicates His mind and thoughts to us. It is not an ordinary story, but I believe such events as I will describe could be more common among saints, and would be if there were a greater degree of surrender to Him and sensitivity to His voice.
Let me begin back in 2004. I had left my job as a computer professional in 1999, and my wife had walked with me until 2004 as we followed the Lord wherever He chose to lead us. I was ministering full-time through writing and the Internet. My wife departed from me that year. The afflicted path of the disciple is a difficult one. Each person must choose for themselves whether they will drink from the cup of suffering. A man cannot drink the cup for his wife, nor parents for their children.
After my wife departed the Father eventually led me to a rescue mission in Macon, Georgia. I was truly homeless at that time, and had been living out of my car for about five months. The Father began to speak to me about men and women at rescue missions, and the thought began to take shape in my spirit that the Father would be leading me to one soon. Many testimonies from the Father were used to confirm this.
On December 6, 2004 I had just finished a second forty day period camping in a tent in the Oconee Forest of Georgia. I had been keeping notes in a daily devotion book I was reading (Streams in the Desert). I marked at the top of the page for that date that I had made it through two forty day wilderness experiences, and it was precisely 144 days since my wife had left me. My next destination was to go to a rescue mission.
On December 10, 2004 I was admitted to the Macon Rescue Mission. The mission runs an alcohol and drug recovery program for men. They typically ask for a 90 day commitment, for that is the standard length of the program. I told the director of the men’s division that I had never been a consumer of drugs or alcohol, but he seemed unperturbed. He told me that if I was willing to attend the same meetings as the rest of the men that I was welcome to stay at the mission.
After some weeks had passed, the director of the men’s division asked me to step into the position of Resident Manager. The Resident Manager was responsible for the oversight of the mission after staff had gone home on weekdays, as well as on the week-ends. The mission also had a battered women’s shelter, and the Resident Manager had responsibilities to maintain its safety and to insure that policies were adhered to.
With some trepidation I accepted the role offered to me. It became evident to me soon afterward that the Father had ordered my steps and chosen this experience for my growth as a son. He was continually leading me to accept challenges and experiences that elicited a fearful response in my soul. In doing so He was teaching me to not be ruled by fear.
I had brought my car with me to the mission. It was an older Ford Tempo. My daughter Kristin needed a car at the time, as she had recently taken a job while staying with a family from the church she attended. I gave her the car, and I used a bicycle to get around. I didn’t much need a car at the time. I lived at the mission, and ate all my meals there. I would ride my bicycle to the library, to the bank, and post office. I knew I would need another vehicle eventually, but at the time using my bike was not any great hardship.
Around the end of February 2005 I had gone to the post office and found that a brother in Christ had sent me a financial gift of $800. This was unusual. I believe it was the first money anyone had sent me in about 5-6 months. I immediately began asking the Father the purpose for which He had sent me the money. The mission at that time had been receiving donated vehicles as they were moving forward with plans to sell the donated vehicles to help fund their operations. They did not have a dealer’s license yet, so as cars came in they were parking them wherever they had room.
As I rode my bike back up to the mission I saw the van which would become mine parked in front of the mission. The Spirit spoke to me and said, “The $800 will be used to purchase that van.” It is amazing how the Father can communicate such a clear and detailed piece of information to our minds, and we can recognize it for His voice. I knew the Father had spoken to me, so I put the money aside, and awaited the day when the mission would receive their dealer’s license and hold an auction to sell the vehicles they had been acquiring.
The day finally came on April 30, 2005. More than 100 people gathered in front of the mission as an auctioneer sold the vehicles one by one. There were about 25 vehicles sold that day, and the van was on the list toward the end. The auctioneer started around $100 and increased the amount by $50 increments. I began bidding, as well as several others. After we passed $500 there was just me and one other man bidding. The price kept climbing until I was nearly at my limit. The other man bid $750 and I then bid $800. There was no other bid after that, and I became the owner of the van that day for the exact price the Father had told me.
God gave me much favor with the staff at the mission, and although I had been there only about 5 months, they gave me a gift that day by discounting the cost I would have to pay for the van by $250. So, my actual out of pocket cost was $550, and I was able to put the rest toward insurance and gas. When I sold the van this past week, I received the same price I paid for it - $550.
I remained at the mission for nearly three more years. I often wondered why the Father had given me this particular vehicle. It was large, and made for living in, and got poor gas mileage. I was living at the mission, and did no camping during those years, so I did not understand the reason the Father had chosen this vehicle for me.
In February of 2008 the Father indicated that it was time for me to leave the mission and return to a ministry of writing and teaching. I had done no writing, or internet ministry during the years at the mission, as the Father had indicated I was to lay it down. I did preach often at the chapel services held in the mission. Many of those messages are available in audio format on the Heart4God website.
After leaving the mission, I was led of the Father to spend time seeking His face to understand the ministry of coming days that he had called me to. I spent a month camping, splitting my time between the West Georgia mountains, and Jekyll Island on the east coast of Georgia. During this time of listening to the Father’s voice He showed me the reason He had given me the van.
On a practical level, the camper/van was now proving very useful. I was living in it as I camped. The van had a sink, and potable water system, a toilet and holding tank, a two burner propane stove, a bed in the rear, and a roof air conditioner that worked very well.
Yet, it was the symbolic details of the van that the Spirit began speaking to me about that most impressed me. The van was built as a custom camper/van. The name on it was Xplorer Van Model 222. The van came with a factory Pioneer sound system. I remember clearly one day as I was walking through the campground in West Georgia that the Spirit led me to consider how old the van was at that time. The year was 2008, and the van was manufactured in 1986. It was 22 years old.
The Father had been using the number 22 in my life for years to signify flesh cutting. In 1999, the year He had led me to leave my employment as a computer professional and to begin ministering full time, He had spoken to me a very pointed word. As I looked over a sod farm, and watched a man on a tractor mowing the grass, I wistfully said to the Father that I longed to have a job like that. The serenity of cutting grass; not having to deal with confrontation, and the strife of man, was very appealing during that season of my life. The Spirit spoke to me with great clarity and said, “I have indeed called you to a ministry of cutting grass, for all flesh is as grass. But first you must permit me to cut the grass in your life.”
The words were so clear, I wrote them down in my notebook that I had with me for that purpose. Little did I suspect the experiences that lay ahead; The years of battling fear as I faced financial trials while being constrained by the Father to not return to secular employment; The criticism and rejection by family, friends, church-members and fellow ministers; my wife and son departing from me; months spent living out of my car, and camping in the woods; weeks of hunger and loneliness; and over three years living and working at an inner city rescue mission.
From October of 1999 when I left employment as a computer professional, until February 2008, the lessons were intense. The flesh cutting was intense. Having surrendered to go wherever the Father wished to lead me, I found the path before me to be one I would not have chosen for myself. It was truly an afflicted path, but there was tremendous grace all along the way. The fellowship with God was also much more precious than any I had previously known. His word was rich to me. His voice was declaring to me many things, leading me to grow in truth at a far quicker pace than I had experienced in days of lesser surrender.
Space does not permit me to recount all the trials of those days. I have written of many of them in the autobiographical work titled Evidence of Things Unseen, for any who care to read about them.
It will have to be sufficient here to say that I knew great wrestling of soul for prolonged seasons. Day after day there were battles, and the temptation to come down off the cross. I knew that at any time I could abandon a Spirit-led life and return to a life of self-direction. I could get a job, go to church, live quietly, and be relatively undisturbed. Friends and family would once more embrace me. The giant of fear I had to battle with could be avoided. Yet, the Spirit of Christ would not permit me to shrink back. The cross had to be borne. There was no alternative path set before me that would lead to life. There was only the afflicted path, and few there are who find it.
I share this background to explain what the Father revealed to me regarding the significance of the vehicle He had provided for me. I had long ago learned that vehicles represent ministries. The Father spoke to me that this van represented the ministry appointed to me.
Like Joseph of old, in an hour when most of my brothers were living comfortable self-directed lives, the Father led me to experiences of confinement. Like Joseph, the slave in Egypt, I had my liberty stripped from me. I could only do that which my Master commanded me to do. Yet I sought to be found faithful wherever I was placed.
Joseph was a forerunner. He went down to Egypt before his brothers, but they too had to go to Egypt. There they all endured enslavement. In the Father’s wisdom, He determined that one should go before them. This one would be able to comfort his brothers when it was their turn to go down to Egypt and experience the furnace of affliction there.
As I waited before the Father in 2008, to hear His voice, He testified that even as my van was an Xplorer and had a Pioneer sound system, so too had He sent me before my brothers to explore the way they must go. As a pioneer I was to return and tell others of the way, and encourage them to walk the afflicted path that leads to life. Even as the “sound system” in the van was a “Pioneer,” so too would I be given a pioneering message to sound forth.
The Father added to this testimony when I needed to purchase new tires for the van. I asked the dealer to give me an affordable set of light truck tires. He installed them, and when I saw the name on them I knew they were the right ones.
Pathfinder Trail Tires
I have recently conversed with a dear brother who has questioned whether the experiences I have passed through are unique to me, suggesting that they may not be the portion of everyone who is called to be a disciple of Christ. I do believe there will certainly be differences of experience. Joseph and his brothers did not arrive in Egypt through the same set of circumstances, yet they all had to go there.
I believe the Father has permitted me as an explorer and pioneer to taste of the variety of experiences that are coming to a much larger group of His sons and daughters. It was even in the Father’s plan for me to experience being cast in jail for a season, fulfilling another experience observed in the life of Joseph.
None of the experiences I passed through are unusual from a Biblical perspective. They were all the experiences of the disciples. Christ cautioned all who would be His disciples to count the cost before committing themselves to follow Him. There is nothing I experienced that He did not name as being something His followers would experience.
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it - lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish...' So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”
“But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils (courts) and scourge you in their synagogues (churches).”
Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
The things I have experienced in the past 12 years only seem unusual and extreme today because there have been so few people of God in this nation who have committed to following the Lord wherever He would lead them. All who surrender to be led of Christ will be led down an afflicted path. He has testified that it is so.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. For the gate is small and the way is afflicted that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Look up the word translated as “afflicted” in the above verse. You may be more familiar with Bible translations that have rendered this word as “narrow.” However, it is a different word from that which is used when speaking of the “narrow gate.” It is the Greek word “thlibo,” and it means “afflicted,” and is translated in this way in almost every other occurrence in the New Testament. Paul uses the word “thlibo” in the following verse.
I Thessalonians 3:4
For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.
We see then, that the King James translators understood this word to indicate suffering, affliction and tribulation. This is precisely what the Father has been declaring to me by His Spirit. He has been proclaiming to me that the road to life is an afflicted path. It is a journey of suffering and troubles. Christ was the ultimate pioneer in walking this path, but in this last hour He has appointed sons who will also serve as pioneers to walk the path a short time before their brothers must do so. These follow the pattern of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph was also a pioneer and explorer. He experienced the restriction of slavery, and so too must all who would be disciples of Christ.
I Corinthians 7:22-23
Likewise he who is called while free is Christ's slave. You were bought at a price...
Seeing that I belong to Christ, and my life is not my own, should I balk at the experiences Christ chooses for me? What if He should choose that I surrender all my worldly possessions? What if He should lead me to give up a good job and salary and to accept more humble circumstances and experiences? What if it be His choice that I walk alone, and even my dearest family members and friends should withdraw their fellowship from me? What if He should even choose for me to be deprived of that liberty afforded a bond-servant and be cast in jail? Are not our lives His to do with as He pleases? Will He not choose what is best for His sons and daughters?
To be a disciple we must put on a different mindset from that which most Christians have embraced. Rather than looking at this life as an opportunity to live a happy, contented and satisfied life, we must view it as our best opportunity to gain conformity to Christ. If He learned obedience by the things He suffered, so too must we.
People of God, I can honestly say that I do not regret at all having walked the path I have been led down the past 12 years. Yes, it was difficult. There were some lengthy seasons when I could say with Paul, “our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within” (II Corinthians 7:5). Yet there is a promise of an inheritance at the end of this afflicted path. It is the only path that leads to life, and few there are who find it.
This brings me to the final thing I want to share today. The Father has testified to me that He has a remnant in America, and in all nations. This remnant is signified by the 153 fish pulled up in the nets that I have recently written about. When I began to be sent out across the nation in 2008 to proclaim this message of the afflicted path, the Father provided many testimonies that it was to this remnant that He was sending me. One of the most profound testimonies related to the key I had made at that time.
I had bent the key to the ignition, and thought I had better get a spare made before it broke. Below is an image of the key they made for me. Each key blank is stamped with a number to identify the type of vehicle it will work with. Note the stamp on the key.
Christ told me that He was sending me to speak to those He has called to walk as overcomers through these days. The Y153 stands for that number who belong to Yahshua. Even as the nets did not break while encompassing the 153 fish, Christ does not want to lose any of those appointed for salvation.
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”
I believe there are many who read this blog who are hearing the call of God to embrace the afflicted path that they might attain to the first resurrection, the resurrection of firstfruits, of firstborn sons. Christ wants to raise you up on that day. He is wooing and drawing you to cast your life over into His hands, to commit to follow Him wherever He leads.
It seems that the ministry appointed to me is in some way changing at this time. I do not fully understand it yet, but the van has been let go. I began driving my bus around town this week for the first time. Since having it tuned up by Marc Libermann, it has much more power. It drives far smoother. It no longer backfires.
It is a larger vehicle, and in some way I believe the Father is testifying that the ministry is to be enlarged. I do not look for this to be fulfilled after the manner man might expect, for God’s ways are not man’s ways. The bus is also an older vehicle. It was manufactured in 1972, and it will be 40 years old next year. I think this too is symbolic. The bus has been referred to as an ark, and there is certainly a relationship between the ark of Noah and the number 40.
Perhaps I will only understand the full meaning of these things in hindsight. I do know with a surety, however, that the message the Father has laid upon my heart to proclaim is one of walking the afflicted path, enduring hardship, and striving toward the prize that awaits the overcomers in Christ.
May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.
Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws
Parables Blog: www.parablesblog.blogspot.com
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