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Saturday, November 1

When GOD Moves, Everybody Wins!


             "When we stand fast in the face of fear and intimidation, and trust God to meet us there, we are better able to see when there's a unique opportunity to reach souls needing saved and lives that need to be changed."   - Keith

             Have you ever found yourself in a most unexpected situation that came nowhere close to comparing to any other experience that you, or anyone you can think of, ever had before?  And then, with blind faith you step out and, from beginning to end, are confronted with fear and intimidation that you must press through?  As you read about my story, I pray you'll see how, under our most intimidating circumstances, God uses the simplest of good seed we sow and multiplies it supernaturally so it becomes some of the greatest fruit than we could ever imagine.
"Another parable put He forth unto them, saying, The Kingdom of Heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof." (Matthew 13:31-32)
Among the regular weekly opportunities that God brings our way to help folks, there are unique occasions when we sow seed that yields "sweet fruit" well beyond the time during which we sow into the lives of others.  Here's how one of those unique opportunities came about.
One day finishing an afternoon motorcycle ride with my friend, David, we went by his house.  As we pulled into the driveway, two of his friends, Mac and Tuna, were there waiting for him.  I had never met them before and, by their appearance, they smacked of a couple of rough, long-bearded, classic, hard-line bikers, or something along those lines.  I introduced myself to them and we talked for just about 10 minutes.  I could sense that God was blessing us with kindred spirits.  Mac struck me as a man who was all-but married to his Harley Davidson Road King he affectionately referred to as "Blackie", and he loved talking about it!  By the time I got ready to leave, I felt like I had known the guys for much longer than I did.  As I was heading for my car, I simply let them know, "I'll be praying for you guys."  After that, I said goodbye, got into my car, and drove home.
About 2 months passed when I was sitting in my office at home, and the phone rang.  It was my biker friend, David.  By the sound of his voice, I could tell he was distraught.  I asked him what was wrong.  He told me that Mac, one of the guys I had met in his driveway at his house, had a son who just shot and killed himself the night before.  My heart sank, and I asked what happened.  He told me that Mac's son was at a bar in Maryland, got into a fight with a guy there, went out to his car after the fight and got a gun, and went back into the bar to shoot the guy.  After shooting him, Mac's son left the bar, got into his car, and sped off.  Just moments later, after the Maryland State Police caught up to him and pulled him over to the side of the road, he shot and killed himself.  Hearing this, my heart went in two directions simultaneously.  I was immediately concerned for Mac's son's soul while, at the same time, thinking about Mac and what a terrible tragedy to happen to him as a father, learning that he had lost his son.  I could imagine how his pain would be excruciating!  I remembered how, at first meeting Mac, it was obvious he suffered a whole lot of pain as a result of various broken bones from multiple riding accidents.  He struggled to simply walk.  And, now, to think that he'll have to deal with this pain and stress on top of all of that, my heart got even heavier for him!
I thought that David was calling to grieve with me for his buddy Mac, which it was in great part, but he began sharing that his call was for more than that.  With what David would tell me next, God would reveal to me how He had used that short 10-minute encounter with Mac in David's driveway to open a door of opportunity that would bear sweet fruit for God's Kingdom that continues on, even today.
David told me that something very surprising came up when Mac called him and finished telling told him about the tragedy of his son.  David said, "Keith, the guys Mac rides with are a very tight-knit bunch of guys and they generally don't trust people outside of the group.  But, you appear to be the exception to this policy when it comes to Mac, because he just called to ask me to see if YOU would preach his son's funeral.  I would never have expected this from Mac, especially since he doesn't even know you, but for the 10 minutes you guys talked together, once."  David went on to say how that was purely a m-i-r-a-c-l-e, in and of itself!
From the moment I heard David share this with me, I could sense in the spirit the heaviness of Mac's heart and the torment that comes with losing a child.  I asked David to please give me 30 minutes to think and pray about this.  I didn't want to keep Mac waiting long, knowing the level of grief I could imagine he was suffering, but, under the circumstances, being a death by suicide, I would h-a-v-e to have direction from the Holy Spirit.  There was no room for error in conducting a funeral service like this would be, for a crowd of people who held the deceased and his family in such high esteem.  Asking David to give me that 30-minute period would be reasonably short so to protect Mac's heart, while giving the Holy Spirit time to give me the word of direction I needed.  After all, it's not every day someone is asked to preach at a funeral of a biker who had just shot someone, and committed suicide.  I needed a definite word from God!
As I hung up the phone, I found myself "between The Rock and a hard place" so to speak.  I began to ask the Holy Spirit for God's wisdom and direction in this thing.  Now, as glamorous and super-spiritual as it would've sounded for me to tell you that the Holy Spirit came and laid out for me exactly what I would say and what approach I would take in the situation, it just didn't happen that way.  Instead, it so happened that, I came to realize from past experiences, I needed to step out in faith and commit to doing the service first, in order to set the wheels in motion for the Holy Spirit to begin preparing my heart, and the hearts of all who would be in attendance.  I knew full well that, any time you get different outlaw biker clubs together, all in one place, there is great potential for trouble and I could be hurt or even worse.  Even more importantly, as God had provided for and protected me time and time again through the years, I knew I couldn't allow an opportunity like this to get away.  That's when I decided I would need to step out on that limb, believe God to bring me through it, and expect God to turn what looked like an impossible situation into a monumental move for His Glory, as I had seen Him do countless times before.  So, without delay, I called David back and asked him to tell Mac I would be honored to speak at his son's funeral.
When the day of the funeral arrived, I got in my car and set out for the funeral home.  As I turned onto the street where the funeral home was located, I couldn't believe my eyes!  The entire parking lot, both sides of the street, and even the lawn of the funeral home was filled with motorcycles.  If I had to describe what it looked like, it would be a small version of a big bike rally, like the one in Daytona or Sturgis every year.
Once I finally found someplace to park my car, I made my way through the crowd that began outside on the lawn, and flowed into the funeral home.  In the foyer is where I met with Mac and his family, then went with them into the office of the funeral coordinator to discuss the order of service.  Afterward we waited in back of the sanctuary for the funeral director's signal for the family to go to the front and be seated.  I'll never forget how David was pointing out the drug dealers, the most violent criminals, and the lead bikers from different clubs that were there that day.  I didn't chuckle about it then as I can now, but just as I was about to walk through the crowd to get up onto the platform, David leaned over and whispered to me, "Man, I'd hate to think how many guns and knives are in this crowd."  The thought had already crossed my mind that there was a really good chance I could be stabbed in the room that day if I said something that was unacceptable in the eyes of the people listening.  However, I also remember thinking that I would much rather be stabbed than say anything that would misrepresent God and His Word in any way.
After David and I followed Mac and his family through the crowd to the front of the sanctuary where Mac and the family were to be seated, we walked up onto the platform to face the crowd and wait for the funeral director's nod to begin the service.  When I looked out at the crowd, the entire place was packed and overflowed into adjoining rooms and even outside onto the lawn.  It really struck me just how highly respected Mac was among the biker community in the region.  About 5 minutes passed and the director motioned for me to begin.
Still not hearing a word from the Holy Spirit as to what He would have me say, I stepped down onto the floor at the foot of the casket of the young man we'll call "Robert" to protect his true identity.  As in so many of my experiences before, just in the nick of time, at the "11th hour and 59th minute", the Holy Spirit began to whisper to me the message that He wanted me to deliver.  At the same time, I could also sense that He had begun tugging on the hearts of many in attendance, as the room was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
Just as I looked out over the crowd, before I shared anything aloud, there was a passage of Scripture that I saw in The Spirit, one that I saw bigger than life!  It was the story that Jesus shared in Luke 16:19-31 about the rich man and Lazarus....

"There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivest thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.  And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.  Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:  For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."

Right at that moment when I began to speak, the Holy Spirit showed me to say to the crowd, "Folks, I would like to share with you, based on what Robert saw the moment his spirit left his body, as he stood at the feet of God, what he would want you to know; something SO b-i-g, SO amazing, and SO important that he would give his life all over again if he could have just one moment to come back and tell you himself.  The first thing he would want you to know is that God is REALLY there!  God is really REAL!  And he would want you to know that, no matter what you've heard about God before, He is opposite of any and all of the rumors from others.  God is bigger, more loving, and incredibly gracious and kind!  And the reason I'm sharing this is, I know for a fact that, as many stories in the Scriptures tell, if Robert could come back right now, he would beg of you to repent of your sins and ask Jesus Christ to forgive you and to come and be the Lord and Savior of your life.  Then he would tell you to spend the rest of your lives here on earth learning everything you can about your Father in Heaven, and to then just watch what He does!"
Since the space in the crowd was so limited, I couldn't do an alter call and ask people to come forward, so I did the next best thing.  I asked everybody there to close their eyes and bow their heads, and I began telling them about the love of God and how God just wants them to be in "oneness" with Him.  Then I told them how Robert would not want me leaving here today without giving them an opportunity to ask Jesus Christ to be the Lord of their lives, and I asked, "If you would like to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of your life, would you raise your hand high so I can see you?  Raising your hand is the way you will make your declaration of commitment to God and, if I can see you, He can see you."  After I asked, about twelve hands went straight up from guys you would've never imagined would respond.  Then there were a few more after that.  I waited just a few seconds more, then closed in prayer and told everyone  that I would be standing up at the platform for a little bit longer if anyone has questions, needs prayed for, or is still struggling with holding on to their old way of life.
A short while after I finished speaking, I made my way down into the crowd, spoke with Mac and his family, met a number of new people, and eventually made my way to the car and home.  I would like to be able to say that the response from the people that day was a miraculous move of God - people confessing their sins and turning away from their old life in mass - but it wasn't that way.  The atmosphere there was somber, at best, all the way through the closing of the service, and until I left the building to drive home.
What would come to be unveiled in the days, weeks, months, and even years, that followed, was evidence that the Holy Spirit continued working in the hearts of many who attended the funeral service.   Despite the way things appeared to be less-than-productive, His work would bear abundant fruit, far beyond our expectations, in the lives of countless people I spoke to that day.
Jesus said, " For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."  Isaiah 55:8-9
The best way I know to explain what took place at the funeral is that the Holy Spirit lit a spark that would spread like a brush-fire as time went on.  Though there's no way we could possibly track who and how many people the Holy Spirit would lead to God as a result, there were several testimonies that really stand out.  One such testimony is that of one of the bikers named Josh.
Josh was known as one of the most violent bikers in the area.  He had been on the run from the police who had, up to that point, been pursuing him for nearly two years for drug possession, assault, and God only knows what else.  Over the years, he had developed the reputation for being one of the more ruthless members of the biker club; a rather intimidating fellow, standing six-foot-five and weighing in at around 290 pounds of solid muscle.  If, for whatever reason, the leader of the club wanted someone roughed up and pretty much left for dead, he would call on Josh.  To make a long story short, just days after the funeral, I received a phone call from David telling me that he had gotten news that Josh had attended the funeral, heard what I had spoken, repented of his sins, and turned himself in to the police.  Having the better understanding, than many others did, of the laws Josh had broken, David told me how amazing this news was and that he just couldn't believe it!
After several appearances in court, facing the judge for each of his criminal offenses, Josh was finally about to receive his long over-due sentence.  Are you ready to hear the outcome?  For crimes he committed that could have easily landed him in jail for fifteen years or more, the judge handed down his sentence of a mandatory six months in prison, and two years probation to follow after.  He was immediately taken into custody and started paying his debt to society.
Word began to spread to the biker communities about how light Josh's sentencing was, considering all of the terrible crimes everyone knew he had committed.  While he was in jail, he began calling me, which gave me wonderful opportunities to encourage him on in the things of God.  During one of his calls, Josh let me know that God had led him to a group of Spirit-filled believers that held daily Bible studies.  He said that he went to the Bible studies every day, and was having fellowship with other believers that was beginning to bring profound change into his life.
Six months went by and, as soon as Josh was released from jail, he checked into a local city shelter  where he would be able to stay for at least ten days.  After that, he called me to let me know that he was about to move to a second shelter where he was hoping to be able to stay until he could find a job and get onto his feet.
A few days later, after selling his blood to get enough money to buy food while he took the bus around and looked for a job downtown, he was faced with a dilemma.  He had overstayed his time limit at the shelter and was now on the street with no place to go, and no money.  Upon discovering that Josh's living conditions were very bleak, I immediately asked him to meet me at a local restaurant.  It was then that I found out that Josh desperately needed food and clothing, and I kicked into gear to help him get, what turned out to be, a great start in his new life.
Because of the faithful ministry partners of TTM, and their ongoing monthly donations, Josh was able to have socks, a cold-weather coat, and thermal underwear he was desperately needing to protect him out in the bitter-cold winter temperatures.  I was also able to take him to a shoe store and buy him a new pair of durable shoes to replace the old, beat-up pair of riding boots he was wearing that had cut his feet up badly, where blood covered the bottoms of them.  Boy, was he praising God saying, "Nobody has ever done anything like this for me!"
Once we got Josh all set up for success, I was able to put him up at my house and help provide him with the money he would need for food and transportation around town so he could continue to look for work.  Praise God, it was just about a week after he moved in with me that, Josh was blessed to find a new job where he would be driving a forklift for a local trucking company, with starting pay at $18.00 an hour.  When he got his first paycheck for his first few weeks of work, he was able to find an apartment that was close to where he worked.
When this story began, there was something that Josh hadn't told me until now.  He had a wife and daughter that lived in Arizona.  The "icing on top of the cake" of this testimony of God's goodness is that, about 2 months after he started working at the trucking company, he called to let me know that God had worked a miracle and was beginning to put his family back together!  He told me he was planning to move to Arizona in the next month or so.  I hadn't heard anything more from Josh until about 6 months later when, out of the blue, I get a knock on my front door.  When I opened the door, there stood a clean-cut Josh, with his wife and their young daughter sitting in their rental car in the driveway.  He asked me if he could introduce me to his family.
We had a wonderful visit and, as he and his family stood up to leave, he stopped and turned to me, asking, "Keith, do you remember those old riding boots I wore when I saw you after I got out of jail?  Did you happen to save those for me?"  What was especially wonderful is, without Josh knowing it, back when I bought him his new shoes, I doused his old boots in antiseptic, tied them up in a trash bag, and put them under my workbench out in the garage.  I knew in my heart, even back then, that I needed to save those old boots, just in case he would come back asking for them.  God is so good, and His miracles are never-ending.
This, and so much more, all started with taking one step of faith to speak at an outlaw biker's funeral!


 
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