I had an amazing opportunity while in Panama earlier this year to visit the Renacer Prison, just outside Panama City. I was only visiting, just to be perfectly clear!
I had been formally approved to visit General Manuel Noriega, who has been incarcerated there since 2010. The name of the prison is literally interpreted as “A Rebirth.” It was on Sunday, Jan. 22, that I met him and spent nearly 90 minutes talking about his life, his rebirth in Christ (at a Florida prison some years back), his challenging physical days (he is 83, and his health is failing), his family and his hopes for the future.
When I stood to leave, I asked this notorious dictator how I could pray for him. He asked if I would pray that he could conclude his life at home, even if it meant house arrest. We prayed, and six days later, after 28 years of incarceration in Florida, France and then back in Panama, he was released to house arrest.
As I contemplate our theme for this year’s Foursquare Connection 2017, “Commissioned,” I’m left with a strong sense of our need to hear God anew, to remind us of the brokenness of the world around us; it’s not just a lot of statistics, but it involves people, families, neighborhoods and nations. And while we celebrate the conversion of a well-known sinner, we should also take stock of the myriad people who could have been spared much pain had he been reached with the gospel sooner.
When Jesus announced the focus of His mission, recorded in Luke 4:18, He clearly identified the target of His message: the poor, the imprisoned, the diseased and the oppressed. But He framed His mission with a declarative statement: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me” (NKJV). In other words, He clarified up front that, without the power of the Spirit, our efforts are at best helpful, but not life-transformative.
But if we combine His focus and passion with the power of the Spirit, we have a force that will shake hell’s gates and unloose their hold on men, women and children. Our world experiences too much prolonged pain and death simply because the gospel got there too late.
Recently, I participated in the memorial service for Foursquare Missionary Virgene Hughes, who, along with her husband, Mason, traveled to the jungles of Papua New Guinea, answering the call of God to take hope to a people group bound by centuries of cannibalism and witchcraft. But the power of the gospel exceeds all of that, and hell’s stronghold was broken.
Today, hundreds of thousands of believers in Papua New Guinea now serve Jesus, and the islands of the South Pacific are being invaded by these passionate liberators who were only liberated themselves some decades back. That’s the glory and the miracle of the gospel story.
So, here we are today, with the world before us and the Holy Spirit in us. We have set aside these next four years to focus on the foundations of our movement and its message of Jesus: Savior, Baptizer, Healer and King.
This first year, 2017, we are emphasizing the redemptive work of Jesus as our Savior! We will gather in Washington, D.C., for Foursquare Connection 2017, May 29–June 1. Registration is still available at foursquareconnection.org, and we’re inviting all ministers to come along with us. Anyone who isn’t able to attend in person can watch our livestream at connectionlive.org and join in.
Through this Connection, we will see God ignite a fresh passion, a new infilling of the power of the Spirit, and a clearer sense and purpose of our mission. We are commissioned as His messengers, reconcilers, restorers and liberators in this present generation and to this present world.
With billions who have yet to hear and billions more yet to respond, our work is cut out for us. It will take all of us to finish the Great Commission. It will take a fresh wave of the Spirit of God over our heads, and into our hearts and hands.
We’ll be praying as we gather for the foreign embassies that surround us in Washington. We’ll pray for the heads of state, for our own nation and its leaders. As we lead in worship and prayer, we will contend for an outpouring of God’s revelation and power to be dispensed into every place where Satan has had a stronghold.
We speak life and liberty over our world. We ask the Lord to anoint every word and every speaker. We link our arms and efforts over places such as North Africa, the focus of this year’s Foursquare Missions International offering to reach the unreached.
We speak over the hard places. We declare that the ground will become fertile and receive the seed of God’s Word. We declare all of this, Lord, in Your majestic and wonderful name. Amen.