Conduit of Love
For me, my journey in the supernatural really began as a young boy. I grew up in what is typically known as “Charismaniac” church, in terms of an extreme charismatic context where people believed in the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. So I grew up going to meetings where I clearly remember people getting out of wheelchairs. I remember being in meetings where there were verifiable healings of blind eyes opening, deaf ears hearing, and that was normal for me. That’s what I grew up into, aware of the presence of God. I often used to tell people, “You didn’t want to get sick in my family, because you didn’t go to the doctor. Mom and Dad just pray for you and hoped that it will all get better.” Which had some wisdom and some very unhealthy patterns. But anyway, it was a fun way to grow up. What we did grow up with was a worldview that God can do anything. It was just so so exciting to live in that reality.
At the age of 15, I had a very profound encounter with God. The only way I can describe it, it gave me boldness because of my own sickness. I was born with a cleft palate, which has impacted my ability to speak and my ability to hear, fluctuating hearing, and all sorts of things. Because of that, I was an extreme introvert and hated speaking to people. I would get physically sick before doing any kind of class presentation. It was just awful; I hated it. But the presence of God encountered me, got filled with the Holy Spirit, and for three days, the only way I can describe it is I was blasted with the love of God. For those three days, every time I started talking about God, I felt His presence in an overwhelming way. A week later I preached my first sermon in our youth group, and God began to move. I was aware that I was getting accurate bits of information that I hadn’t gathered by my own intuition, or by my own ability to study people, or by getting information beforehand. This was God releasing bits of information that was not only resonating with the people that were hearing it through the prophetic I was giving them, but also bringing them real freedom. So right from the get go, I began my preaching ministry at the age of 15 and started seeing God do some amazing things.
It was just a few years later, I was doing a youth camp and there was a young guy who was in the camp who had severed a tendon in his right index finger and was unable to move or bend it because the tendon or the ligament, I don’t know what it was, he couldn’t move it. It was a medical problem, it wasn’t like he could fix it in any way. I remember praying for him and the presence of God overwhelmed this young guy. I remember him, just hacking out laughing on the ground and moving his index finger. And I remember thinking, Oh my gosh, what on Earth is this guy doing? What’s going on with him? I thought I needed to pastorally help him because he was being a bit of a disturbance to the rest of the meeting. And so when I got to him I said, “Dude what is going on?” And I realized, as he began to tell me the story why he was so filled with joy, it was because he could move his finger properly for the first time in, I think it was, six or seven years from the time he had the accident, to now. He was able to have full range of motion in his finger, which is just incredible. Now, having grown up in South Africa, actually, the dynamic of the miraculous is not a foreign concept. It was a very normal expectation for the supernatural world to be breaking in, both in terms of the angelic and the purposes of God, but also in terms of the demonic. So miracles tended to be a lot easier in Africa, in terms of people were hungry, people were desperate, and most often people had no other options.
I moved to the UK to be part of a ministry that really emphasized the word and I figured, in my kind of mid 20s, God if you can do it in Africa I want to see you do it in the first world where everyone seems a bit too intellectually superior for the miraculous. In the United Kingdom I often tell people you have got to get to the head before you get to the heart. Nobody, nobody fakes a shake. You know if, if it is God it’s wonderful, but if it’s not, they’re not tolerating any kind of frothy periphery stuff. They want the deep stuff. I remember going into numbers of contexts in the UK and seeing God move in some incredible ways.
I remember one young guy walking into a meeting that I was hosting and I began to prophesy. – He’s completely unsaved. In fact, had never ever set foot in a church, didn’t have a reference point for any of this.– I remember beginning to prophesy over him about some aspects of his life that had to do with him being rejected and kicked out of home and adoption processes that he went through. A number of other very personal detailed stuff and in the middle of it, he dropped a big F bomb and said, “How on earth do you know this? Are you a psychic?” And I said, “No, I’m not a psychic. Jesus is alive and He’s speaking to me. He wants you to know how much He loves you.” I remember thinking to myself, the only reference for experiential spirituality that this young man had was demonic, psychic power and that God wanted to restore encounters of love and love, love based miracles that genuinely transform people’s lives. That guy was able to respond to Jesus that evening. Another day, I was driving, catching my taxi because I had been in Manchester, and I was catching a taxi home from a day of shopping, and I remember sitting in the car thinking I’ve had a lovely day. I want a nice break. My taxi driver was a Pakistani man who was Muslim. I remember him looking at me saying, “Hey, what do you do for a living?” And I knew if I told him, ‘I’m a pastor,’ we’re going to start having a whole lot of conversations. Anyway, I told him, “I’m a minister, I work for the church.” He said, “Oh, my gosh, let me tell you about Islam and how similar we are and how, you know, we’re connected…” And in the middle of the conversation, I felt this little thought drop into my head that he’s got a left shoulder condition that has limited movement, and he’s had it for about seven years. This is just a little thought that popped into my head. I remember leaning into him and saying, “Hey, sir, I know we’re talking about church. I feel like, I just want to ask you a quick question.” And I said to him, “Have you got a left shoulder condition that’s caused incredible pain, and you’ve got limited movement, and you’ve had it for about seven years?” The shock that filled his face was incredible. He said, “Yes, yes. How did you know that?” I said to him, “Well, unlike your Prophet, my Prophet Jesus is alive and He’s able to speak to me, and He’s speaking to you.” I prayed for him and then said, “Test it out.” Not thinking that the man is driving a taxi, he probably shouldn’t be waving his arm as he’s driving. But God completely healed him of that condition and I was able to pray for him and share the gospel with him. Although he didn’t become a Christian, he certainly had an encounter with the love of Jesus. And the bonus part was that he gave me half off my taxi ride, which is always great!
Just seeing that none of these miracles, none of these things that God wants to do to demonstrate Himself was ever an effort on my part. It was always the eagerness of heaven to break out and touch people and reveal the goodness of God. I just love it when God does those kinds of things because there’s no way I can make it happen. Having said that, the tension that I find is that I struggle with sickness in my own body. I have seen a number of people healed of curvature of the spine, which is what I have and causes incredible pain. I’ve seen numbers of deaf ears open, I have fluctuating hearing. I’ve seen a miracle where, this was in Cornwall, in England, where a young guy was due to go for a massive operation removing teeth, because he had overcrowding in his mouth. God straightened his teeth out supernaturally. Which is just, I mean, outrageous miracles, like you’re like, this is impossible. How is this even happening?
But I struggle with sickness in my own body and it’s the most profoundly interesting challenge, but because my theology allows for suffering in the context of God’s goodness. In other words, the suffering is never God’s plan, but God will use every context of suffering, to bring about His goodness in our lives and His glory in the midst of it. And, because I know that sooner or later, God’s kingdom is gonna break out on my life and I will have healing in fullness, whether it happens on Earth, or whether it happens when I get to heaven. Either way, I’m assured of His healing and I’ve come to realize that my lack is never an obstacle to His abundance. I learned how to live in the place of not being offended with God, embracing the disappointment because there are moments that I’m disappointed. I’m like, Geez, it would be really great if you could just heal me now. Lugging big bags and luggage as a traveling minister and sleeping in different beds, different contexts means that most often when I’m speaking, I’m in incredible pain standing. But in the midst of that God has been so good and so kind and who Jesus is revealed to me in the scriptures is the ultimate expression of really how good God is and I’m happy to live in the tension.
I remember in my late 20s, having a moment with God, where I was the youngest elder in my church movement of about 400 churches at the age of 23. I was co-leading a church in South Africa, reformed charismatic church, I was doing all the stuff that pastors do and by the time I hit 28-29, I was wanting to quit ministry. I was on the verge of burnout. I was grumpy, unhappy, and had lost all my joy. By that time, I had a very well known prophetic ministry in the UK and Europe. My followership was at an all time high. Everybody wanted me in their church, but I was dying on the inside and I remember being on the floor, weeping before God saying, “This is just too much to bear.” Like, partly because it is too much to bear; no one should ever be a celebrity in the kingdom and partly, just the demand for entertainment was so high in the charismatic church world that I was getting burnt out. I often tell people, the demand for entertainment was high and the pay was very low and that equals burnout. I was just like, there’s just no reward for this. Like, I was meeting Christians, who had journals of prophetic words that they kept and had done nothing in response to what God was prompting or leading them to do.
I remember being on the floor and I felt, God, speak to me, say to me, He dropped this thought into my head, “Son, I want you to grow up and be a child because the posture of the kingdom is childlikeness.” And it shifted something so deeply in my heart that I wanted to rearrange my life around childlikeness. I wanted to rearrange my life around a space in a way that kept me fascinated with God. I think it was GK Chesterton who said, “We’ve become older than God, because we’ve lost fascination.” And I realized I’d lost my fascination and awe and wonder with God. I’d lost the joy of being saved, of knowing my sins are forgiven, knowing that my conscience is clean, my guilt is gone. I get to not only live in eternity one day when I die, I get to taste the in breaking of His kingdom and the eternal reality of His goodness, right here right now, in ever increasing ways, and becoming childlike has shifted everything for me.
The number one thing about children is they keep saying, ‘Do it again! Do it again! Play that thing again.’ and it’s because they’re consistently thrilled by the same, repetitive thing. And I think we so glory in the new, that we miss out on the rhythm and the mundane of just loving Jesus day in and day out and being fascinated with Him. So I keep saying to God, “Do it again! Help me fall in love with You again. Help me be wowed by You again.” Because it’s not, it’s not simply mundane. It’s the very life source of salvation and what I love about this, is that it does not work inside the four walls of the church only. I see some incredible breakouts of God’s presence in different contexts. I often help consult in what I call destiny word or destiny coaching for companies that are led by Christians, but have different employees who might be Christian or non-Christian.
I remember doing a big multinational in Singapore, working to serve a very big company and they brought in all their kind of financial directors and executive directors. All the top tier of management who, you know, I don’t have any degrees. I’ve got no accolades, other than I love Jesus. But these guys have got these incredible intellectual degrees and are very clever. Numbers of them are at worst atheists, at best agnostics and they’re coming in because their bosses told them, “You need to meet this prophet, or prophetic guy.” And I’m like, there’s so many awkward things about it. I remember feeling so overwhelmed like, “God, You need to give me all the specific details about their life that will reveal how miraculous You are and how supernatural You are.” And I remember God saying to me, “I don’t want you to go for the details, I want you to go for their heart. I’m going to reveal things about their heart to you.”
I remember, the financial director of this multinational company…there I am sitting in this big tower of a building and surrounded by furniture that’s probably worth more than my house and thinking, I’m so ill equipped for this. And this guy walks in, this very impressive looking Kiwi, New Zealander, and God began to reveal some stuff about his daughter and what she was going through. I said to him – You know, I make no secret that I am a Christian. So I’m not going in kind of a covert way. I am going extroverted. “Hey, I’m a Christian, I believe Jesus is alive. And He speaks to us and sometimes He drops little thoughts or impressions about people’s lives that I didn’t know, I just want to share that with you.” He’s like, “Okay.” And he kind of had that, well, impress me if you can look on his face as God began to reveal these little thoughts and impressions. And I promise you I wasn’t having, like, the voice of Sean Connery in the background going, “Julian, this is what you need to say.” It was just very simple, little thoughts. Very natural, actually, it wasn’t like, super intense. I didn’t have the latest album out of, you know, Bethel music or whoever your favorite worship album is. It was just me, uncomfortably dressed in a suit, sitting in an office. Immediately, as I began to talk about the daughter to this guy, he began to weep. I began to get insight about his life and at the end, I said, “Would you like to meet Jesus?” And without hesitation, he said, “Yes.” And I was able to lead him to Jesus. A year later, I saw him again and he said to me, “I just love Jesus so much. That day has changed my life.” All because I risked, like, I mean, it was such a risk. I was like “Jesus,” my heart was pounding, my knees were shaking, under this very impressive looking desk. And God used simply an available person to change the life of this very impressive financial director forever. That’s the beautiful, wonderful thing about God.
Some of you’ve heard that kind of theology that you have to have position and power to have impact. That you have to, you know, get into the right place in the right space of power and authority, then you get to change the world, by some legislative way. But actually the way…the kingdom is low, slow and full of love. I’m a kid who’s got hardly any education, who grew up under a system, like separated whites and blacks, that set me up for failure in every way. But you can’t stop the favor of God when a life is simply submitted to the way of the Kingdom of Jesus, and the way of love and serving in the hidden places, and serving the places no one sees. There are so many things, and so many moments that I will never be able to talk about publicly. But God’s got me into these places not because of my power, not because of position, not because of my strategic marketing tools in ministry. But because I’ve served the one in front of me and not because I’ve even been motivated to serve them.
I was teaching at our local church here in Boston, that we’ve just planted, on Sunday, that a lover will do much more than a hired hand ever will. When you’re in love with Jesus, the job is less important than loving Him and serving those around you because you want to serve Him. And that’s the beautiful thing about the gospel, that God uses the unlikely, the impossible, to bring about change. It’s got nothing to do with credentials. It does not look like the kingdom of this world at all. Having said all of that, ultimately, I want to be a conduit of God’s love and whether that’s in miracles, helping the poor, words of prophecy that encourage people, or the preaching of Scripture, or the way that I care for the people God’s given to me in our local church. I want to do that from the basis of love, not from the basis of behavior control, not from the basis of power or popularity, not from the basis of celebrity, but from the basis of genuine servant hearted love. Because I think that’s the way of Jesus and if you want to see what God is like, we’ve got to look at Jesus because He’s the full revelation of God.