Authors: Todd Hudson
Tags: #Religion, #Christian Life, #Spiritual Growth, #book, #ebook
My second sign I asked for in prayer, “God, if this is of You, I want to move my kids before the new school year begins. I don’t want to make them move after the school year starts.” Again, I thought that was a pretty safe request as it was now only about seven weeks until school would be back in session. Interestingly, we did have a sprinkling of charismatic people within the conservative evangelical church I was pastoring. One of those women, who was an amazing woman of prayer and seemed to hear from God in a way I knew I didn’t, came into my office shortly before we were to head to Colorado for the interview. She had no idea any of this was going on, but she proceeded to tell me, “I don’t know why, Pastor, but God told me I’m supposed to tell you to read Ezra chapter 1.” Knowing her track record of having some right on words from God, I immediately read it while she sat in my office. After I finished reading it I said to her, “I don’t know why either. However, that is exactly the place I am at right now in my
devotional Bible. Maybe there is something in that reading that is for me.”
The next morning I got up early to read my Daily Walk devotional Bible. I eagerly turned to the devotion for Ezra chapter 1 wondering if God was going to speak to me. It began with these words: “How long have you lived at your present location? Based on the national average, one family in three will move this year. And that means if you have lived at the place you call home five years or longer you are a vanishing breed.”
I thought, “Wow! We have lived here for eight and a half years.” I read on and the second paragraph talked about a caravan of pioneers in this scripture whom God had lead on a journey of nearly 1,000 miles to accomplish His purpose. I didn’t know for sure, but I figured it was probably about 1,000 miles from Indianapolis to Denver. So I quickly looked it up and found it was 1,056 miles.
The last paragraph said, “Is God calling you to pull up stakes, to move to a new home, a new school, a new church, a new job, a new level of commitment to Him? Then here is a motto you may want to copy and display in your home or office: Even a long dangerous journey can be faced confidently when God is leading the expedition.”
I quickly went upstairs and woke up my wife. I told her about the woman who came in my office and told me to read Ezra 1. Then I read her the devotional message. She sat straight up and said, “Oh my goodness! We are moving, aren’t we?” I told her I didn’t know yet. They hadn’t even interviewed us, but it sure seemed like God was up to something.
Soon afterward we traveled to Colorado for the interview. We spent all day on a Saturday meeting with the pastoral search team from the church. I did not tell them about the fleece that I had put out to God regarding our weekend together. However, the next morning at church two things happened. Three different members of the search team told me that they had ended up staying after our interview and meeting that night. They proceeded to inform me that the team was unanimous in believing that God was calling me to be their new senior pastor.
Secondly, one of the committee members told me, “I want to make it possible for you to move here before your kids have to start school. I know you have a house in Indiana to sell, and I don’t want that to be a burden for you. Find the house here you want and my wife and I will buy it for you. You can live in it until you sell your house in Indiana, and then you can buy the house from us.”
My jaw dropped. This could not have been any clearer. I had placed two different fleeces before the Lord in trying to determine His will, and God had very clearly spoken and given me direction. Now I found myself in the incredibly awkward position of having to tell the leaders of my church in Indiana that I believed God was calling us to move when we were within a few weeks of finishing a brand-new worship center. As I shared the story with these godly men, their response was amazing. They encouraged me and told me I must go when God was calling me so clearly. We cried, hugged, and prayed together; and I received their blessing to follow God’s call.
I had read many times in Scripture about how God spoke to His people and led them to do specific things, but I had been taught and really believed that God doesn’t speak that way today; but I couldn’t deny this was the voice of God clearly leading me. This seemed biblical but was completely outside the theology that I had been taught and embraced. In fact, we had people very close to us who told us, “God doesn’t really speak like that any more. Those are just coincidences. You just want to move to a bigger church with a bigger salary.” But my wife, Tricia, and I knew in our hearts that was not true. God has clearly spoken. However, because of my theological background I still believed this kind of supernatural leading was not the norm but an exception to the rule.
That August we wrapped up our ministry in Indiana. I got to preach in our new worship center one time and then we moved our family to beautiful Colorado. I quickly dove into working hard and facing the challenge of this new, larger ministry with excitement. Again, I was blessed with a church that grew significantly. We saw the attendance explode from an average of 1,400 to about 4,000 over the next few years. We built a new 2,000-seat worship center, and I had a staff that was large enough to allow us to offer many different ministries. It was a fun and exciting season of growth.
I ended up spending about nine years at that church. However, the last few years of that ministry I began to feel a little unsettled and I began to get a sense in my heart that there must be something more. Even through seasons of successful ministries, I found myself questioning why my experience in church wasn’t more like what I would read about in the Book of Acts. In Acts, when the Holy Spirit came upon people, they were often guided supernaturally, had dreams and visions of future events, spoke in new tongues, the sick got healed, those oppressed by demons got freed, and on occasion even the dead were raised. My church looked nothing like that. We talked about what Jesus did, and we believed with all of our heart that the Bible was true and the miraculous stories recorded there actually happened; but we had reduced our understanding of the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives today to convicting us of sin and leading us into truth.
Then I developed a friendship with a man who was leading a community men’s Bible study for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and he invited me to attend this study. One of the first series of lessons I attended was about the kingdom of God. My friend taught about how Jesus came to usher in the kingdom of God and how we live in the kingdom today—not some day in the future. He taught that we are empowered by the same Holy Spirit that Jesus was empowered by and that we can do the same works and even greater works than He did. Signs and wonders should follow those who live in the kingdom. This teaching, while new and different than what I had been taught, really resonated with me because it sounded like the church of the New Testament; so I became greatly intrigued. There seemed to be an emptiness in my walk with the Lord, and I began to wonder if this was perhaps what was missing.
A short time later he invited my wife and me to start attending a prayer meeting at his house. We agreed to attend and found there were several charismatic believers in this group. We began to hear people praying in tongues and praying powerfully for things like healing and expecting it to happen! What I noticed most of all was that these people had a passion for the Lord and an expectation for Him to move supernaturally in power that I had never experienced before. They believed the church today should and could look like the church in the Book of Acts. I wanted to know more.
One night at a prayer meeting, one of the men began to pray over Tricia for a new ministry she was beginning. He prayed powerfully in tongues with his hand held up about four inches from her forehead. The next thing I knew, my wife fell down limp. I remember thinking, “Oh my goodness! I think my wife was just slain in the Spirit and she doesn’t even believe in that. I know that’s not fake!”
Tricia had also come from a very conservative background, perhaps even more conservative than mine. She wasn’t at all sure what she thought about these charismatic prayer gatherings, but she was not able to deny that something supernatural had happened to her that night; so she too became intrigued that perhaps there was something more than she had previously experienced.
A couple of weeks later I attended a pastor’s meeting at a local charismatic church. I had secretly started building some relationships with people outside my own circle. At this meeting a visiting evangelist prayed over me and I fell down—slain in the Spirit. It was an amazing feeling as I lay there on the ground for several minutes just experiencing the presence of the Lord.
Coming from my conservative background, I obviously wanted to know if being slain in the Spirit was biblical. I talked to one of my charismatic friends who assured me it was. He pointed to Isaiah falling down in the Lord’s presence and in Revelation when John was in the Spirit and fell down like a dead man.
All this led me to investigate further about the kingdom, the present role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer, and in particular, if signs, wonders, and miracles were still available today through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. I remembered a book that someone had told me about probably a decade prior to this by former Dallas Theological Seminary professor Jack Deere called,
Surprised by the Power of the Spirit
. I had never read the book but remembered hearing that it was a story about how God had lead him through biblical study and personal experience to believe the kingdom was here now; that signs, wonders, and miracles still existed today; and that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit were for today. Because of this position he had been fired from the seminary.
I anxiously dove into this book, and as I read his story I was excited to learn that I wasn’t alone and that others wondered why our experience in church today was not more like the New Testament church. When I finished this book, I did something I never had done before. I contacted the author. I found out that Jack was preaching at a church in the Dallas area. So I found contact information for the church and I called, I e-mailed, and sent a letter. I thought maybe one of those might get through to him, but I heard nothing. So I kept calling. One day the receptionist at the church told me, “Look, Jack has your information. If he wants to call you, he will.” I might be a little dense sometimes, but I got the message loud and clear. I think she was saying something to the effect of, “I am beginning to think you are a stalker. Bug off and leave this man alone!”
A couple of months passed by and I didn’t hear anything. I had given up on it and moved on. Then one day my cell phone rang and I answered it. The voice on the other end of the line said, “Todd, this is Jack Deere.” I was in shock. He went on to tell me how he was sorry it had taken him so long to reply. He gets many requests from people who read his book and want to meet with him, and he wanted to take some time to pray and see if this was something God was calling him to do before deciding whether or not to reach out to me. He proceeded to invite me to come down and bring my wife and a couple other people if I desired and spend a few days with him.
There were a couple of things that Jack mentioned in that first phone conversation that stuck out in my mind. One was, “Todd, you need to ask yourself if God is changing you or if He is changing your church. Just because He changes you doesn’t necessarily mean that He is changing your church.” The other was, “I have never seen anyone go down this road as a conservative evangelical beginning to operate in the gifts of the Spirit who has not lost substantial things in their life. You need to decide if you are ready for that.”
I was so filled with anticipation about this opportunity to meet Jack and hear firsthand how he had seen the kingdom come and the Holy Spirit do signs, wonders, and miracles today. I decided to take my wife, my friend who taught the kingdom lessons and had invited us to the prayer meetings, and my associate pastor from the church. We all traveled to Dallas and for three days, we sat in Jack’s living room. He taught us what the Bible said about the Holy Spirit and how there was clear evidence for the supernatural gifts of the Spirit still existing today. He told us stories about supernatural things he had seen and experienced. He had the opportunity to travel all over the world with John Wimber and see God use them both in supernatural ways to heal the sick, cast out demons, and more. He told us about praying over people and feeling bone grow under his hand. He told us stories about demonic manifestations and the freedom experienced by victims after the trespassers were removed. He had us meet with some of his prophetic team at the church, and they prophesied over us very accurately. I was like a kid in a candy shop, but more importantly I was taken back to the Book of Acts and was so excited that this really was like the church I read about in the Bible! I was ruined. I could not longer settle for anything less.
A short time later I went to men’s conference with a local charismatic church. There were about 800 guys there who were on fire for Jesus. The Holy Spirit encountered me that weekend, and what I now believed theologically took place experientially. That weekend I received the baptism in the Holy Spirit; I began to shake and tears streamed down my face and I began to speak in tongues. I had asked for this baptism of fire for a while by this time but nothing experientially had happened. I knew I wasn’t going to fake it, but at that conference the Spirit came on me and I was overcome and undone. It was amazing and powerful.
That same weekend I had my first word of knowledge. I heard the Lord say there was a man at this conference who has deafness in one of his ears and the Lord wanted to heal him. I had to leave the conference early but the word was spoken out and a man responded. He said he had deafness in one of his ears. They laid hands on Him and prayed rebuking the deaf spirit and speaking healing and wholeness over his ear. I received an e-mail from one of the leaders a few days later to let me know the man had been healed! A few years later I had the privilege of meeting that man’s father and found out he has was still hearing clearly in that ear!